Tuesday evening my brother and I returned from a “Dad’s trip” with our 11-year-olds to the Yellowstone National Park region. It was an amazing adventure, the kids were delightful, the weather nearly perfect, and the wilds of Yellowstone never disappoint. The park and airports were a little bit less crowded, making travel easier, and I returned rested and ready to get to work. First item on the agenda: absorb the first presidential debate.
Seven minutes in and I wanted to run back to the wilderness.
This election, of course, looms large on the minds of my clients, and I spend considerable time discussing the topic on a daily basis. We all have our biases, but I work hard to truly understand the risks and opportunities presented by both candidates and political philosophies. After all, I have to advise clients and manage investment strategies regardless of who’s president.
Actual hard information has been more difficult to come by this election cycle than in any previous I can remember. With the political conventions being distilled into infomercials, Biden being inaccessible most of the time and President Trump viewing campaign events as opportunities to work on his stand up routine, I feel like I have very little idea of how these characters intend to steer federal policy in 2021 and beyond. I had hoped the debate, moderated by Chris Wallace, who I consider an actual professional journalist, would start to provide the insight I seek.
After about 30 minutes of what I can only describe as cringe-worthy, I found my mind wandering to other items on my “to do” list. I was in and out of the TV room for the rest of the debate; the clown show clearly wasn’t going to be a productive use of time.
With only five weeks left to the election, however, my work requires I start developing some frame of reference for either potential electoral outcome, and it’s becoming obvious the candidates themselves are not likely to provide any answers. So, I decided to turn to the party platforms for clues.
I am now about 55 pages into the 80-page 2020 Democratic Party Platform, which is available online. To this point it seems to me nearly every paragraph consists of the same structure, starting with how Trump has failed, followed by an aspirational goal that seems to be often outside the capability of the federal government to achieve, finished with how they plan to regulate the rest of us in order to achieve it, with lots of talk about “fairness” and COVID mixed in for good measure.
If this gets you snickering, don’t get too excited yet. I also read the 2020 Republican Party Platform, which is actually only two pages long. The platform has pretty much been condensed into a memo saying Trump is in charge, his America First agenda is the plan and if details are desired, read the 2016 platform to see what it's all about. Completely Trumpian, completely bizarre.
As I’ve already admitted, we all have our biases. This being said, I don’t see how expanding the scope of the regulatory state and increasing marginal income tax rates is likely to lead to greater American prosperity. In my opinion, the federal government is quite frankly not functional enough to be given greater influence over our lives and economy.
At the same time, however, the party of Trump needs to give us more. I believe policies such as rolling back regulations, flattening the tax system and the creation of the brilliant Qualified Business Income Deduction helped recharge American economic growth. Other policies involving foreign trade have proved confusing and disruptive.
What we need to know now, though, is where do we go from here? I hear Trump talking a lot about what he’s already done, very little about what he intends to do. Tuesday night did not help.
Sadly, if we are going to discuss markets and finance over the next month, we also must talk about this election, and I intend to continue exploring the topic. A good friend of mine told me we have to watch the vice-presidential debate if we really want to get answers. So, I guess I’ll tune in again on the 7th, maybe we’ll get something useful that night. It certainly can’t get any worse. Right?
This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax or legal advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific situation with a qualified tax or legal advisor. Marc Ruiz is a wealth advisor and partner with Oak Partners and registered representative of LPL Financial. Contact Marc at email@example.com. Securities offered through LPL Financial, member FINRA/SIPC.
To view Marc's past articles please visit https://www.nwitimes.com/business/columnists/f-marc-ruiz/