I was doing my regular Saturday morning television show "Bulls & Bears" on Fox. The topic was taxes, and I was trying to explain why I disliked presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama's "spread the wealth around" comment to Joe the Plumber. A friend and professor at Temple University, Marc Lamont Hill, joined us to defend the Democrat's side of the issue. The discussion came back around to me and an analogy popped into my mind. I said, "Marc, let me see if I can put this in terms you can relate to. Being a professor, how would your students feel if you decided to implement the following -- all the hard-working, late-night studying, social-life sacrificing 'A' students had to give the bottom dwelling 'D' students some of their high scores? The 'D's' would come up to 'C's' and the 'A's' would come down to 'C's.' You would be removing the incentive to work hard, succeed and get rewarded." "I strongly disagree," is all Marc could say. No follow-up or defense. I really respect Marc, but there is little defense of "spreading the wealth" in a financial conversation. In essence, the Obama tax plan does just this. It takes from the hardest-working and, no coincidence, highest-earning Americans and gives to the people who earn less. The Killer C's There is a crisis of credit, confidence and competence. The current distress seen in the financial markets is a result of a series of bubbles bursting in consecutive pops. The housing, stock market and credit market bubbles breaking at the same time is the reason for this current turmoil. One bubble bursting would be difficult to navigate. Trying to handle three simultaneously has proven to be near disastrous. Bankers as Bakers The Federal Reserve, along with the Treasury Department, Congress, the Bush administration and our hard-earned tax dollars are being put to the test. Monetary stimulus added to fiscal stimulus, with a generous helping of foreign stimulus tossed in, and cooked at 450 degrees for the near future may prove to be the right recipe. But be careful not to remove from the heat too early or risk deflation.
In the meantime, I have been careful in my own portfolio. I have been tempted to add to an already razor-thin risk portfolio. As you know, I am heavily in Treasury bills. I am also in New Jersey state bonds and cash. Less than 5% is at risk in equities and being a trader I am looking for trades. There have been some that looked enticing as "cheap" but I have held off as the market continues to act irrationally. Good, cheap stocks are getting hit hard or harder than high-risk stocks. My gut is telling me that the day to implement cash is approaching but I would rather miss the first leg up than to catch another leg down in a bad position. Of note, OPEC met on Saturday and some ministers were in favor of cutting production and supporting price. If that happens, which I doubt, there may be opportunities in energy. We will have to wait until these influences become clearer. I apologize for not making a trade recommendation this week again. I feel that it is prudent to wait until I make a trade to write about a good trade. And I have not. Until then, as always, trade with your head, not over it.