With part of the narrative of the upcoming U.S. presidential election focused on the sizable segment of society who feel they haven’t benefited from the wealth created by globalization, it fosters discussion on how to grow the economy and bring more people along for the ride.
A trio of top-level economists and money managers weighed in on this and other matters on Tuesday at the Seventh Annual Inside Alternatives investment conference in Denver sponsored by Financial Advisor and Private Wealth magazines.
“The economy is like a pie, so are we focused on simply growing that pie regardless of where that pie grows?” asked Ali Motamed, founder and managing partner at Invenomic Capital, who in 2014 was Morningstar’s top alternative fund manager as co-manager of the Boston Partners Long/Short Equity fund. “What you’re seeing in a lot of cases is you’re driving growth and productivity, but there’s a huge class of society that’s being left behind. So now we have to figure out how to reallocate, and that’s where it becomes difficult.
“And I think the other problem you have is it leads to political instability,” he continued. “If the average person is unhappy you create political instability, which makes for a riskier environment. We have to balance that. Do we want to grow the pie, or do we want to make sure everyone gets their fairs share of the pie.”
David Rosenberg, chief economist and strategist at Gluskin Sheff + Associates Inc., posited that taxing the wealthiest of the wealthy might spread the wealth and put more money into the pockets of people, which could accelerate consumer spending.
“I guess one way to think about it is Robin Hood,” Rosenberg said. “We have to get income, and I’d say use taxes to get income from the hands of people who aren’t going to feel it, and get it into the hands of people who spend a large percent of their income. And that will re-widen the middle class at the same time.”
He acknowledged that other things need to be done simultaneously to bolster economic growth: creating work incentives; addressing the skills shortage and, in a related matter, crafting better immigration policies; and graduating more people in the sciences and engineering fields.
“I do think there should be a total re-write of the tax system,” Rosenberg said, adding that while reworking corporate taxes wouldn’t be difficult, it would be more complicated with personal income taxes. But if this happens, he said, “you’ll see the economic numbers start to revive more substantially.”
Go Long On India, Short On Europe
Among other topics addressed during the discussion, panelists offered their take on the current economic/investment environment. Harindra de Silva, president and portfolio manager at Analytic Investors LLC, sub-advisor to the 361 Capital Long/Short Equity Equity Fund, said now is a great time to place negative bets, or shorting positions, on Europe.