Cavuto and Bowyer on Syria and Markets
Earlier this week, my friend Neil Cavuto had me as a guest on his show, the aptly named Cavuto on Fox Business News. At the time the US was still considering an airstrike against Syria. I’m grateful that I did not predict a Syria strike would occur, and for far more important reasons than my reputation as a prognosticator. You can watch the video here or read a transcription below:
Neil: “Now, you know the obvious risks with Syria but do you really know the real cost of Syria? Because my friend Jerry Bowyer is right: A whole lot of economic things could go wrong — very wrong. Especially if we strike Syria and something goes even slightly wrong. Putin gets involved; Iran gets involved; China gets involved; the whole Middle East gets involved; oil ports get disrupted; our nation’s far-from-quick response gets even more disrupted. Jerry, you say that’s maybe just for starters so it doesn’t take much to tip this, does it?”
Jerry: “No, it doesn’t. In fact, it’s not even a matter of, “The whole world might get involved.” It’s, “The whole world is involved.” Syria’s not a very big country; it’s a $60 billion per year GDP, doesn’t produce a lot of oil, doesn’t have any oil ports to speak of, and isn’t near any choke points. So why has gold gone up? And why is oil going up? And why have markets been hurt as we’ve had this run-up to war? I suggest that it’s because global investors understand that this is a proxy battle between old grudge powers in the Middle East — between the Saudis on the one hand and the Iranians on the other. Behind that proxy battle is an even bigger global proxy battle between the United States and Russia. So, I think markets sense that there are big stakes here that are a lot bigger than anything having to do with this tiny little country with an inconsequentially small economy.”
Neil: “I tend to have a different view on this, in this respect. I talked about the whole world getting involved – I don’t think the world has much, if any, interest in getting involved in this and that’s evident so far – the president’s inability to get any country behind him on a coalition, or even to get the Saudis to explain what they mean by agreeing to military intervention but strikeout the idea of using a military strike. So, what if it’s all more bluster than bite here?”
Jerry: “Well, actually that’s what I think is the case. I think that’s why the market’s up so much today, I think that’s why gold is flat, and I think that’s why Brent is down almost 2%. Because I think right now the market is beginning to price in a nothing-happens scenario. I’m not predicting that we’re going to strike Syria, all I’m saying is: If we strike Syria, it is a high-risk event — much higher than the small regional stakes would cause someone to believe. Listen, when Muhammad died fourteen hundred years ago, Islam developed a problem it’s never really solved: Who’s supposed to govern Islam after Muhammad. One group said, “Well, it’s his descendants,” and another group said, “No, it’s his religious leaders.” And for fourteen hundred years those two groups have been slaughtering one another – that’s the battle in Syria right now. Sunni versus Shia. There’s nothing that we’re going to do, coming in there with aids or bombs or diplomacy, that’s going to unravel that fourteen hundred-year-old grudge match.”
Neil: “If I could put it back to domestic considerations a second, Jerry, before I let you go. I was talking to one Wall-Streeter, a pretty prominent individual, who was saying, “You know, the flipside of all of this is that no one would even think of shutting the government down in the middle of this; no one would even think of playing games on the debt limit, whether you’re for or against that whole strategy.” And all good to him, in his selfish little green world. What do you make of that?”
Jerry: “What I make of that is that he’s right. That war really focuses the attention. When war is on the table, everything else is off the table. We’re not going to be talking about debt limit fights; all of the stuff that Washington talks about that’s about completely domestic power struggles goes away when there’s a war. Of course, after the war goes badly then it comes back twice as bad. It just defers the problems. So I get what your friend is saying, that a strike in Syria might distract us from our fiscal problems, but when we come back the fiscal problems will be there and then we’ll have all the problems of a strike in Syria on top of that. It delays our dealing with our troubles for a little while – it distracts us from them – but it doesn’t really deal with them.”
Neil: “I think you’re right about that, which should make you run the other way, Jerry. It’s always good having you. Thank you very much.”
Jerry: “It’s good to be with you again, Neil.”
Jerry Bowyer is a Forbes contributor, contributing editor of AffluentInvestor.com, and Senior Fellow in Business Economics at The Center for Cultural Leadership.
Jerry has compiled an impressive record as a leading thinker in finance and economics. He worked as an auditor and a tax consultant with Arthur Anderson, as Vice President of the Beechwood Company which is the family office associated with Federated Investors, and has consulted in various privatization efforts for Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. He founded the influential economic think tank, the Allegheny Institute, and has lectured extensively at universities, businesses and civic groups.
Jerry has been a member of three investment committees, among which is Benchmark Financial, Pittsburgh’s largest financial services firm. Jerry had been a regular commentator on Fox Business News and Fox News. He was formerly a CNBC Contributor, has guest-hosted “The Kudlow Report”, and has written for CNBC.com, National Review Online, and The Wall Street Journal, as well as many other publications. He is the author of The Bush Boom and more recently The Free Market Capitalist’s Survival Guide, published by HarperCollins. Jerry is the President of Bowyer Research.
Jerry consulted extensively with the Bush White House on matters pertaining to the recent economic crisis. He has been quoted in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes Magazine, The International Herald Tribune and various local newspapers. He has been a contributing editor of National Review Online, The New York Sun and Townhall Magazine. Jerry has hosted daily radio and TV programs and was one of the founding members of WQED’s On-Q Friday Roundtable. He has guest-hosted the Bill Bennett radio program as well as radio programs in Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles.
Jerry is the former host of WorldView, a nationally syndicated Sunday-morning political talk show created on the model of Meet The Press. On WorldView, Jerry interviewed distinguished guests including the Vice President, Treasury Secretary, HUD Secretary, former Secretary of Sate Condoleezza Rice, former Presidential Advisor Carl Rove, former Attorney General Edwin Meese and publisher Steve Forbes.
Jerry has taught social ethics at Ottawa Theological Hall, public policy at Saint Vincent’s College, and guest lectured at Carnegie Mellon’s graduate Heinz School of Public Policy. In 1997 Jerry gave the commencement address at his alma mater, Robert Morris University. He was the youngest speaker in the history of the school, and the school received more requests for transcripts of Jerry’s speech than at any other time in its 120-year history.
Jerry lives in Pennsylvania with his wife, Susan, and the youngest three of their seven children.