This analysis is not suited to every stock or situation. For one thing, even with the surge in the popularity of dividends in recent years, less than half of U.S. stocks pay a dividend. It's also not particularly well suited to deeply cyclical firms, whose earnings power and even dividend rates will vary widely from year to year. It's also not suited for emerging-growth stories. But for the ranks of relatively consistent, mature, moat-protected stocks--of which there are hundreds, if not thousands to pick from--we can use the dividend as a critical selection tool.