Very Interesting…

I am aware of a number of upper-income folks who justify their continuing support of Donald Trump by asserting that–“like most Republicans”– he has been better for their portfolios. That has always struck me as a poor excuse for ignoring what another Trump Presidency would do to the country (and for that matter, the world), but I’ve chalked it up to selfishness and (misunderstood/shortsighted)  self-interest.

Evidently, I should have attributed it to ignorance, because it turns out that–when it comes to investment returns– Democratic administrations have greatly out-performed Republican ones.

As I was reading a recent issue of the Indianapolis Business Journal–a publication that covers local government far more thoroughly than the Indianapolis Star, by the way–I came across the regular column by Mickey Kim devoted to giving investment advice. This particular column was titled “Keep Calm and Don’t Mix Politics with your Portfolio,” and it was an effort to persuade people not to base their investment strategies on partisanship rather than performance, not to suggest that one party was better than the other for investment.

But the data was eye-opening, at least for me. (I readily admit to chosen ignorance about all things investment.)

My friend Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist for Wall Street research firm CFRA, dissected price changes for the S&P 500 going back to 1945 based on election results.

Republican administrations are generally viewed as “pro-business,” and conventional wisdom is that stocks do better with a Republican in the White House. There has, indeed, been a huge difference in returns during Democratic versus Republican administrations. However, as is often the case, conventional wisdom is wrong. Past performance is no guarantee of future results, but Stovall calculated from Harry Truman’s inauguration on April 12, 1945, through March 15, 2024, the average annual return for the S&P 500 was 44% higher with Democrats in the White House (9.5% vs. 6.6% during Republican administrations).

Further, according to Invesco and Haver Analytics, hypothetically speaking, the best-performing portfolio from 1900 to 2023 was the “bipartisan” one that stayed fully invested in the Dow Jones industrial average (a price-weighted index—cannot be invested in directly—of the 30 largest, most widely held stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange) during both Democratic and Republican administrations. Again, past performance is no guarantee of future results, but starting with $10,000, this portfolio grew to almost $9.9 million.

Conversely, a “partisan” portfolio, invested only during Democratic or Republican administrations, underperformed by millions of dollars. The same $10,000 invested only during Democratic administrations grew to about $528,000. Invested only during Republican administrations, the initial $10,000 grew to a bit less than $181,000.

Kim concluded this analysis by reiterating his intended message, that “there can be a huge cost to letting a partisan political storm crash your portfolio.” His sound advice: “Develop an investment plan based on your long-term goals and stick to it. Your financial future will depend far more on how much you save and invest, not who wins the election.”

I am in no position to quibble with that advice, which strikes me as quite sound, but it certainly does raise a question about those upper-income Trump apologists. I suppose it’s possible that their portfolios grew under Trump, but given the truly excellent performance of the economy during the Biden Administration, it’s quite likely they’ve done as well or better with a Democrat in the White House. Is their purported reliance on portfolio performance an evasion intended to mask the actual reasons they support Trump (racism, misogyny, isolationism…)? Or do they actually not understand the significance of the data I’ve cited above?

Perhaps they’ve simply and unthinkingly accepted the old “country club Republican” belief that the GOP is the party looking out for the interests of the business community, while Democrats are “giving away” tax dollars via welfare and government spending. If so, someone needs to explain to them that both the short and long-term interests of the business community include such things as social stability, a well-maintained infrastructure, an educated and adequate workforce, and a population with enough disposable income to support robust consumer demand.

As investors are often admonished, past performance is no guarantee of future results. But the odds would certainly seem to be in the Democrats’ –and Biden’s–favor.


Words And Deeds

Among the hackneyed adages we all exchange from time to time is the one that admonishes us to Ignore what people say; instead, we’re told to look at what they do. These sorts of standard sayings persist in the culture because they point to a central truth, and this one is no different. Actions really do speak louder than words.

Which brings me to Arizona.

As everyone who reads or listens to the news now knows, the Arizona Supreme Court recently struck down a 15-week limit on abortion, and instead revived an 1864 law banning the procedure–a law so old, it preceded Arizona statehood. The law they revived reads:

“A person who provides, supplies or administers to a pregnant woman, or procures such woman to take any medicine, drugs or substance, or uses or employs any instrument or other means whatever, with intent thereby to procure the miscarriage of such woman, unless it is necessary to save her life, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not less than two years nor more than five years.”

Arizona only became a state in 1912.

Given the toxic politics of abortion bans in the wake of Dobbs, Republicans in the state publicly decried the ruling. Even those who had previously supported total bans issued more “moderate” criticisms of the court’s decision. But then–as another hoary phrase might have it–the rubber hit the road. Democrats in the Arizona legislature proposed to repeal the law–and Republicans refused to allow that repeal to go forward.

As the AP reported:

The Arizona Legislature devolved into shouts of “Shame! Shame!” on Wednesday as Republican lawmakers quickly shut down discussion on a proposed repeal of the state’s newly revived 1864 law that criminalizes abortion throughout pregnancy unless a woman’s life is at risk.

The state Supreme Court cleared the way on Tuesday for enforcement of the pre-statehood law. Arizona abortion providers vowed Wednesday to continue service until they’re forced to stop, possibly within weeks.

State legislators convened as pressure mounted from Democrats and some Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, for them to intervene.

House Democrats and at least one Republican tried to open discussion on a repeal of the 1864 abortion ban, which holds no exceptions for rape or incest. GOP leaders, who command the majority, cut it off twice and quickly adjourned for the week. Outraged Democrats erupted in finger-waving chants of “Shame! Shame!”

It is interesting, however, that–despite the candidates’ frequent allusions to their (Christian) religiosity and Right-wing bona fides, none of the ads talk about abortion. And as the media has reported, rather than repeating his frequent previous boasts about being the President who named the Justices who gutted Roe v. Wade, even Trump has tried to “moderate” his position by coming out for a Dobbs-like “states’ rights” position.
What has happened in Arizona should serve as a lesson to voters who might be tempted to believe these GOP efforts to downplay their efforts to end reproductive freedom for America’s women. Once in office, that new not-so-moderate “moderation” will evaporate.
Ignore what they say–and take note of what they do.

What’s WRONG With These People?

Whatever your opinion of him–positive or negative– today’s Republican Party is no longer the party of Ronald Reagan. Today’s GOP is the party of Marjorie Taylor Green (MTG), the party of “Jewish space lasers,” “pizzagate,” and QAnon, a party that accommodates Senator Tommy Tuberville’s belief that Democrats are an actual “satanic cult.”  The takeover isn’t confined to Congress, where preoccupation with looney-tune theories and efforts to return the country to 1950 (or earlier) have brought governance to a standstill–it has permeated Red state legislative bodies as well.

I just read about yet another example of Republican legislators standing firm against the 21st Century: the new war against—wait for it–lab-grown meat.

The only way you’re allowed to eat a burger is if a live animal first had to burp and die for it. That, apparently, is the battle cry of red-state Republicans, who are working to ban the fledgling “lab-grown meat” industry.

Scientists and entrepreneurs are developing new technologies to create meat from animal tissue cultivated in labs. This is different from Beyond Meat, tofu or any other meat substitute made from vegetarian ingredients. These are cells harvested from actual animals and then grown into edible flesh with the help of nutrients such as amino acids. The idea is to replicate the texture, taste and nutritional content of the delicious meats consumers already know and love.
This process would address a number of longstanding problems, including the need for more humane treatment of animals, less use of antibiotics, and reduction in huge quantities of greenhouse gas emissions. (Livestock agrifood systems are estimated to account for 12 percent of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.)
It sounds like a great idea–but it doesn’t exist yet.
As the linked article points out, the process faces  serious financial and technological challenges that must be overcome before these products can become commercially viable. But the fact that this technology is still largely theoretical hasn’t deterred the GOP’s culture warriors.
Republican politicians in AlabamaArizonaTennessee and Florida are considering legislation that would ban the sale, distribution or import of any “cell-cultured food product” intended for human consumption. Depending on the state, penalties could include everything from a million-dollar fine to prison time.
In Florida, both legislative chambers have already passed a bill criminalizing the sale of lab-cultivated meat, and Ron DeSantis has indicated that he’ll sign it, declaring that lab meat is part of an “ideological agenda.” (Evidently, lab-grown meat is “woke.”)

To be clear, this is not about a left-wing nanny state forcing the sale or consumption of lab-grown meats. It’s about a conservative nanny state prohibiting the voluntary consumption and sale of these products (which again, mostly don’t yet exist).

What happened to the Republicans who wanted the free market to choose winners and losers? Where is the party of limited government?

Granted, there’s a “follow the money” aspect to this; GOP lawmakers who are sane and merely corrupt want to protect the interest groups threatened by the prospect of lab-grown meat. But the effort to forestall any change in the way meat is produced is coming largely from the culture warriors who have turned the party of Dick Lugar into the party of MTG.

Today’s Republicans evidently believe that Donald Trump reads the bible. They openly admire Putin’s war on Russia’s LGBTQ+ community. They embrace the anti-sex prudery of the Comstock Act. They are clearly spooked by the very existence of trans people, and enraged by the notion that women and Black people might be entitled to equality, let alone personal autonomy. They believe Jews are working to “replace” them (when we aren’t starting forest fires with our space lasers), and that there really are “Satanic cults.”

They are basically terrified of any and all change, and frantic to reverse it.

We’ve seen this fear play out in Indiana’s General Assembly, where our lawmakers (like those in Congress) routinely ignore actual issues facing actual citizens (housing? gun violence?) in favor of banning abortion, attacking higher education (they just know those sneaky professors are turning out liberals!), and sending millions of our tax dollars to religious schools via vouchers.

I titled this post “What’s WRONG With These People?” My conclusion isn’t particularly kind, but it’s inescapable.

They’re nuts. And if we keep electing them, so are we.


Barefoot And Pregnant

I am hopeful that women–and men who care about women– will save democracy in November. If so, it will be “thanks” to the ideologues on the Supreme Court, especially Justice Samuel Alito. His profoundly misogynistic and intellectually dishonest decision in Dobbs prompted a renewed national conversation over the consequences when judges and legislators presume to over-rule medical professionals.

In November, however, voters won’t just determine the fate of abortion restrictions. Unbelievable as it may seem, there are serious efforts underway to restrict access to birth control.

First, abortion.

Special elections in Red states have uniformly confirmed that–where reproductive rights are concerned–even political identities take a back seat. A large number of polls confirm that support for abortion bans has plummeted in the wake of Dobbs. Although I’d seen a number of polls showing substantial gains in support for reproductive rights, I was surprised to read that a recent Axios-Ipsos poll found 81% of Americans agreeing with the statement “abortion issues should be managed between a woman and her doctor, not the government.” That number included 65% of Republicans, 82% of Independents and 97% of Democrats.

The dilemma for Republicans is very real, because a substantial portion of their base remains extreme on the issue. A Republican candidate who tries to soften the party’s draconian stance on abortion in order to appeal to voters turned off by  intransigence on the issue will be vilified–and deserted–by the party’s zealots. And since those zealots are the voters most likely to turn out for primary elections, Republicans in Red states will run hard-Right culture warriors in November. Here in Indiana, Republican Senate candidate Jim Banks wants a national abortion ban with zero exceptions. (If the woman dies, well, them’s the breaks, baby…) Even in Indiana, that’s not a popular position.

In November, voters in a number of swing states will face referenda on abortion. Democrats promising to codify Roe and explicitly repeal the Comstock Act should get a boost.

Then there’s birth control.

American women should hope the federal government stays in Democratic hands, because forced birth Republicans aren’t going to be satisfied with banning abortion. They’re coming for birth control too.

It may surprise many people that there is a a concerted effort going on quite literally under their noses—on the screens of their smartphones, tablets, and laptops—to sow distrust, uncertainty, and fear of ordinary birth control among this country’s young people and particularly, young women.

In most instances the folks responsible for fostering this distrust are the same people vehemently opposed to abortion. Their failure to see any dissonance in advocating such contradictory positions might be perplexing—if you didn’t take their motivation into account. It’s the natural fulfillment of what they would consider an ideal society: one where men are in control, and women know their place.

Salon has recently tracked a sophisticated and well-financed Rightwing “information blitz” on social media, warning of the hazards of birth control.

Emboldened by the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, they’ve now trained their focus on hormonal birth control, hysterically amplifying its alleged “hazards” to create a narrative of uncertainty ripe for what they see as the conservative-dominated highest court’s next logical step….

Physicians say they’re seeing an explosion of birth-control misinformation online targeting a vulnerable demographic: people in their teens and early 20s who are more likely to believe what they see on their phones because of algorithms that feed them a stream of videos reinforcing messages often divorced from scientific evidence.

One “influencer” candidly shared his motivations:

With fewer women on the pill, more women will become mothers, and some of them will drop out of the workforce and discover fulfillment and happiness as wives and homemakers. This is the real crisis that the Washington Post and the other Left wing rags are worried about. The last thing that the elites want to see is a movement of women fully embracing their own womanhood, and men fully embracing their manhood.

During the fifty years between Roe and Dobbs, most Americans shrugged off the efforts of “pro-life” activists, assuming that the Supreme Court would not overturn a settled constitutional right. Most reasonable people have a similar reaction to warnings that access to birth control will be next. (Those people haven’t read Justice Alito’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case.)

Fanatics who want to take this country back to a time before there were “uppity” women (and gays and Blacks) are a minority. But they are zealous and committed and a lot of them are running for office.

Women aren’t returning to “barefoot and pregnant” status. Voters–male and female– who understand what’s at stake will vote Blue in November. I hope there are enough of them.


Never Thought I’d Live To See This…

One of the dubious benefits of living a long time is that you live through really striking cultural and institutional changes. During my lifetime, I’ve seen changes I consider very positive–the expansion of women’s rights, gay rights, civil rights, an internet connection to virtually all of human information, ease of global travel…I could go on and on.

But I’m also around to see the backlash to all of that. And even weirder, I’ve lived to see a Republican Party that once rabidly opposed Communism and “the evil empire” embrace authoritarianism and Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

A while back, I shared a folk song from the Sixties  that made fun of the John Birch Society and its habit of seeing “commies”  under every bush. (“If mommy is a commie then you’ve got to turn her in.”) Back then, the political Right was focused–frequently far too focused–on the dangers of totalitarianism and authoritarianism and government control of the economy.

If you had told me back then that the GOP would “evolve” into a party of pro-Russian apologists, I’d have asked you what you were smoking. But here we are.

A recent discussion at Persuasion was titled “When Hatred of the Left Becomes Love for Putin,” and contains the following observations:

According to Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orbán, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump will quickly end the war in Ukraine if he is elected, by refusing “a single penny” of aid and effectively forcing the country’s capitulation to Russia. The statement, which followed Orbán’s meeting with Trump last month, is a stark reminder of the extent to which the Trumpified GOP is becoming the anti-Ukraine party, a far cry from early bipartisan support for Ukraine’s fight against Russian aggression. And while opposition to aid to Ukraine doesn’t necessarily entail support for Vladimir Putin—common rationales include that the United States must focus on domestic problems or on the more dangerous threat from China, or that Ukraine can’t win and prolonging the war only means more death and suffering—Putin-friendly themes have been increasingly prominent on the right. At this point, pro-Putinism is no longer an undercurrent in right-wing rhetoric: it’s on the surface.

Granted, not all Putin-lovers are similarly motivated.

For some, their hatred of the American left overrides any feelings they have about Putin. Others are more ideological: they oppose the Western liberal project itself. Untangling these different strains is key to explaining why so many on today’s right embrace views that, until recently, would have gotten them branded Kremlin stooges by other conservatives.

The article references Tucker Carlson– his recent, adoring trip to Moscow and his fawning interview of Putin.

The interview was a two-hour lovefest in which Putin and his lies went unchallenged except for some polite pushback on Evan Gershkovich, the American journalist held in Russia on phony spying charges. Then, Carlson topped this with gushy videos extolling the wonders of the Soviet-built Moscow subway and of Russian supermarkets.

And it cited an article from the Federalist published the day after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine:

Author Christopher Bedford, former head of the Daily Caller News Foundation and a prolific contributor to right-of-center media, not only bluntly stated that “a lot of us hate our elites far more than we hate some foreign dictator” but admitted finding a lot to admire in said dictator—for instance, Putin’s unapologetic defense of Russia’s “religion, culture and history,” while Western elites denigrate and apologize for theirs.

Today’s GOP has abandoned even the remnants of genuine conservatism; today, the party is hysterically “anti-woke”–a cult focused on culture war efforts to return straight White Christian males to social dominance.

It’s hardly news by now that many American right-wingers see Putin’s Russia as the antithesis of Western “wokeness.” This is especially true with regard to sexual and gender norms: I noted the beginnings of this trend in 2013, when several right-wing groups and conservative pundits praised a Russian law censoring “propaganda” of homosexuality. Discussing the phenomenon recently in the context of the GOP’s anti-Ukraine turn, David French pointed to such examples as far-right strategist Steve Bannon’s praise for Putin’s “anti-woke” persona and Russia’s conservative gender politics, or psychologist Jordan Peterson’s suggestion that Russia’s war in Ukraine was partly self-defense against the decadence of “the pathological West.”…

The article notes that, for some Republicans, pro-Putin rhetoric indicates a radical rejection of liberalism, even the classical  liberalism of John Locke and John Stuart Mill. It quotes the “near-panegyric” to Putin in a 2017 speech by Claremont Institute’s Christopher Caldwell at Hillsdale College, and notes that both Claremont and Hillsdale are “intellectual hubs of Trumpist national conservatism.”

Read the entire essay. This isn’t remotely the GOP of my youth…..and it’s scary.