The Economics of Political Spin

by: Michael Fitzsimmons

Current political spin on CNBC and other supposed US "business" channels remind me of a line in the great movie Chinatown, staring Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, and John Huston. I can't quote it exactly, but somewhere in the movie private investigator Jake Gitties (played by Nicholson) says something like this: "Forget the newspapers and the radio and the television, if you want to find out what really happened, follow the money."

For the last few days as the Democratic convention ramps up, the economic propaganda machine led by the talking heads on CNBC has been in full gear. They are warning us of the dire stock market consequences of an Obama presidency. Spending will be out of control they say! The US economy will go into recession and America will suffer the consequences of Obama's lack of experience!

News flash: the economy already IS in recession. Spending already IS out of control as the US fiscal deficit doubled under the Bush administration's watch! The stock market already HAS suffered dire consequences as the S&P500 has returned an anemic 2.7% over the past 10 years. Inflation IS already raging. Further, we have no energy policy, the banking system is in complete disarray, the Bush administration has federalized the national mortgage market and taken control of a publically traded investment firm (Bear Stearns).

So, one question pops into my mind: How on Earth can US economic policy possibly get worse than the last 8 years of George Bush's "leadership"? Second question: since McCain has changed all of his so-called "maverick" policy stances in order to align himself totally with the "Bush conservatives" (I prefer to call them "radicals" as there is nothing "conservative" about Bush and his cohorts), wouldn't 4 years of McCain in effect mean 12 years running of Bush's horrid economic policies? The answer is yes, and the consequences of continuation the path we are on would be dire indeed.

As Jake says - just follow the money. Are you better off than 8 years ago? Are you keeping up with inflation and high energy prices? Are your stock market returns satisfactory the last 8 years? Have you noticed the middle class taxpayer is bailing out the Wall Street firms that created the credit crisis? Have you noticed the middle class taxpayer is paying his fair share while hedge fund managers that make $300 million on a single deal pay no taxes whatsoever? Have you noticed that the Bernanke- and Paulsen-led "regulatory changes" are putting all the risk on the US taxpayers' backs while all the upside goes to the Wall Streeters? Is anyone paying attention here?

If you are a Bush supporter, and you have less than 1-2 million bucks, you are shooting yourself in the foot. If you are a billionaire, Bush is your man. Bigtime. Just ask Warren Buffet...then note that Buffet supports Obama. Now, there is a man with integrity. He would rather shoot himself in the foot than watch America go down the tubes.

All that said, the Democratic convention has been so horrid I had to switch it off. What an opportunity to address America! But boy was it squandered. Instead of an energy roundtable to discuss our biggest economic challenge, we had music and singing. Instead of listing all the economic policy mistakes of the Bush administration, we had an elegant production praising Ted Kennedy. Instead of making a concrete case for a new and better tax policy, we had more fluff. They are friggin blowing it.

However, I know what continued Bush policies will mean to my investments and my standard of living. I don't even look forward to that. Obama at least is a change and departure from that path. Although I don't like his energy policies (windfall profits taxes is a terrible idea, and nuclear is needed in a big way), he is my only choice versus a known quantity that is economically toxic to me and my country. Just look at the record of the last 8 years and follow the money.

Meanwhile, both parties seem incapable of bringing a strategic, long-term, comprehensive energy policy to their convention platforms. Let me help them out with a Strategic Long-Term, Comprehensive Energy Policy.

The US dollar has been stronger recently and this apparently has convinced folks that oil will go down as a result. Another news flash: the strength of the US dollar does nothing to address the fundamental problem of worldwide oil supply not being able to keep pace with worldwide oil demand! Proof, oil was up some 500% during Bush's term while the US dollar fell 40%. This inconvenient fact has seemingly been overlooked by the financial analysts who continue to sell off energy stocks as though oil is going back to $50. News flash: never again in your life will you see $50/barrel oil.

Bottom line to investors: Take this opportunity to buy undervalued oil stocks like StatOil (NYSE:STO), ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP), ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM), Chevron (NYSE:CVX) and Petrobras (NYSE:PBR). Undervalued energy service firms include Schlumberger (NYSE:SLB), Natl Oilwell Varco (NYSE:NOV), and Nabors Industries (NYSE:NBR). The steady uptrend in oil prices and inflation in the years ahead mean investors should have positions in gold bullion, taking physical possession of the American and Canadian gold coins. Another good insurance policy for the future would be DBC, the commodity ETF.

I probably sound like a broken record with my investment themes, but until the US adopts a rational energy policy, there is no reason to change strategy. Long term, energy fundamentals will dominate the economic landscape. Good luck!
Disclosure: The author owns COP, STO, PBR, SLB, and gold.