In America today, the MAGA Republican "conservative" leadership - more specifically in states like Texas, Florida et al - are increasingly imposing big government anti-business policies designed to punish Wall Street firms for their management decisions (and as a result, US investors like us).
Emboldened by the SCOTUS ruling in late June 2022 that repealed Roe vs Wade, these legal attacks have given the MAGA Republican states the temerity to now pass even more laws aimed at limiting corporate decisions that heretofore were unacceptable to their "conservative" small government ideology.
For decades, corporate managers of all political stripes have been free to implement their own legal business decisions regarding important health and economic issues, including 1) employee training programs, 2) health care access for employees and customers, 3) equal worker pay and job opportunities for women, citizens of color, and, more recently, the LBGTQ community, 4) addressing climate change, and even 5) how US assault weapons end up in the hands of Mexican drug cartels.
The MAGA politicians have already moved into historical revisionism by imposing their propaganda on Americans by banning factual education curriculums such as 1) the "Manifest Destiny" genocide of Native Americans, 2) America's inhuman slavery past, and 3) a century of repressive post-Civil War Jim Crow racism.
Moreover, we rarely see MAGA Republican politicians propose and enact productive laws curtailing corporate profiteering regarding 1) the domestic causes of the deadly US fentanyl addiction crisis, 2) the growth of gambling and "entertainment" pornography, 3) corporate deregulation that threatens public health & safety and citizen privacy, 4) the lack of anti-trust enforcement of growing mega-corporate monopolies, and 5) the genocide occurring in the Middle East, seemingly encouraged within the MAGA Republican Party).
Scapegoating disguised as “anti-woke” economics
In addition to their anti-business attacks, we see the MAGA Republican obsession with what the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines as "woke" - being aware of and actively attentive to issues of social, racial and gender equality issues."
The expanded legislative MAGA attacks targeting companies they ideologically define as "woke" exemplifies how America's culture wars are now creating unnecessary and costly financial risks - not only for investors and consumers - but for some of the most high-profile publicly-traded U.S. companies we invest in.
In fact, the firms being targeted by the MAGA politicians are simply trying to balance the rights of their employees, consumers and investors for the purpose of employee retention and investor choice.
For example, in Texas, US financial firms like JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs were barred from the State’s municipal bond market, due to the State's MAGA leadership hypocritically using expanded government legislation to extort financial firms trimming investments in companies identified as polluters and worker safety and public health violators.
Apparently MAGA leadership doesn't care that the majority of Americans want investment information offered by Wall Street and investment firms that allow them more investment choice in the companies they invest in.
MAGA Republicans = "bigger government"
Today, as the MAGA Republican Party imposes financial sanctions and punishment on Wall Street firms, they end up creating contentious legal battles that are costly and bureaucratic for both business profits and State government revenues.
Fortunately, most of the businesses being targeted by the MAGA politicians are not intimidated, as most national financial firms continue to run their businesses in a economically responsible manner, regardless of the contagious MAGA Republican attacks.
Financially, the MAGA political economic attacks on corporations are inherently inflationary, driving up legal costs to both businesses and governments, which then gets passed on to consumers and taxpayers.
In addition, the actions of the MAGA politicians ultimately lower investment gains for both government / corporate retirement plans and individual investors.
Investment success in the US economy and its financial systems are best served when financial firms make their own banking, investing, and lending decisions about how to meet the demands of a majority of their clients and communities.
MAGA - "Make America 'Groan' Again"
As productive problem-solving Americans, we can only hope that "true conservative" American voters will eventually see the reality that these MAGA attacks on American companies and US investors is a further erosion of what remains of our national free markets aconomy.
In the past, competent Republican politicians have usually had the best intentions when trying to limit government overreach. But today, these MAGA chaos agents must be held accountable by voters - so our forlorn two-party political system can get back to a sane small government "conservative" ideology.
Different definitions of "conservative" do not really exist. There is only one: Small government oversight policies that keep God-complex politicians out of our investment and family life choices.
The United States continues to witness devastating wildfires ravage the Pacific Northwest and Colorado, destructive tornadoes spreading out nationally, flooding in Miami, NYC and Detroit, on-going droughts and water shortages in the Southwest, and increased threats of more frequent hurricanes around the Gulf states.
It is unmistakably clear some degree of climate change is responsible for the growing frequency of extreme climate caused natural disasters, not to mention their increased power in terms of the damage and destruction they leave in their wake.
The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) latest World Economic Outlook states that the losses from unmitigated climate change on global "gross domestic product" (GDP) will average 15 per cent by 2100 (with a range of three per cent to 30 per cent).
Likewise, the "Network for Greening the Financial System" (established by eight central banks following the signing of the Paris Agreement) indicates a reduction of 1.5 per cent to 23 per cent in global GDP.
Yet, at a time of record-high government debt levels, the ability of public fiscal policy to adequately respond to climate change impacts will be constrained. All of this is to say that private capital will play an increasingly large role in the world’s attempt to mitigate the economic costs of climate change disasters.
The good news is that scientists still say there is time to avoid the worst-case projections, meaning that investors can stand to benefit from the long-term global shift to a non-fossil fuel, low-carbon economy.
One of our biggest investment opportunities going forward will come in the form of renewable energy (much needed new and updating infrastructure spending will also reduce the potential problems created by extreme weather events).
Of course this is not a new idea for investors; but the scope of investment required for the world to meet its climate risk mitigation objective is massive.
Total spending will have to reach an annual average of US$2 trillion by 2030 (for reference, spending in 2018 was US$900 billion), according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). This shift is already happening, as market forces have taken over.
The building of new fossil fuel power generation stations - except in the dirty energy states whose politicians are bribed by lobby money - slowly being phased out, especially coal. Companies and utility providers specializing in solar, hydro, wind and geothermal technology will stand to benefit as a result (nuclear, though able to produce clean energy, appears to lack the political appetite now).
Solar power is in line to be a big winner: IMF research gives it the largest jobs multiplier, making it a logical first choice for politicians looking for bipartisan support regarding infrastructure spending.
The biggest concern surrounding solar renewables is the lack of “baseload” ability — for example, peak energy demands are not always when the sun is shining the most. For that reason, technologies supporting "energy storage" capacity also must grow.
Importantly, the cost of renewable energy technology has come down dramatically and is now in-line, or cheaper, than dirty energy alternatives. And that is before factoring in the externality costs (pollution, carbon dioxide) of fossil fuels.
Economic analysis as far back as 2015 reveals renewables spending to be US$4.7 trillion in aggregate, or 6.3 per cent of GDP. The transition to renewables would accelerate even faster if fossil fuels weren’t currently benefiting from such massive direct and indirect subsidies from lobbly-money co-dependent governments.
Nonetheless, the world has moved past the tipping point when renewable energy sources are cheaper than dirty energy plants. Investors will want to have exposure to this secular bull market industry.
Besides clean energy, the next most promising clean energy opportunity comes in the form of electric vehicles.
Tesla’s story is well known among investors and is the biggest “pure-play” company on this theme, but almost all auto manufacturers are moving in this direction.
Globally, the IEA estimates there are only eight million electric vehicles on the road but predicts that number will be 120 million by 2030 (potentially as high as 250 million depending on the scenario).
The above energy sources are two of the largest opportunities that come to mind when thinking about investing around the climate change theme.
Other opportunities worth mentioning include specific rare earth metals (both the commodities directly and through mining companies), since demand will grow alongside the need for battery technology.
Plus, environmental consulting and engineering and construction service companies will benefit from the changing infrastructure demands to a low-carbon economy; including carbon capture and newer energy storage technologies.
Finally, a potential investment idea that is often overlooked is geothermal energy. This is not the first source that typically comes to mind when thinking of “green” alternatives, but it solves two key problems.
First, it addresses the issue of peak production versus peak demand. Power generation can be adapted to match any demand curve since the flow of heat from underground can be increased or decreased with relative ease.
Second, and perhaps more importantly from a political perspective, the expertise and resources that oil and gas companies have in drilling and maintaining oil wells can be put to use in the construction of geothermal power plants (which require creating a network of reservoirs to cycle the heat above ground).
Geothermal plant construction is a natural solution for transitioning a workers who feel threatened by a move away from fossil fuels, making it an easier political decision for governments.
Renewable technology successes are tied to economic geography
It should be mentioned that betting on any one technology or solution may not be a prudent investment decision as it is too early to call a clear winner in many cases.
Furthermore, given the early-stage nature for some technologies, investors with the ability and risk tolerance will consider looking at private companies - even though there is no shortage of publicly-traded stock companies either.
Bottom line: As governments attempt to make up for lost time as the climate approaches the critical 2-C warming threshold that scientists have warned about, renewable energy investment opportunities will continue to grow.
As such, private capital will also need to play a critical role in this global energy transformation, as informed electorates demand more and more action on climate change.
Finally, the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is an important opportunity for governments to accelerate investments, through green infrastructure spending and the like, wherever there is political appetite for economic stimulus.
Much like the industrial revolution, the coming decades will open several opportunities for investors to take advantage of shifts in global priorities and technological breakthroughs.
David Rosenberg, Rosenberg Research & Associates