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Episode 19 - Washington watch: Assessing the U.S. presidential election one year out
Reagan Anderson
SVP of Government Relations

Reagan Anderson, Senior Vice President of Government and Regulatory Affairs in Capital Group’s Washington, D.C. office, examines the issues and challenges that are likely to shape the 2024 U.S. presidential election. She also provides a glimpse into how Capital interacts with elected leaders on a wide variety of topics affecting the investment industry.


American Funds are not registered for sale outside of the United States


Reagan Anderson is a senior vice president of government relations at Capital Group. She has 23 years of industry experience and has been with Capital Group for eight years (as of 12/31/2023). She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Ohio University.


Will McKenna: This week on Capital Ideas, we’re getting political.

Our guest Reagan Anderson, a key member of Capital Group’s government relations team in Washington, D.C., evaluates the issues and challenges that are likely to shape next year’s U.S. presidential election.

In an interview with my colleague Michael Utley, Reagan also provides a glimpse into how Capital interacts with elected leaders on a wide variety of topics affecting the investment industry. I’m your host Will McKenna, let’s get into it…

Michael Utley: Reagan Anderson, welcome to the Capital Ideas Podcast.

Reagan Anderson: Thank you, it's great to be here.

Michael Utley: So, the November 5th election is about a year away, and as the old saying goes, that's a lifetime in politics. But given what we know so far, what do you think are going to be the major defining issues of this pivotal election? What's at stake for the American people?

Reagan Anderson: Well, there's a lot at stake And I know we say that every two years. Um, but when I think about the issues facing voters, I break it down into different buckets of voter. I think some voters are going to come to the polls or engage in this election over the next 12 months, thinking about inflation and the cost of living and how that's impacted their family and their family budget and whether or not they took a vacation, whether or not their kids can do travel sports like just the kitchen table issues that are so important.

And then I think there's other voters who are looking around the world at the geopolitical issues. And they're going to think about how the U.S. has responded. And then there's a whole other bucket of voters that I tend to relate to. And, you know, it's those of us with kids who are working and putting our kids on school buses in the morning. And we're thinking about abortion policy, and we're thinking about crime in our neighbourhoods, and we're thinking about gun safety in our schools. And there could be a voter that comes to the poll thinking about all of those issues.

So, I try to break it down and think about, okay, who is the voter? You know, is it Democratic, Republican, independent, undecided? You know, who, who are we talking about? Lots of issues, lots of issues that affect our businesses, our families, our communities, our schools, all very important.

Michael Utley: Absolutely. And then what would you say is at stake for our business, for the investment industry? Are there any issues on the table that could affect investors either directly from the election or indirectly through things like executive orders and federal agency actions. What are you keeping an eye on?

Reagan Anderson: So, I have to tell you the truth, the list of things I keep an eye on is quite long, but when I think about Capital Group and the investment management industry as a highly regulated entity and industry in Washington, there's always a lot at stake, and it's gone beyond this is how this person saves for retirement. These are the products and solutions available to that person. There is a tax incentive to save in this account. All of these things have been done by legislation, right? So, Congress recognizing the need to incent people to save is very important. But whenever you go into a presidential election and you think about big picture policy changes, that can all turn on a dime. So, I'm always thinking about tax policy, always thinking about retirement policy.

And more recently, all of the innovation in the marketplace, and how we're embracing artificial intelligence, how we're thinking about it, how it could play a role in politics, how it plays a role in education and research and development and health care. I mean, that's going to be a driving issue too. And the other set of issues, Michael, that we really focus on is as a large investor. How we think about those investments and, some of which are outside of the U.S., right? And where the political pushback might be, you know, where we see good investments, but maybe politically don't make sense. And this is a whole new terrain that we're facing. And I think it's going to be a very prominent issue in 2024 and going forward.

Michael Utley: Sure. And when you speak to regulators or lawmakers or, you know, agency level folks, do you get the sense that they're listening? Are they taking it in and considering it in their decision-making process?

Reagan Anderson: They are listening, because we have American Funds investors, and financial advisors, and plan sponsors, in every congressional district in every state in this country. So, when I'm on Capitol Hill, I have the best story to tell. Because even before I might bring up, we're concerned about X, Y, and Z, I can look at that member of Congress and say, hey, guess what? 60,000 of your constituents, your voters, own American Funds. This is what's happening, and this is the impact on their ability to save for their retirement or for their family, whether it's lifelong education, disability savings, you name it. We're trying to come up with solutions for families that happen to be living in your district. When you talk about constituents, when you talk about voters, in a non-political sense, on the Hill, people are going to listen.

Michael Utley: As you know, one thing we love at Capital Group is scenario planning. So, I'm curious if you've done any scenario planning when it comes to the presidential race. Assuming we have a rematch between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, which appears likely at this moment in time, what do you think will be the top priorities of the White House under a Biden administration and a Trump administration, and how much do you think things would change under each scenario?

Reagan Anderson: So, love scenario planning here. Like you said, at Capital Group, and this is a particular area where I feel like we could go all day. There is so many ways to plan this out because you've got three chambers, right? You've got the House, the Senate, and then the White House. And my gut instinct is that even though we're a year away, the makeup of Congress is going to look a lot like it does today.

So, let's just unpack that a little bit. So, in the House, the Republicans have a four-seat majority. It has been very hard for Republican leadership to govern because they have to rely on all of their Republican members to get things across the finish line. I'm just not sure we're going to see that big of a change after the election in 2024. But also in the Senate, it's an interesting map going into 2024, because every Republican senator that's running is essentially safe. So again, there's a scenario where the Senate looks a lot like it does now. So, we're in a very, very narrow majority, could go either way.

I do think that in a President Biden versus former President Trump rematch, we kind of know what we're going to get with a second term of Biden. You can make the list. We can go back to the list we made when he was sworn in and go back to things that were not finished. I think we're going to see even more on the climate agenda. You know, I do think that energy policy is going to drive a lot of what the administration does. I do think that there's a recognition, and this is bipartisan, but a recognition that we have got to do something about affordable housing in America, particularly in big cities. And then with Trump. What changes the most? Well, I think a lot of changes, actually. And I think he will come back and want to finish what he did not get done in his first term. Because I think he was sure he was going to have a second term. And so, I think...

Michael Utley: He often says that.

Reagan Anderson: I've heard him say it from many, many podiums. So, I do think that he could bring in a whole new team. I do not think he's going to go back to the well, in terms of the staff that he had, and the people. And that's one thing that's really important in Washington too. Whether you're working in the Treasury department or the SEC or the White House, the people working are really driving the policy, right? They say personnel's policy. It is so, so, so true in Washington. So, I think he's going to be very deliberate about who's running the agencies and even thinking about career staff who've been there along the way. you know, does he eliminate a lot of the career positions and put politicos in that place? I'm trying not to use my Washington jargon here, but you know…

Michael Utley: That would affect what, something like 50,000 federal employees?

Reagan Anderson: Even more than that. And then, but really what you think about is the institutional knowledge over the years, right? And these are not things that you can teach someone overnight. And then the whole agenda looks a lot different.

Michael Utley: Right. I wanted to ask you about battleground states. So, Arizona, your home state of Ohio. What are some of the other places that you think we're going to see the real contest? And is it going to be the same ones that we had four, well, three years ago?

Reagan Anderson: I think history repeats itself. I still think Georgia is a battleground state. I think Pennsylvania is a battleground state. Wisconsin's a battleground state. And you know what? I'd put a couple more on that list. I will be watching closely what's happening in North Carolina, Michigan, Nevada, and my home state, Virginia. So, for reasons that, where I live now, but for different reasons. We have an election in Virginia in just a couple of weeks. And we talked about the key issues for voters. And part of the reason why I've been bucketing them the way that I mentioned earlier is because I've watched now the Democratic party put close to $5 million in ads in Virginia on the abortion issue alone.

Michael Utley: Wow.

Reagan Anderson: Yeah. And with a Republican governor. It's just another state to be watching. And that it's, I would describe it, so you have your big political battleground states but then you have these issue battlegrounds, right? And so, this is what's unfolding in Virginia right now.

Michael Utley: When it comes to military spending, we now unfortunately have two wars raging in the world. We have Ukraine and now Israel. Should we expect that military spending from the U.S. is going to be going up?

Reagan Anderson: Absolutely. I do think there will be strong bipartisan support to come together to fulfill the commitment we've made to our allies, and then to address the needs of as events have continued to unfold. We can get there. Congress can get there. But then it, the, the wall though that the leadership in both the House and Senate run into is the deal that was cut to get the debt ceiling increased over the summer and the reduction in spending. They don't match. They're not going to match. This is where, you know, some real serious negotiation and compromise is going to have to come in to play.

Michael Utley: Right. We just ran an article on our website from our economist, Darrell Spence, talking about the 33 plus trillion-dollar debt burden. That's our long-term U.S. long term debt. And that it's finally becoming an issue that, well, in Darrell Spence's opinion, needs to be, for years he had said, it won't be a problem until it's a problem. Now he's starting to say, maybe this is a problem, maybe we need to do something about it. Do you feel, you're there in Washington, you're at the epicentre of all of these debates. Do you feel like there's any momentum to do something about the debt, finally?

Reagan Anderson: I have two thoughts on this. So historically, I give a ton of credit to a group of bipartisan members who really tried to chip away at this. And I think that they hit their heads against the wall because they would get together, they would look at the way we fund the government, they would look at the deficit, they would look at the spending. And it was almost, I remember one senator saying to me privately, it's almost as if we'd have to just burn it all down and rebuild it. Start over from the beginning. It is so complex. It doesn't make sense how we do the 10-year budget window. None of this makes any sense. I think the difference and I I've talked with Darrell about this. Um, it's really reverberating around the globe, right? And we're, we're seeing competitors in a way that we haven't before. We're seeing other economies, you know, advancing and it's, there's just a serious question, not just the political uncertainty, but, you know, our fiscal health here. And I think in investors outside the U.S. are really starting to question where they want to put their money, and that will be the turning point.

Michael Utley: Yeah, absolutely. Big issue. No easy answers, but something that needs to be addressed.

Michael Utley: All right. Last question. If you could pick one message for our audience to keep in mind as we approach what's clearly going to be a very pivotal and who knows how volatile election, what is it? What's that one message?

Reagan Anderson: Unplug. And I'm going to do this myself. I love social media. I will have to take breaks from it. Take the time to read, you know, what people are saying. Turn the news off. The news cycle when you're going into a presidential election is so instantaneous, so reactive. They're selling it. They're selling the controversy. They're selling the drama. They're selling the Hollywood of Washington. And the stuff that really inspires me and gets me through the day and motivates me to get up every day and do this. Aside from our mission here at Capital Group, is because I see the real bipartisanship that happens behind the scenes. The bills that, you know, Democrats and Republicans put together and work hand in hand to build support for and educate other members on.

You're not going to see that on CNN or Fox News because no one's going to watch that, right? It's boring. And, you know, if I could borrow a phrase from someone I saw recently, it's like, what we do in Washington should be boring. You know, legislating is so important, but should not be sensational.

And there's two Washingtons, right? There's what you see on the news. And then there's, you know, what goes on behind the scenes that never gets reported. So, I would say that, simply unplug, turn the news off, read, take a walk, talk to your neighbour. Vote. And, you know, we'll just get through it together because I think this is going to be a rough year ahead from a political perspective.

Michael Utley: Well, that sounds like very good advice and a great way to wrap up the podcast. So, Reagan, thank you so much for joining us.

Reagan Anderson: Thank you.

Will McKenna: OK, there you have it. Special thanks to Reagan and Mike for joining us on the show.

Closing disclosure

We're always trying to get better, so if you have any feedback, including topics you'd like to see addressed in future episodes, send us an email at CapitalIdeasPodcastAustralia@capgroup.com. And if you like what you heard today, please follow us on your favourite podcast platform.

For Capital Ideas, this is Matt Reynolds reminding you that the most valuable asset is a long-term perspective.

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