Excerpted from today's Blain's Morning Porridge by Bill Blain of Mint Partners
Over weekend drinks, dinners, very good lunches and rugby banter I was repeatedly told by my chums with real jobs in Industry, Services and Government how terrible this Trump fellow is turning out. It's terribly liberal of us all to be illiberal about him.
A couple of times I tried to respond in rational terms about the limits to Trump's power, the political balance behind him, the quality of his advisors, and the potential upside from real Washington reform and a re-write of the tax code. That's when the crowd turned on me - apparently free-speech in the Western Democracies means anyone who tries to be vaguely objective about Trump is definitionally a proto-fascist woman-hating racist. It’s not just luvely-dovey actors that want to show off just how politically correct they are in their contempt of the duly elected US president.
Trying to explain Trump does not make me a bad person.
And to be frank... we worry too much. We act like we are unfamiliar with the concept of having a numpty as the most powerful man on the planet. Actually, it’s hardly a new thing - up until comparatively recently power was hereditary or seized by the strongest - which meant inbred bellicose numptys leading powerful countries was the norm – hence human history.
The idea of leadership as a popularity contest - called an election - to determine leaders is new. Don't tell me the Greeks invented it - in a demos of perhaps 10,000 males precisely 38 of them had a vote. (Or something like that.)
Elections don't always deliver the optimal result. The idea every red-neck or hippy has an equally weighted choice is bound to result in irrational results. If someone promises Jam tomorrow, and you believe... well vote them in. When they don't deliver.. vote them out. Problem is no one pays attention to the sensible chap saying we can have Jam tomorrow if we do this.. No one has recorded Lion prides voting for the next King Simba.. As someone once said: “Democracy is the very worst form of government, except for anything else...”
When it comes to Trump, the world is generally agreed he’s a bad person, but while some therefore believe his presidency can therefore only be bad, the other half expect the quality of his unelected advisors, cabinet and other control rods will make it “all right”.
Last week I was questioning the Trump volatility factor - just how destabilising his repeated stupidities, rants and tweets are on markets. But now… relax. Step back and think it through - Trump volatility is opportunity! You know what he says is not what he can actually do.. but the market over-reacts because it acts like he can..
So basically my trading recommendation is simple: short everything Trump says.. I am sure he does!
I was fortunate to get some time with a senior US political advisor last week - who set me straight on the real Trump issues. Strip out the noise, the fake news, and the president’s unfortunate public persona and the basics are:
- The Republican Party is incentivised to deliver success and what the public expect to ensure re-election!
- There is a large and successful pro-business lobby in the US who also expect politicians to deliver success.
- The focus of the Republican political classes include rolling back regulation, fiscal policy, infrastructure, stimulating the economy to create growth and fixing trade imbalances. (I had some interesting numbers quoted at me about Obama-care, tax cuts, tax reform and the supreme court, for instance: how over-regulation was stifling the economy – Obama introduced over 3400 new business regulations in his second term – compared to only 115 new laws.)
The clincher for me was my contact’s final line - “In response to your worries about Trump: that while his statements and executive orders may offend many and distract, the people responsible for passing the laws are undeterred in their quest to reform America!”