There is something special about the '20s.
Historically the '20s have been a time of renewed optimism, a beginning of a new century, and most especially a time when financial speculation seems to hit a peak.
Yesterday we traced the most famous of all '20's speculative bubbles. What's most interesting of all of these is that they are all essentially a financial phenomena.
It is not, the production side of the economy that has been involved in these mania's, it's the financial side. In fact in the case of Gregor MacGregor, much like Bernie Madoff, there was no real product or service provided. It was a pure swindle. And purely financial.
This list of Roaring '20s gives us an excellent perspective on what is happening in our own financial markets today. There are few who would dispute that currently, the Stock Market is at historic valuations. By almost any measure stocks are currently expensive. Whether we are in an actual bubble or not, we'll leave for another day.
But I think what is most significant currently is how we got here. And largely I see the working of the public entities: the Federal Government and the Federal Reserve, as helping to create this situation.
If you begin our analysis by looking at the Great Financial Crisis, the period from 2008 and 2009, you will see almost every policy aimed at supporting the financial sector of the economy. Wall Street if you will. And almost no support provided for the production side of the economy, Main Street.
We can speculate about why this is. Certainly, modern economic theory has proposed that by supporting the financial system, you will support the entire economy.
And it's true that several parts of the financial system were at or near failure. I point especially to Citi Group, which was essentially insolvent.
But the fact remains that it has been Wall Street that has received most of the support from both the Government and the Central Bank. These supports came in the form of relaxing bank regulatory requirements, monetary stimulus aimed squarely at the banks and lowered interest rates, designed to enhance bank profitability.
But little to nothing for the little guy on Main Street. And this is no new phenomenon. Did you know that in our lifetimes, only 3 Presidents have proposed a tax cut aimed at the middle class?
Those three Presidents were John Kennedy in the early 1960s, Ronald Reagan in the 1980s and now Donald Trump.
What's interesting is that in the two prior tax cuts: Main Street came alive. These tax cuts ignited small business and the productive side of the economy.
Consumers, the chief employees of the productive side, started to spend, and weak economies came back to life.
The Kennedy Tax Cut helped bring the economy out of the malaise that it was beginning to experience at the end of the 1950s, and for 3 out of the next 5 years, US GDP grew at 6%.
The Reagan Tax Cut of the early 1980s brought us out of the interminable stagflation that we had fallen into and powered one of the longest stock market recoveries of all time.
And so we come to the Trump Tax Cut, enacted for 2018. Like the other two tax cuts, I believe that it will take several years to see the full impact of this move. But one thing is clear: this is a strategy, like all of Trump Strategies so far, aimed squarely at Main Street. And because of that is very distinct from any policy that has been promoted over the past 4 decades.
The beneficiaries of these policies are the small businesses, domestic producers and ultimately consumers. It is the side of the economy, that is not part of the financial world.
This is Main Street, as opposed to Wall Street.
And I give you a possible scenario. One that may be unfolding now.
Suppose that Main Street really catches fire. That production moves back onshore, and that small business comes to life, and the consumer continues to spend.
In other words, suppose that the fundamentals for Wall Street gain some real momentum.
Then we might see a real bull market, powered not by financial engineering and multiple expansion and financial bubbles.
But one powered by the underlying prosperity of the producers. By earnings, and profits of real companies.
Interesting idea, don't you think?