If you want to know why the stock market keeps rising and falling this year, it's all about "fear" that the Federal Reserve will finally raise the non-existent interest rate by 25 basis points sometime this summer. Trust me, if that's all Wall Street has to worry about, then they are doing fine.
While there is plenty of evidence that the overall economy is improving, there are also plenty of signs that many Americans aren't feeling the benefits. The corporate and investment worlds figure that those of us who aren't on their high-flying economic ride will suddenly stop spending what little money we have because that slight interest rate bump will somehow make life harder for us. Or so they say.
The truth is that they have enjoyed free money for so long that they can't imagine how they will continue to pull rabbits out of their hats without it -- how they will produce endless quarter-after-quarter, year-after-year improved profits if the cost of funds bumps up the slightest bit. (Historically, the stock market often actually gains when there are interest rate hikes!)
Don't get me wrong. I've never been a big fan of the Federal Reserve. They should be more accountable and more transparent in their actions. But the dirty little secret is that Wall Street already has factored in a minor interest rate increase in their economic models. This silly business of Wall Street holding its collective breath every time Fed Chair Janet Yellen speaks -- or yawns -- are just episodes of Kabuki Theater that send the market into unwarranted twists and turns.
Meanwhile, back on Main Street America. That's where we are all much more concerned about things that really matter, from our own wallets to our national security. We're also worried about excessive federal spending that will again increase our taxes. The latest example could be President Obama's proposal to send millions to community college for free.
Consider too that in 2014, Wall Street just plain ignored the rise of ISIS, a terrorist organization that President Obama dubbed the "JV team." And investors have also mostly ignored the growing risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, and the dangers of North Korea's saber-rattling and Russia's erratic behavior.
What did get the attention of Wall Street movers and shakers was the drop in oil prices because of oversupply. But they didn't really react to that until it smacked them in the face. And rather than call on the federal government to lift the current ban on American-produced oil being sold abroad -- that would help to alleviate the impact of price declines on our oil-related companies -- they instead have just fled from oil stocks.
And by all means, let's read the Fed's tea leaves instead of giving needed attention to the FCC's wholesale federalization of the Internet. Let's parse through every word of carefully crafted and usually ambiguous statements by the Federal Reserve Board, while turning a blind eye to the many other executive orders that are being issued in our new world of government by fiat.
I might add this note: Back in 2008 it was the Wall Street crowd that seemed particularly enamored with Barack Obama. And why not? Since he has been elected, the stock market has been on quite a streak. But during that same time, the average American has been saddled with red tape, more government regulations, and has not enjoyed the feel of extra cash in their pockets.
What Wall Street should worry about is not some pittance of a rate increase in the coming months. After all, free money is generally not a good idea anyway. America instead should be fretting about our future economy and on the general governing philosophy espoused by the current administration. It's one that ignores real and lasting threats to our security, continues to intrude on our free enterprise system, and advocates concepts like free community college, even as the quality of high school education in the nation is what's in need of new focus.
Better to charge a bit more for money than to throw it away on wasteful programs or to fail to protect it from bad actors around the world.