President Donald Trump likes to tout the fact that business and consumer confidence surged after his election.
But the CEOs of several large companies have the same grievance: They aren’t seeing consumers spending much more, and can’t yet proceed with major investments.
That’s according to transcripts of several second-quarter earnings calls parsed by Goldman Sachs.
“Most executives note that they haven’t seen an appreciable increase in customer activity despite improving sentiment,” said David Kostin, Goldman’s chief US equity strategist, in the firm’s quarterly Beige Book of CEO commentary.
For business owners, Trump was supposed to be the deregulatory president. The National Federation of Independent Businesses reported that the surge in its members’ optimism was comparable to 1983, when the economy was emerging from a recession under President Ronald Reagan.
But business leaders are also frustrated with the slow pace of progress in Washington. Trump’s domestic agenda primarily for healthcare and tax reform has stalled amid divisions within the Republican party and the Russia investigation.
Here are some remarks from earnings calls (emphasis added):
- Getty/Win McNamee
“I don’t buy the argument that we’ll [be] relegated to this forever. We’re not. If this administration can make breakthroughs in taxes and infrastructure, regulatory reform, we have become one of the most bureaucratic, confusing, litigious societies on the planet. It’s almost an embarrassment being an American citizen traveling around the world and listening to the stupid s— we have to deal with in this country.”
Hilton Worldwide Holdings
- Brendan McDermid/Reuters
“Looking forward, expectations for macro indicators such as GDP growth and non-residential fixed investment growth suggest continued improvement. But so far, we have not seen that translate into increased demand.”
- Tomas Bravo/Reuters
“Although interest rates are higher than they were a year ago, we have not experienced the rise in rates that many predicted after the U.S. presidential election. While I still believe that monetary policy is keeping rates artificially low, I also believe that elected officials need to do more on the fiscal policy front, especially through tax reform, to spur faster economic growth.”
- Getty Images
“Turning to the macro front, political and policy uncertainty continues to weigh on healthcare, taxation, regulation and trade. Washington has been wildly unpredictable, although last night or I should say this morning’s early morning vote should restore some stability to the healthcare environment as the majority leader of the Senate concluded that it is quote, time to move on, close quote, from the efforts to repeal some or all of the Affordable Care Act.”
- Charles Platiau/Reuters
“And all of these four [healthcare, tax, trade, and infrastructure reform] were the ones supposed to indeed unleash more growth for the business, so the business could invest and drive more growth.”
“And I think depending on the industry that you’re in, you’re seeing different challenges … All these without clarity on regulation and where the government’s moving cause people just to not invest more than they know that they can get an immediate return on. There’s nobody who can look out two or three years at this point and say with certainty that they’re going to know what tax policy is, what healthcare costs are going to be.”
- Carlos Barria/Reuters