Featured Trades: (MY TAKE ON THE 2012 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION)
1) My Take on the 2012 Presidential Election. As I write this, I am sitting at the San Francisco consulate of the People's Republic of China, awaiting the issuance of my business visa. Since I will soon be in the neighborhood, I plan to interview some companies that I want to buy on the next upswing in the global financial markets. The Defense Department has asked me to call on my senior contacts in the People's Liberation Army to try and get a read on the Middle Kingdom's next likely president, Xi Jinping. Also, it has been ages since I had a decent Peking Duck.
It seems that whenever you do anything with China, there are always scads of people around. I had to wait in line on cold and foggy Geary Street an hour just to get into the building, pestered by assorted anti-government demonstrators. I'm now inside with my laptop, but my number is A288, and so far they have only gotten up to A24. It looks like I have a long haul.
Therefore, I am going to take advantage of the very rare luxury of some extra free time and speculate at length on the prospects of another president, that of Barrack Hussein Obama. Having spent time in the White House Press Corp under Carter and Reagan, I have some inside knowledge about how whole election process works.
The most important factor to affect global financial markets next year and years beyond will be the outcome of the 2012 presidential election. As card carrying paid up members of the Mad Hedge Fund Trader network, I therefore have not only the responsibility, but the obligation to give you my forecast about how this is going to play out.
To believe that President Obama is anti-business and bad for the economy is lunacy of the highest order. Barack knows more American history than either you or I will ever forget. He is well aware that a poor economic performance has been the primary creator of one term presidents since WWII.
Kennedy was assassinated, Johnson retired early, Carter was demolished by the stagflation caused by the Iranian revolution and the second oil shock, and George H.W. Bush was turfed out by a minor recession, despite winning the first Gulf War. Therefore, the economy had to be Obama's top priority from the first day in office. To do otherwise was for Obama to risk becoming one of the countless jobless himself.
I believe that the economy that Obama inherited was so broken that it will take decades to fix, if ever. It is easy to forget that virtually the entire financial system was bankrupt, the credit markets had seized up, and the ATM's were two weeks away from failing to dispense cash. The government newly found itself a major investor in the country's 20 largest banks, General Motors, and AIG.
But the reflationary measures he was able to get through a reluctant congress were too small to engineer the recovery he needed. The boldness of the moves seen during the Great Depression was sadly absent. Remember, Franklin Roosevelt directly hired 3 million men during his first two years through the Civilian Conservation Corps, immediately preventing 5 million from immediate starvation. This was when the population was less than half of what it is today.
To a large extent, Obama has become the fall guy for the excesses of earlier administrations. The big problems facing the country are long term and structural. The $15 trillion national debt is the product of 30 years of tax cuts and spending increases, primarily for defense.
Our runaway health care costs can be traced by our failure to nationalize health care when the rest of the developed did so in the late 1940's, enabling them to keep their medical expenses to two thirds of ours, with better results. Social security and Medicare were financially flawed from the day they were launched, and modern day politicians were loath to touch them once they became sacred cows. None of these intractable problems are amenable to a quick fix.
All of this leaves Obama's popularity in the polls falling, going into one of the most acrimonious and hard fought elections in American history. Obama has become the Jackie Robinson of American politics, the first African-American to play in major league baseball. The better the job he does, the more people hate him. Robinson died at 53, largely due to stress.
Is Obama the Jackie Robinson of American politics?
If he can't pull out of his tailspin, I believe the president will withdraw his candidacy, and throw it open to other contenders. That is what Lyndon Johnson did in 1968 due to declining health and an unpopular war. When you try to push history forward too quickly, sometimes it bites you back. The election of Obama was such a generational leap in so many ways that some retracement was inevitable. Blame it all on the excesses of the previous administration, which were many. After all, the Democrats don't want to commit suicide.
There are two potential candidates. I believe that Hillary Clinton was given the safe position as Secretary of State precisely to hold her in reserve as a backup candidate in 2012 in case something happened to Obama. People of both political parties agree that she has done a spectacular job managing America's role in the Arab spring, providing military support to drive Khadafy out of power, and keeping the Chinese buying out gargantuan debt issues. But as a presidential candidate, she is not without baggage.
Who wins This Contest?
The dark horse in the race is Michael Bloomberg, the highly popular mayor of New York. If there was ever a politician who can change his spots, it is Michael. A lifetime Democrat, he switched parties to win as a Republican in a Democratic town. He could flip flop again, or bolt to form a third party. I have known Michael since he went door to door on Wall Street seeking funding to start his data business to replace the aging Quotrons. A more quixotic mission there never was.
Yet he succeeded wildly, making himself a billionaire many times over, proving his credentials as an entrepreneur and a businessman, and creating an urban legend. An early adopter, I have personally paid him over $1 million in fees for the past 20 years for his versatile machine, as have most other hedge fund managers.
Where do the Republicans stand in all of this? They have to spend a year appealing to the conservative base, attempting to outmaneuver each other in a marathon to the right. Then they only have two months to swerve back to the middle to win the election. They have a somewhat hopeless task, and is why we have so many two term presidents.
What Rick Perry harangues about is popular in libertarian, oil based Texas, but will they wear it in Ohio, Washington, or Florida? I think not. Mitt Romney's Mormon origins leave his party's Christian base cold, and he is unelectable without them. Both these men are presenting themselves as modern day incarnations of Ronald Reagan. But I knew Ronnie for decades, first as an aspiring governor of California, and a Reagan they are not. I can't imagine Perry telling me an off color joke.
The rest of the field are just 'also rans'. On top of this, the power of the presidency as a campaign tool is not to be underestimated. Air Force One versus a chartered bus? Give me a break.
Or This One?
There are a few imponderables to consider in 2012. Some 4 million immigrants became naturalized US citizens in four years, who have a very high turnout ratio. Given anti-immigrant rants in states like Arizona and Alabama, you can count on almost all of these going Democratic. Another 4 million millennials will have reached voting age. Obama managed to get this group to turn out in unprecedented numbers in 2008. He didn't run in 2010, and they failed to show. Will they return in 2012? Another demographic trend that has been ongoing for 50 years is the migration to the sunbelt, which favors the Republicans. I don't know how all of this nets out, but I bet Carl Rove does. Ask him.
Or This One?
In the end it will come down to Ohio and Florida again, as it has in the last three elections. Few remember that Obama won by a landslide in 2008, taking some 365 electoral votes compared to the 270 needed to win. The Democrats could lose a staggering 94 votes and still take the presidency.
That means losing the entire Midwest and some of the East, including North Carolina (15), Virginia (13), Indiana (11), Missouri (11), Maryland (10), Colorado (9), Iowa (7), Connecticut (7), West Virginia (5), and New Mexico (5), and still seeing blue ties (or pant suits) in the White House. In the end it will come down to Ohio and Florida again, as it has in the last three elections.
This is a race that is wide open and could go in any direction. That is why you are seeing such a plethora of Republican candidates. In politics, 14 months is 14 centuries, and anything could happen by November 6, 2012. New candidates will enter the fray, while old ones fade away. Rick Perry may have already peaked. The economy might even recover, or at least fail to melt down. After all, who heard of Barrack Hussein Obama 14 months before the last election? For those of us who trade for a living, this will be one giant unknown to pile on top of all the others, right up to election day.
Well, they're up to number A285 now, so it's time to fold up the laptop and get in another line. I'm sure at least half of you are disappointed that I can't go on, the other half, not so much. See you in Shensen.
Or Will Obama Pull a Johnson?