Bill Gross thinks America has allowed populism to take hold with the election of Donald Trump, and that was a big mistake.
In his most recent investment outlook, the Janus fund manager and bond guru said that the election of Trump was a misguided attempt by American workers to fix their problems, but the president-elect’s policies will only make their plight worse.
Comparing Trump to a fox that has been let into the hen house, Gross said that the proposals so far from the transition team have showed nothing to benefit the working class Americans that helped propel Trump to his unexpected victory.
“But while the Fox promised jobs and to make America great again, his policies of greater defence and infrastructure spending combined with lower corporate taxes to invigorate the private sector continue to favour capital versus labour, markets versus wages, and is a continuation of the status quo,” said the letter.
Gross noted that such reforms, like a lower corporate tax rate, are misguided, given that the average for S&P 500 companies are well below the statutory rate of 35% and it won’t make much difference. Additionally, the idea of a tax holiday to bring cash back in from overseas will not have the intended effect that Trump has promised.
“The last time such a ‘pardon’ was put into law in 2004, no noticeable pickup in investment took place,” Gross wrote. “Of the $362 billion that earned a ‘tax holiday’, most went to dividends, corporate bonuses, and stock buybacks.”
Given these policies and their impact on Americans, Gross predicted that Trump’s time in office will not be long.
“His tenure will be a short four years but is likely to be a damaging one for jobless and low-wage American voters,” wrote Gross.
Despite his negative outlook for a Trump presidency (though to be fair, Gross hasn’t been optimistic about much of anything lately), the investor said he understands where the populous discontent came from.
“Both the Clinton Democrats and almost all Republicans represent the corporate status quo that favours markets versus wages; Wall Street versus Main Street,” said the letter. “That’s why the American public and indeed global citizens will continually take a wrong turn in their efforts to neuter the establishment and to regain several decades’ lost momentum in real wages versus real profits.”
Gross, for his part, believes a government-led program to employ Americans such as former President John F. Kennedy’s AmeriCorps or Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal employment programs would be a better method of solving Americans ills.
Lacking that, Gross said, the establishment has given way to a populist turn for global politics, but it will likely not be as satisfying as voters or investors — who have pushed stocks to near all-time highs — expect.
“Global populism is the wave of the future, but it has taken a wrong turn in America,” said Gross.
“Investors must drive with caution, understanding that higher deficits resulting from lower taxes raise interest rates and inflation, which in turn have the potential to produce lower earnings and P/E ratios. There is no new Trump bull market in the offing.”
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