The PotUS, Confidence, the Markets, and the Future

I hung out with Amal Graafstra at a Penguicon a few years back (we were both there on the DIY Track: He was installing RFID and NFS chips in people’s, I was teaching folks to build little synthesizers), and so this snippet caught my eye while I was reading this article about the shelf-life of homebrew technological body modifications (e.g.,  installing a magnet in your fingertip or a chip in your hand):

For me, though, the metaphorical value is the point. The magnet was a little piece of the future, and its slow loss coincides with a period of pessimism that’s much bigger than me. To get a sense of how popular biohacking hardware still was, I emailed Dangerous Things, which produced my NFC implant and sells a variety of other chips and magnets. Founder Amal Graafstra told me that sales had been going up, until the 2016 presidential election — when no one bought anything for a full week.

Shaken, Graafstra sat down and thought about who was buying his products. “Really it just comes down to people that are excited about the future in a very basic sense,” he says now. “I think one way or another, people lost faith in humanity, and in a sense lost faith in the future. And had much more pressing current concerns than, ‘What am I going to do with this cool implant?’”

This got me thinking about the President, and his extremely high level of confidence that recent strong performance in the markets is because we are so confident in him.

Consumer confidence is purportedly at a 17-year high (other figures put it at a 15-year high, but close enough), and business confidence may be at an 8-year high, but look at a chart and you’ll see it was at a 5-year low twice, first plummeting after Trump entered the race and then again after he won and then making a huge recovery in Q1 of 2017.  To me, this looks a lot like folks being really relieved that, even though the Worst Thing had happened, the world didn’t end—and that certainly matched my experience, as a small businessperson, and the timbre of conversations I had with clients (even those who theoretically “won”).

The long, gradual climb of the S&P 500 from the Great Recession to the 2016 election (blue line).
The long, gradual climb of the S&P 500 from the Great Recession to the 2016 election (blue line).

Meanwhile, although he likes to kvell about how good he’s been for the markets, I’ll note that he’s taking credit for a trend that started in the first quarter of Pres. Barack Obama’s first term, and has continued ever since.