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Voters Choose Austerity

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- While heated economic debate rages on over appropriate financial action (the decision to adopt a model of austerity, or one of stimulus to remediate our economy), voters around the world are overwhelmingly favoring the latter as a viable option.

Many domestic investors closely follow the healthcare and financial reform debate, trying to derive financial winners and losers from new legislation. Even though the drilling ban was overturned by a federal judge, the government's response to the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico may yet have investment implications. And who can forget the bailout of the banks and automakers, along with Fannie Mae (FNMA) and Freddie Mac (FMCC)?

While investors focus on these sector-specific issues, they often ignore the impact of broader political trends because, most of the time, they simply don't matter. Whether right or left, most governments in the developed world have been fairly centrist over the past three decades.

But today is a different story. Governments are more involved in the economy due to bailouts and emergency financial and monetary policies. Voters are more active, as well as willing to punish politicians who fail to live up to their promises or act against popular will.

In all likelihood, current political trends will grow stronger as time passes and the winners in recent or upcoming elections will have a much greater impact on public policy. Usually, an election results in slight changes to policy, but with one side advocating new stimulus programs to forestall a depression (while the other side claims that these plans will lead to an even greater crisis) the policy outcomes are likely to be quite different.

In the U.S., there have already been incumbent losses in both the Republican and Democrat primaries due to voter dissatisfaction. The overwhelming theme is spending and deficits; Congress did not pass a budget for 2010 in order to spare members from having to vote for a budget with a huge deficit. Otherwise-popular extensions of unemployment benefits have also been defeated over deficit concerns.

For investors worried about U.S. deficits or concerned about deflation, this is positive news for bond prices and ETFs such as iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury (TLT).

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