Donald Trump’s ascendance as the early GOP front-runner is symbolic of a greater global trend: growing pushback against institutional political and economic power.
To many centrist politicians and mainstream political observers, Donald Trump is a boastful, insensitive egomaniac spouting populist rhetoric. Whether such a characterization is true is not worthy of debate, which may explain why the rantings of enraged career political pundits have no impact on Mr. Trump’s popularity among Republican voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, and across America. It seems no amount of ink or air time spent tarring and feathering Trump’s reputation sticks; in fact it seems to help Teflon Don in the polls, where he leads a crowded field of career politicians.
Donald Trump is a threat not only to the nattering nabobs in the press corps and the Republican Party. His day in the sun may be symbolic of a broader dynamic: the declining power held by historically powerful institutions. Ask yourself if Trump’s campaign is making a mockery of the political process or exposing the mockery that the political process has become. A not-insignificant percentage of Americans away from the coasts, are looking past his utter lack of decorum and political savvy to hitch their wagons to his outrage.
Let’s forget, for a moment, about our personal politics, preferred policies, and individual candidates we may be excited to elect. Are we supposed to forget that the Supreme Court, through its 2010 decision that corporate donors should be treated legally as individual donors under the First Amendment, effectively subordinated individual voters into mere supporting targets to which political aspirants have to appeal? Most importantly, are we supposed to nod our bobble heads in agreement with the heads of the national parties to choose a candidate they find acceptable based on which will appeal to the best funded special interests?
Is anyone really polling in favor of Donald Trump or is he conveniently filling the role of the not-so-quiet counterfactual?
I recently texted one of the premier Sunday morning political pundits with these thoughts and he texted back:
“That's what I am arguing internally. This is the country's collective middle finger to Washington.”
As an investment strategist and consultant observing our current global economy and markets, it is difficult not to extrapolate this sense of helplessness against powerful institutions. Tell us again why six years of central bank financial repression is serving the interests of the greater factors-of-production? As investors, should we care about widening wealth and income gaps that are clearly part-and-parcel with central bank policies devoted to maintaining asset values (see here and here)?
Should we expect free, democratic markets that create, form and price capital efficiently - not that treat financial assets as balance sheet collateral for credit?
Who can voters elect to again have an economy that puts producers over rentiers, or to have markets that price value? I’m sure it’s not Donald Trump (a rentier’s rentier!), but I’m also sure it’s not the heads of the Democrat and Republican Parties. Who can investors elect to keep the rentier thing going? Is that really what investors should want? It’s complicated.
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