In what seems slightly odd timing, Goldman Sachs is going on the record about the 2020 election. The bank is saying Donald Trump is likely to win re-election. Goldman says his lead is “narrow” but that his chances are improved by the crowded Democratic field and the success of the economy. What is so interesting about the call is that in runs in contrast to most polls, which Goldman points out, saying “While we believe the majority of market participants expect President Trump to win a second term, we note that prediction markets point in the opposite direction and imply that the Democratic candidate has a 56% probability of winning and the Republican candidate has a 44% chance”.
FINSUM: We have to agree with Goldman. Trump’s base seems to have grown in strength since his initial election, and the politics of the left seem more likely to fragment their base (including into third party candidates) that unite them behind a single leader.
Beto O’Rourke, long expected to step into the race for the Democratic bid, has finally announced he will. The young Texan lost a close race to Ted Cruz in Texas in November, but is aiming to ride his surge in popularity to the White House. Unlike many other contenders from the Democratic party, he is more of a centrist, not adopting the now-common socialist platform. Commenting on his candidacy, Beto says “The challenges that we face right now, the interconnected crises in our economy, our democracy and our climate have never been greater. They will either consume us, or they will afford us the greatest opportunity to unleash the genius of the United States of America”.
FINSUM: Outside of maybe Bernie Sanders, we think Beto is the biggest contender to Trump because he may be able to simultaneously get voters on the far left and some of Trump’s more centrist supporters.
The Democrats are mulling one their biggest risks heading into 2020. That huge decision is whether to make Medicare for all part of their platform for the next election. The House currently has no less than eight proposals for how to make Medicare available to all. None of them are likely to pass in the next two years as the Republicans have control of the Senate. However, adopting the goal of Medicare for all would be a major signal about the direction of the Democratic party headed into the future. The idea is popular with liberals, but more contentious with swing voters.
FINSUM: This is a high risk/high reward strategy. It could either become a major rallying cry or another reason for those in the middle to abhor the left-most leanings of the Democrats. Speaking from a politically neutral position, we do think this would be a good strategic move for the left, as one of the big challenges for the party is that President Trump and the right have grabbed the reins on shaping the vision for the future of the nation. This would be a chance for the Democrats to start to put forth their own cohesive vision.
Few would argue that the tax cut passed in late 2017 was one of the main drivers of the strong economy we saw this year. Corporate earnings have been stellar, the economy is expanding at a good clip, and the labor market is tight. However, the IRS looks about to undermine the benefit of the tax cuts. The agency just announced a new policy for 2019 regarding how it accounts for inflation. The move will undermine much of the value of the tax cuts by raising tax bills for almost all Americans. The new policy will increase tax revenue for the government by $133.5 bn over the next decade.
FINSUM: This is the kind of policy that is going to hurt more over time. That said, the current deficit is huge, so from a fiscal responsibility view it is hard to argue this is unnecessary.
The market had a relief rally right after the election results came in. Yesterday wasn’t so good. The big question on everyone’s mind is where the market is headed from here. Looking historically, the current political arrangement (split Congress, Republican presidency) is the worst for markets. The S&P 500 has had the lowest returns in the current political set up, though it has only occurred four times since 1900.
FINSUM: The market’s outlook for 2019 appears fairly bleak to flat for us. The main reason why is that there won’t be another major tax package, and the great earnings of this year will make 2019 comparisons look weak. Growth is also likely to slow.