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Transcript

Analyzing the Trump-Biden rematch

Head of US Government Affairs Jennifer Flitton joins the Greater Possibilities podcast to discuss where the candidates stand on issues of importance to investors.

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Transcript : Analyzing the Trump-Biden rematch

Brian Levitt:

Welcome to the Greater Possibilities podcast from Invesco, where we put concerns into context and opportunities into focus. I'm Brian Levitt.

Jodi Phillips:

And I'm Jodi Phillips. And on the show today is Jen Flitton, Head of US Government Affairs at Invesco.

Brian Levitt:

Must be general election season already, Jodi.

Jodi Phillips:

Yeah, it feels like it, doesn’t it?

Brian Levitt:

It sort of came early.

Jodi Phillips:

Yeah, it sounds like we skipped over the primaries a little bit. Just went straight to the main storyline, right?

Brian Levitt:

Yeah. It's too early. So now we get to do this for 10 months.

Jodi Phillips:

We've drained all the suspense out of the whole process, absolutely. But look, to your point, it's early February. What about investors' radar screens? Is this something investors are already focusing on?

Brian Levitt:

Yeah, I'm not sure they ever stopped focusing on politics and news flow in terms of what the implications are for their portfolio.

Jodi Phillips:

Despite your best efforts, despite your best efforts. I thought it was your life's work to tell people not to worry about the election, or at least in terms of market impact, right?

Brian Levitt:

Well, clearly I am not doing a good job.

Jodi Phillips:

I don't know. We're getting there, maybe.

Brian Levitt:

Slowly, one blog at a time.

Jodi Phillips:

One podcast at a time.

Brian Levitt:

Yeah, I don't know. I think there's some people who just maybe they hear it, but they don't want to change their mind. I remember my mom used to say, it reminds me of this, she said, "If you never change your mind, then why have one?"

Jodi Phillips:

I love that you're quoting your mom. I hope my boys one day find some wisdom for me to quote from. We'll see. But okay, so then what is something that could help investors change their mind about elections?

Brian Levitt:

Okay, so here's one that I've been using that I love. This has worked out so nicely for my message. So I was looking at when Biden was elected on November 3rd, 2020, and he was elected 820 or so market days ago, and the performance of the S&P 500's in the high 40%s since the day he was elected. And so then you go back and you look, when Trump was elected over this, what the performance of the market was over the same time period since Trump was like, any guesses?

Jodi Phillips:

I don't know. About the same, I would guess.

Brian Levitt:

Yeah. What gave it away?

Jodi Phillips:

I know your message, Brian. I know your message.

Brian Levitt:

So it's actually mid-50s. So if you're a Trump fan, you could say, "Great, we're slightly ahead." But the reality is, high 40s, mid-50s, this whole thing is really much ado about nothing.

Jodi Phillips:

Yeah. Much less stark than what the campaign rhetoric would have you believe.

Brian Levitt:

Exactly. Remember that whole, "Your 401k is going to zero if I don't win,” or “the US is going to go bankrupt if I don't win?"

Jodi Phillips:

Mm-hmm. All or nothing.

Brian Levitt:

Yeah, it's just not how things work out. Fortunately.

Jodi Phillips:

Fortunately. So that's S&P 500, that's the broad market, which is certainly important, but there are a lot of other issues and nuances that investors will want to have greater insight on, and so that's why Jen is here.

Brian Levitt:

Yeah. I just try to keep people calm. Jen actually knows stuff, so it's good to have her.

Jodi Phillips:

Oh, great! We like guests who know stuff, so let's not waste any more time and bring on Jen to discuss everything she knows about DC. Hi, Jen. Where do you want to start, Brian? Should we start with some of the major legislation that Jen's keeping an eye on right now?

Brian Levitt:

Yeah, I would love to hear it. We've been all focusing on this will we have a deal to fund overseas allies militarily and also have some money for the border, and it seems to be up in the air, and curious Jen's thoughts on it?

Jodi Phillips:

That's right. $118 billion package, bipartisan package in the Senate, to provide aid to Ukraine and Israel and some border security. So what do you think the fate of that's going to be, Jen?

Jennifer Flitton:

Okay, so we just had a vote. Today is February 8th just for context.

Jodi Phillips:

Yes, for sure. Let's timestamp that.

Jennifer Flitton:

So we just had a vote in the Senate. It's no longer a $118 billion package. It's now a $95 billion package. They are moving on Ukraine, Taiwan money, Israel money, some humanitarian assistance into Gaza money, but they've taken the immigration language out. So this was a negotiated language that Langford and Chris Murphy and Kyrsten Sinema have been working on for the last two months of negotiations, but it fell very flat in the Senate when they finally unveiled the legislation and the language in order to secure the border. They went through a number of really strong restrictions, I mean some of the strongest immigration restrictions, especially in a negotiated package that we have seen in recent memory. But it wasn't enough for especially very conservative members of the Senate.

Brian Levitt:

Was it not enough or was it viewed as perhaps a political challenge for Donald Trump running for election that if Biden had a win on the border, that would take away one of the key messages?

Jennifer Flitton:

So that is the argument from the Democrats. That's exactly what they're saying, that this is a cynical move by the Republicans in order to keep a live issue live going into the election.

Brian Levitt:

Well, I don't want to be cynical.

Jennifer Flitton:

Right. Not in politics, no. But yeah, so that's exactly what the argument is that they want to keep this a live issue, and it will stay a live issue if they can't reach any sort of agreement on even a few amendments to this national security bill. And it looks pretty unlikely they have 17 Republicans who are voting cloture to move forward. The Senate is about to recess for two weeks, so they'll probably get this bill done over the weekend, and it will be sent over to the House, where there are giant question marks how it will be processed.

Jodi Phillips:

Always question marks, no shortage of question marks, for sure. You mentioned that the immigration language was taken completely out of this, right? So what about that issue? I think that was it December marked a record monthly high of migrants crossing over the US southern border. It's certainly an issue that is top of mind for a lot of people. How can it be addressed?

Jennifer Flitton:

Yeah. Seeing what happened over the last 48, 72 hours in the Senate, I think it's highly unlikely that you're going to see some sort of solution coming out of Congress. So then you're looking to the executive branch. The complaint from the Republican standpoint, going into the Biden administration, the first several months of the Biden administration was that he repealed through about 64 executive orders, the actions of the previous administration on the border, and their argument is that that has led us to this point right now. And their argument is, "So you can undo by going back." It's not quite that simple, right? And one of the biggest restrictions was the "Remain in Mexico" policy. That can't be renegotiated with a snap of the finger. So the question really is what is the Biden administration willing to do? What is the Department of Homeland Security willing to do over the next several months, to your point, to try to bring those numbers into a more controllable sort of situation at the border.

Brian Levitt:

So as we move forward through this year, we know we have an election in 9, 10 months. Is there anything that investors need to be worried about in terms of the state of our politics or how things will operate between now and the election, or do we have to be worried about a shutdown or something else that perhaps is done to make one side or the other not look good ahead of an election?

Jennifer Flitton:

Yeah, we're always worried about a shutdown, right? Because Congress has not been willing or ready or able to get appropriations bills done on time. And so this constant kicking of the can with continuing resolutions brings into question whether they can do the business, the most important business of Congress, which is the power of the purse. But we are getting to a point where you finally have the negotiations happening between the House and Senate. They have their top line numbers, which are known as the 302(b) numbers. The subcommittees are negotiating as we speak, and signs are positive in my conversations with staff on The Hill they seem to be getting there.

Brian Levitt:

Oh, good. Yeah, that seems to be how we do this, right, Jen?

Jennifer Flitton:

Yeah.

Brian Levitt:

We seem to get to the 11th hours, and either we cross it, we cross some breach, and we have to deem everybody's necessary so people all work anyway, or we pass it.

Jennifer Flitton:

Yeah, you're right.

Brian Levitt:

Essential, not necessary. Essential. My apologies.

Jennifer Flitton:

Essential employees, yeah.

Brian Levitt:

Essentials, yeah.

Jennifer Flitton:

It's always darkest before dawn, I think, with the appropriations process, and as we approach these March deadlines, I think we're probably going to see two packages hitting right at those threshold dates. And that is also a big week, that first week of March, because not only is it Super Tuesday where we will then see almost 50% of the Republican primary vote in, we also have the President addressing Congress for the State of the Union on March 7th. Shortly after that, the President will release his 2025 budget, which will really set the parameters for his priorities both on spending and tax, and it will also sort of telegraph where he's going as far as his campaign message and his agenda going into this general election season.

Brian Levitt:

Jodi, have you ever actually played kick the can?

Jodi Phillips:

No, I sure haven't.

Brian Levitt:

Jen, have you?

Jennifer Flitton:

Yeah.

Brian Levitt:

You have?

Jennifer Flitton:

I'm from Ohio. Where are you from, Jodi?

Jodi Phillips:

Texas.

Jodi Phillips:

Jen, primary season, you mentioned primary season. So I don't feel like I understand primary season this go around. I know Nevada had both the Republican caucus and a Republican primary, and “none of these candidates” won the primary. I don't know. I don't know what's going on. It just feels like it's quick and chaotic, and can you maybe help explain what's going on and what you're looking at?

Jennifer Flitton:

Nevada is a funny story, and it's really just this year that they're trying to get two caucuses in on both the Republican and Democratic side, and now the primary's sort of leftover, but if you filed to be in the primary, you can't file to be in the caucus. And so Haley filed to be in the primary, but then the Trump campaign put a campaign against her telling his supporters to vote, "None of the above," or "None of the …"

Jodi Phillips:

Sure. I don't know why I'm having trouble keeping up. This totally makes sense.

Jennifer Flitton:

Yeah, exactly. And then they managed to beat her by like 60-plus percent to her 33%. So it was a little humiliating. I think that was their intention. And now Trump runs in the caucus today, so we'll see what that number is. It should be strong. And then we go into the end of February here with the South Carolina primary, which will be the primary to probably define whether Haley stays in this election or not.

Brian Levitt:

None of the above. Sounds like a good theme for the 2024. So Trump versus Biden, probably a foregone conclusion. And is there anything that's going on right now with the Supreme Court or the Colorado case that changes that?

Jennifer Flitton:

Yeah, I was just watching the oral arguments. So the constitutional question as to whether Colorado and Maine, also relying on the Colorado decision to take Trump off the ballot in Colorado, that is being decided right now by the Supreme Court. Listening to oral arguments pretty much indicates that by the questioning of both sides of those who were put onto the court by Democrats and those put on the court by Republicans seems to indicate that this will be overturned, and Trump will be back on the ballot in Colorado and Maine.

Brian Levitt:

So this will be determined by the voters, not the Justice Department.

Jennifer Flitton:

I think that is very likely the decision that comes out of the Supreme Court.

Jodi Phillips:

So given how crazy the primaries have been this time around, does that change the landscape or the complexion of the general election at all? I know my impression has been, and maybe this is true or false, but that primaries were sort of auditions for folks who wanted to be the VP candidate, right? So what do you think in terms of a running mate for Trump?

Jennifer Flitton:

Yeah, I'll first answer that first question. This is going to be a strange election in the sense of the court system being as involved as it'll be, and not just in the indictments of Trump and him having to maneuver his way through different courts in different states in America, but also these questions of taking him off the ballot and his own question of immunity. The Supreme Court is clearly going to have to get involved in some of these issues, most likely on the immunity case. We'll see if he files appeal.

But to the question of the vice president, right now, as we've been told, it's been reported, and some of us have been in contact with the different campaigns, and it's clear that Trump and his team are vetting potential vice president nominees right now. And so I think it's very likely he will announce come late spring, early summer who his running mate is.

Brian Levitt:

What are the big issues that investors should be focusing on, Jen? What are the big issues that you're focusing on?

Jennifer Flitton:

Well, I'm trying to get through the noise, right? There's so much around this election that is going to be incredibly hyperbolic. There's going to be manufactured crises, and what we're trying to do is keep our investors' eye on the ball. This is where it is actually going to come down to Joe Biden policies versus Donald Trump policies on taxes and immigration and the economy and spending priorities. And I think the more we can cut through the hyperbolic rhetoric and the more we can focus on what is actually at stake, the better, and I think that just keeps our investors better informed.

Brian Levitt:

Good luck.

Jodi Phillips:

Absolutely.

Brian Levitt:

I've been trying to do this for years, Jen.

Jodi Phillips:

And at the risk of injecting any hyperbolic rhetoric, I see people mentioning that the next president is going to face a tax cliff, so to speak, because of certain provisions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) that are set to expire at the end of '25. Obviously, tax is an extremely important issue. How would you describe what the different issues are in terms of what the next president will face?

Jennifer Flitton:

Yeah, this is going to be a major point of contention in the general election, and if we do see debates out of these two men come fall, I think this is going to be a major focus, because in 2017, Donald Trump was able to get through his TCJA, which is the tax reform restructuring of our code, but a number of those provisions do expire, as you indicated, Jodi, in late 2025. We also have a tax bill. In all of this mess in Congress, they were able to negotiate a bipartisan tax bill that not only extends the child tax credit, but also does important work on research and development, expanding that and extending that along with accelerated depreciation. These things mean a lot to farmers and small businesses along with big corporations here in America. And so that would also, though, the way that they've structured it, would expire at the end of 2025. So there's going to be momentum going into 2025 to do something about this. There's other expiring provisions that have to be taken care of, the SALT issue, which is the state and local income tax.

Brian Levitt:

Yeah, I'm in New Jersey. Tell me about the SALT issue.

Jennifer Flitton:

Yeah. So unfortunately for those New York and New Jersey delegation members, they were not able to include some SALT changes to this latest tax bill. They're trying to get a standalone vote. I think it's going to be hard to get it out of rules committee. I don't think it has a good future, but it does expire along with the others at the end of 2025, and that would mean a huge revenue decline for the IRS. So they have to deal with all of this, and it's going to look very different between a President Biden or a President Trump. That's probably one of the issues that swings strongly one way or another come 2025.

Brian Levitt:

Well, Jen, I was getting a little bit of deja vu when Jodi said tax cliff. So I was thinking back, what I remember now is the fiscal cliff, which was maybe a decade ago, and I think that was the end of the Bush era tax cuts, to which ultimately I think all the concern investors had about the fiscal cliff, I think Obama ended up extending many elements of them, some of the elements of the Bush era. So is that a blueprint that we could draw in that if investors do have concerns that Biden will win the election and these things will potentially expire, can we draw on the 2014 or 2008 example? I'm trying to remember the date.

Jennifer Flitton:

I do think you're right. It is much more a mixed outcome if Biden is reelected, because in the run-up to his first election in 2020, he made clear that, as it relates to tax or tax increases, that he won't raise taxes on any families below $400,000. And so as we look at the tax framework, the individual tax framework, the tax brackets that currently exist under this, will expire at the end of 2025. I'm curious to see if some of his messaging comes out as we get into the general campaign season as not increasing below $400,000, but then looking at those tax brackets above $400,000.

Brian Levitt:

I also vaguely remember when he was running in 2020, a lot of concern from investors of where the capital gains tax rate would be. Wasn't it a very large number that had people very concerned that actually did not come to pass?

Jennifer Flitton:

Yeah, right. And that withered on the vine pretty quickly. But there's also members of his own party, and important members like the chairman of the finance committee, Chair Wyden, who has his own legislation. It's kind of a wealth tax. It's basically taxing on income that isn't income yet. And so how some of those questions are going to be answered, how he's going to put together his own tax plan, we're going to see that here very shortly. And I think some of this, like I said, is going to be telegraphed in his budget, and we're going to get an idea of what his economic plan is partly through his budget that he's going to release at the beginning of March.

Jodi Phillips:

So Jen, as someone who has aspirations to retire one day, someday, should I be concerned at all about the SECURE 2.0 implementation, the bipartisan act, lots of implications for retirement savers? Obviously, with a multi-year rollout of these provisions in the middle of an election, is there anything you're watching with that?

Jennifer Flitton:

So we're basically in implementation mode now, and members of Congress are watching very closely what sort of effects this legislation is having on the retirement community in getting more people to save for retirement because that's the whole point of it. It's not just those currently saving for retirement, but those who are sort of underserved in the retirement industry. And so that's really what the focus is for members of Congress in watching this implementation.

But you're right, the Department of Labor and Treasury, they still have to write guidance, they still have to write regulation. There's a technical corrections bill that's going to have to move through the Senate, but because of other priorities, they're going to have to get to the more controversial first, because there's a reason it has to do with the Congressional Review Act and we'll get into that, but you're right, the first half of the year is going to have to be spent on the President's agenda and his priorities and what he needs to get promulgated and finalized within the first half of the year. So that's going to push some of these less controversial issues towards the second half of the year.

Brian Levitt:

Is there anything else that the asset management industry needs to be particularly focused on or the advisory business needs to be focused on?

Jennifer Flitton:

Yeah. Like I said, there are a number of regulations that are going to be finalized in the first half of the year. I'm talking to advisors a lot about the DOL's (Department of Labor) new fiduciary rule, which we do expect to come out at the first half of this year. It will have a CRA attempt at it, which is Congress's Review Act, which tries to get regulation eliminated because they deem it not at the discretion of the regulatory agency, and it should be at the statutory authority of Congress. And so that's going to be a fight. But also, the SEC is putting out a lot of proposals. Those are going to be finalized, and what is the aggregated effect on the capital markets? I think that is one of the questions that's out there that we're watching very closely.

Jodi Phillips:

Is there anything we should be watching with artificial intelligence, crypto, any of those issues?

Jennifer Flitton:

Now, that's a favorite issue, artificial intelligence (AI) first, on The Hill, and that's a bipartisan favorite, and there's been a lot of time and effort spent. Especially, it started this last half of last year in 2023. Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, put together a number of briefings with corporate America, tech America to come in and really sit down and help members of Congress, senators really understand artificial intelligence and how it could be regulated and what needs to be done on a governmental level. And so that question is going to continue into 2024.

If you sit down with some of these senators who are really focused on it, it's all they want to talk about. It's hard to get them off the topic, in fact. And so I think you're going to see some of them, who are most challenged and want to be champions on the issue, really trying to come together on some bipartisanship. We'll see if they're able to get there this year. But those talks, that's the sausage being made, that's the side of it where it takes time for these things to come to fruition.

Brian Levitt:

Do you think they're able to get their heads around a topic that's so potentially complex?

Jennifer Flitton:

I know. Can the world get their heads around AI and all the good and bad that can come from it? Yeah, you're right. It's a hard one to answer.

Brian Levitt:

And what about crypto, to Jodi's point, about crypto regulation?

Jennifer Flitton:

Yeah. So there's a market structure proposal at the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission). There is also a big attempt by the chairman of the Financial Services Committee, Chairman McHenry, to try to get some stablecoin legislation through, to get some digital asset market structure legislation through. They're going back to the drawing board on stablecoins with his Democratic counterpart, Maxine Waters, really trying to work through some of that illicit financing angle that still is really concerning a lot of members on both sides of the aisle.

And then we saw Secretary Yellen. Secretary of the Treasury make clear at a hearing this week that the Treasury generally supports legislation on stablecoin digital asset market structure. But it's really the devil's in the details, and getting there has to come out of the House, because those conversations just aren't really happening in the Senate.

Brian Levitt:

So how's this going to play out, Jen? Do you have a horse in the race for the election?

Jennifer Flitton:

Yeah. I know that Wall Street investors love a theory of the case, but with the polls where they are right now, it is a virtual 50/50 race, and it is all within the margin of error that it could be either candidate, I'd say incumbent, but they both are sort of ... One's definitely an incumbent, one's sort of a quasi-incumbent. And you're talking about a second term for either one, which would mean a lame duck sort of term. This is going to a very interesting race.

Brian Levitt:

Unprecedented since Grover Cleveland? Is it Grover Cleveland?

Jennifer Flitton:

Is it?

Brian Levitt:

Born in my hometown, by the way, Grover Cleveland.

Jennifer Flitton:

Oh, congratulations.

Brian Levitt:

Yeah, thank you. So when we talk about that 50/50 so tight, one of the things that I've asked you before, but not on the podcast is, is there concern that we don't know who won for a long while, and should investors have any concern about potentially two men showing up on January 20th, 2025, to take the oath of office?

Jennifer Flitton:

I don't think it'll take that long. We may not know the night of, but it's really going to come down to six states. So it's going to be Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Georgia.

Brian Levitt:

Georgia. So Jodi and I'll sit these out, Texas and New Jersey?

Jodi Phillips:

Yeah.

Jennifer Flitton:

We all know where you're going. But those six states are really the swing states, those are the presidential makers. And so going into election night, you're probably talking about 100,000 votes total that are really going to decide where this race goes.

Brian Levitt:

So these guys better go start knocking on doors, huh?

Jennifer Flitton:

Oh, yes. I think those states are going to have a lot of commercials coming their way, lit drops and phone calls, and I'm sure it will be very annoying.

Jodi Phillips:

It's going to be a long nine months. All right. Any more questions, Brian? I think we've covered everything.

Brian Levitt:

Well, we're going to have Jen back on many times over the next nine, 10 months, correct?

Jodi Phillips:

Absolutely, and I'm going to take the lesson that I've learned from whenever we have Jen on the podcast, which is to check X, Twitter, right before she comes on. I think last time, we had someone drop out of the Speaker's race about five minutes before we talked to Jen, and now they took all the immigration language out of the immigration bill. So always late-breaking news that Jen's here to put into context for us.

Brian Levitt:

Because Jodi, you and I are working too hard. We're not keeping up to it.

Jodi Phillips:

That's right. Next time.

Brian Levitt:

Well, Jen, thank you so much for joining us.

Jodi Phillips:

Thanks again for joining us, Jen.

Jennifer Flitton:

Thanks for having me.

Jodi Phillips:

Okay, Brian, where can listeners find more information from you throughout election season and beyond?

Brian Levitt:

Well, thanks, Jodi. Visit invesco.com/brianlevitt to read my latest commentaries, and of course, you can follow me on LinkedIn and on X, formally Twitter, that's @BrianLevitt.

 

Important information

You've been listening to Invesco's Greater Possibilities Podcast.

The opinions expressed are those of the speakers, are based on current market conditions as of February 8, 2024, and are subject to change without notice. These opinions may differ from those of other Invesco investment professionals. Invesco is not affiliated with any of the companies or individuals mentioned herein.

This does not constitute a recommendation of any investment strategy or product for a particular investor. Investors should consult a financial professional before making any investment decisions.

Should this contain any forward looking statements, understand they are not guarantees of future results. They involve risks, uncertainties, and assumptions. There can be no assurance that actual results will not differ materially from expectations.

All investing involves risk, including the risk of loss.

In the 815 days following Joe Biden’s election as president (Nov. 3, 2020, to Feb. 2, 2024) the S&P 500 Index was up 47%. In the 815 days following Donald Trump’s election as president (Nov. 8, 2016, to Feb. 7, 2020), the S&P 500 Index was up 55%. Data sourced from Bloomberg.

Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.

An investment cannot be made directly in an index.

Based on US Border Patrol figures reported by multiple news outlets, migrant crossings at the US southern border reached a record monthly high in December 2023.

All data provided by Invesco unless otherwise noted.

Stablecoins are cryptocurrencies that seek to peg their market value to an external reference such as a currency like the US dollar or a commodity like gold.

The Greater Possibilities podcast is brought to you by Invesco Distributors Inc.

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