My buddy, Mike Mertz, reacted to my Election Reflection 2016 blog by challenging me to make some predictions for the Trump administration. Mike’s challenge was in the context of his bizarre assertion on Facebook that my prediction, back in 2012, that Obama would stick it to the poor and middle class was so obvious that “most middle school kids could have predicted it.” Ouch! I find it more than a little revisionist to sit in 2016 as a strongly left leaning “independent” like Mike and say this was so obvious just four years after Obama ran for re-election on Hope and Change for the underclasses. Then again, Mike also told me recently that, back in 2012, a season in which the Cubs lost 101 games, he predicted they would win the World Series in 2016 and exactly a week later Donald Trump would be elected president of the United States. He just forgot to tell anyone about his prediction at the time.
Notwithstanding the unwarranted attack on my 2012 prediction, which turned out to be center of the bull’s-eye accurate, I’m game for some bold Trumpian predictions, so here goes:
- Trump will be far more socially liberal than anyone on the right is thinking. Folks, Donald J. Trump is the first president in American history to enter the Oval Office supporting gay marriage. Obama was opposed to it until the liberal base told him to pretend to change his mind (c’mon that’s not an issue you suddenly have an epiphany on). As a side note, Hillary was also anti-gay marriage and is on record as such. Trump spontaneously grabbed a gay rights banner at a rally and held it up on stage.
- Many republicans will be unhappy with him. See prediction #1.
- Many democrats will secretly be happy with him, but will never admit it. See prediction #1.
- The energy sector will have a resurgence as the silliness of climate change abates, setting us up for less foreign dependence on energy long term. The second part of this (less dependence on foreign energy sources) will take decades to prove out, but I’ll be around for Mike’s compliments when it does. The majority of the country supports smart and environmentally sound exploration of our domestic sources of energy. Sadly, the Obama administration let a very tiny minority of green zealots dictate a huge swath of the American economy, and not just the energy sector itself (though it’s a big job creator). Many other sectors depend on energy and, while energy prices are relatively low now, it is impossible to predict them into the future (just ask Jimmy Carter).
- The regulatory environment will become more rational. This should cut across all sectors from financial services (bye-bye Dodd-Frank) to the environment (bye-bye cap and trade by executive fiat) to, pray God, pharmaceuticals (please somebody kick some ass over at FDA). If I had to pick a single reason for the perpetually miserable eurosclerotic style economy of the last 8 years, it has been Obama’s hyper-regulatory approach. As a business person, I assure you that businesses don’t invest and grow when there’s regulatory uncertainty. Liberals have bemoaned the fact that US corporations are holding billions of dollars in cash reserves, without investing it. Well, that’s why. Trump can free a lot of that up with regulatory reform. I believe he will.
- Obamacare will not be repealed and replaced, but will be improved. What I mean by the first part of this sentence is that there is zero chance that any politician has the political will to take away an entitlement. Thus, anyone who got new insurance under Obamacare will get to keep it (wait, now I sound like Obama). However, I think Trump will stick to his campaign pledge of deregulating the health insurance market to allow companies to sell policies across state lines. This and other pro-competitive reforms will put this sector on a path to being more market-driven, which is the only way out of the current mess. But, don’t look for any major changes here. Obama created a huge mess and it will take more than four years to untangle it.
- Pharmaceuticals and medical products will be back in vogue (full disclosure: my professional life involves investing in these two sectors). The unrelenting assaults on the pharma and medtech industries by liberals has hurt them over the past eight years and, even more so, over the past year as everyone predicted a Hillary victory. It’s always been an empty attack as these two sectors represent about 10% of overall healthcare spending in the US and much of that spending saves money in the more costly sectors of hospitals, nursing homes, and physician visits (i.e., getting a $5000 stent prevents the next heart attack, which lands the patient in the ICU for 10 days at $10,000 per day). Trust me, this is good, especially for anyone over 50. The liberal assault on these sectors was crushing innovation and that’s bad for those of us who are entering our prime years of health care consumption.
- Congress will become relevant again. It will be very interesting to watch how Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and Mr. Trump work together. Obama’s monarchical approach of reigning by executive order has done a fair bit of damage to the fiber of our tripartite government. Trump will need to use some executive orders to quickly undo the damage done by Obama’s executive overreach, but then I think he will work with congress to pass laws, in the way the Founding Fathers envisioned it. This will be fun to watch.
- The Art of the Deal will arrive at the White House. This prediction goes somewhat hand in glove with prediction #8, but goes well beyond it too. When Mr. Trump threatened a trade war with China during the campaign, liberals and even many conservatives completely wigged out. Savvy negotiators, like your humble blogger, knew/hoped/ strongly believed, he was starting a negotiation with the Chinese. Obama was bad at many things, but chief among them, was his total lack of negotiating skills. I blogged about that (here). He went up against some very savvy negotiators, like Putin and the mullahs in Iran, and got his ass handed to him every time. Whenever two people or two sides want different outcomes, a negotiation ensues. Trump has made a career out of successful negotiations. Obama was a community organizer; the most complex negotiation he had conducted prior to getting the job of Chief Negotiator on behalf of 320 million Americans was with his office staff as to what font to use on the letterhead of his community organization. When people said Trump was unfit to be president, they completely missed this very important part of his DNA. I predict it will make him very successful in many critical negotiations (note to climate change zealots: when he says he’s pulling out of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, then hints he might not, he is negotiating. So be calm.)
- Ten seems like a nice round number for predictions, but I really only have nine. So, I’ll make a more blanket prediction that the Trump presidency will surprise people on the upside. OK, so that’s not such a bold one with expectations so low. But, I actually think he will do well and that he will do well for a lot of folks. I think the poor and middle class, who largely elected him to office and who Obama so totally screwed, will do better. Trump will be a lot more populist than probably most conservatives will like. But, as the WSJ recently opined, it will be populism combined with the practical and workable solutions typical of conservatives, as opposed to the dreamy populism of Bernie Sanders (everything is free and nobody has to pay for it!!!).
OK, Mike, there you have it. I’ll talk to you in 2020 (and again in 2024, I hope).