Tag Archives: Politics

Hope Is A Long-Term Investment

The Short-term Outlook is Dark.

The unfortunate reality is that we are going to face tough economic times in the short term.

Furthermore, certain “structural” factors in the credit markets have led me to believe that the market prices of assets (including most stocks) have more downside risk than upside potential in the short term.

The key data point here is one of supply and demand. Anywhere from 65-80% of demand in the corporate bond and bank debt markets came from highly-levered entities including CLOs, CDO’s and SIV’s over the last few years. These entities no longer have leverage available, and thus are not buying assets. Until this problem is mitigated, prices will continue to fall in the credit market even if we ignore the weakening underlying fundamentals.

Add to this the facts that: a) the economy has only just started slowing down, b) job losses have been relatively muted to date, and c) the key to this whole puzzle – the underlying housing market – is still facing massive challenges the foremost of which are homeowners underwater in their mortgages, and it is easy to see why things don’t look good in the short term.

However, *if* you are willing to keep a long term focus there is light emerging on the horizon.

Reasons For Hope.

1) Barack Obama is the President-elect.

I want to point out that I am not a Democrat. I am not a Republican. I am an American who finds it equally deplorable to see the disrespect that people show our current President (discussed by the WSJ here: The Treatment of Bush Has Been a Disgrace) as I am optimistic with the election of our new President in Barack Obama.

He stands for something: the kind of optimism and hope in our country that is very important in times like these.

But don’t forget, President-elect Obama called for a sense of service and sacrifice. And he meant it.

2) We have a sense of solidarity again.

This is delicate. We can’t let the short term bad news over the coming months distract us from the momentum this election has achieved.

Voter turnout was the highest it has been in a century. You cared, and your voices were heard.

Last night people were literally dancing in the streets across the country singing God Bless America.

This patriotic spirit is essential for us to collectively overcome the challenges we face.

3) Our long-term economic prospects are strong.

We are the most innovative country in the world.

Trends such as in the success of web services like Twitter; the current adoption of the mobile internet on devices like the I-Phone, the Blackberry Bold and the G1; innovations in clean nanotechnology; and countless other great opportunities show that there are tons of great things happening in our country today.

Our economy is $13T and even if it declines by the greatest amount in history it will still be the largest and strongest economy in the world by a long shot.

Keep A Long-Term Focus.

Emulating great investors like Warren Buffett, we should disentangle the long-term value from the short-term “signal” and technically-driven prices.

The short term is murky, but the long-term truly is hopeful.

The sun has set and we are in the midst of a cool and dark night. The silence is almost deafening, but on the horizon rays show the Hope of a new day. And now we have a leader to take us there.

Stop The Blame Game. Pass The Bill.

Stop pointing fingers.

A friend of mine asked me tonight: didn’t you tell me you were against a bailout a few weeks ago? 

The reality is: Yes, I was against a bailout of any kind until Congress proved they were capable of coming up with a reasonable compromise in the context of a very dire situation. As discussed, I discussed below, I believe the regulatory process is working. Whether the bill as it currently stands is the best solution is debatable, but that intervention is necessary at this point has become almost certain.

However, unfortunately, as discussed here (Barnum and Bailey Would Be Proud) today’s House vote on the proposed bailout turned into a finger-pointing session with the politics of old ruling the day: Democrats pointed fingers at Republicans and Republicans defiantly stood against supporting Democrats.

All the while, the stability of our economy is suffering. The stock market was down more than it has been in history…and this was not a matter of pointing fingers. It was the market’s reaction to the outlook for the economy if nothing is done.

So why should you care? Shouldn’t we dig our heels in and protect our “free market ideals”?

Why the Bill should pass.

1) Normal people depend on credit in a number of ways in their daily lives. From grocery shopping, to buying a car, to paying for college, the majority of Americans rely on credit to live. Although people have legitimate concerns about an over-reliance on credit over the last half-decade, we are not living in an academic textbook. We should address financial literacy with education, not with a smack to the head.

2) If we do not do something, many more banks will fail, and credit will significantly contract as a result. As you have seen, a number of banks made mistakes and lent too much money to people based on a failed economic models. If we do not do something, many more banks will fail. In fact, even if we do intervene, it is almost certain that there will be continued bank failures as the economy begins to slow and corporate defaults begin. As the credit crisis continues, the reality of credit evaporation will hurt normal people in real ways. We should seek to minimize this unfortunate reality.

3) Our economic theories have been proven wrong…why rely on them now? Those who want to take a hand’s off approach to the current situation don’t have much of a leg to stand on. If you believe in the effectiveness of the free market, how can you explain the excesses that put us where we are today? The market failed. Of course it did. It was based on models built by human beings. We are imperfect, so we built imperfect models. This isn’t rocket science. Continuing to bang our head into the wall based on economic principles that have been disproven is not only illogical, it is dangerous.

4) People are afraid. When I first started learning about economics, I remember thinking the ideas of “consumer confidence” and “economic sentiment” were wishy washy terms. Why would we care about people’s opinions when thinking about economic growth? The reason people’s opinions matter is because people are our economy. The market is comprised of millions of people, and their subjective understanding of the economic outlook can be just as important, perhaps more important, than what that understanding should be. Watching the stock market plummet today and gyrate over the last few months has made everyday Americans wary of our future. We need to rebuild confidence in our economy to keep it from slowing more than it already inevitably will.

Is the Bill perfect? No. Will it create moral hazard issues for future executives? Maybe. Will the economy really suffer if the government does nothing? Almost certainly.

The government needs to put party politics behind us.

Unfortunately, the government is facing a credibility crisis.

Sure the Bush Administration has made mistakes.  It is unfortunate that our confidence in government has sunk to such a low level that people are finding it difficult to believe how bad things will get if we do not intervene. As John Stewart cleverly pointed out in a side by-side view of Iraq and Economy announcments, President Bush’s speech last week was similar to the announcement of the War in Iraq.

However, the fact that you disagree with the President about Iraq should not lead you to stubbornly refuse to recognize how bad things are looking for our economy. No matter what some people might believe, the stock market is not controlled by anyone, and today’s market downturn showed that investors – Democrats, Independents, and Republicans - are worried about our economy. And they should be. We are witnessing an historic failure of our financial institutions the ramifications of which will be felt for years to come no matter what we do.

Now is not the time to put Party before Country.

Remember…at the end of the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf the wolf comes. He is now standing on our doorstep. The question now is what are we going to do about it?

I remain confident that we will do the right thing.