US president Donald Trump gave the least contentious, most traditionally “presidential” speech of his political career on Feb. 28 to a joint session of Congress, condemning the “hate and evil” behind the recent murder of an Indian immigrant in Kansas and an outbreak of anti-Semitic acts, and calling for unity.
Yes, it also included a pledge to create a government office dedicated to investigating crimes committed by immigrants, offered misleading statistics about the unemployment rate, insulted the Obama administration, and was so roundly rejected by the Democrats in the audience that many of them sat in stony silence and left as soon as it ended, before Trump himself exited the chamber.
But contrasted with Trump’s recent unscripted raving, the speech struck a new note of political professionalism for the real estate developer turned reality TV star turned president. House Republicans leaped up to standing ovation after standing ovation, and Republicans voters and politicians offered up cheers on Twitter.
The big question now is whether any of it was enough to satisfy investors.
In recent days, a growing chorus of analysts have warned of a quick end to the stock rally that helped to buoy the first weeks of Trump’s presidency, unless he offered up specifics to Congress. Based on the content of his speech, investors are probably still hungry for solid details.
Trump said very little about how he plans to enact many of the things he has promised, from his pledge to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure to his vow to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Instead, Trump spoke Tuesday night in broad generalities, reiterating pledges like those or simply encouraging his Congressional audience to work together to come up with solutions. Some 40 days into his presidency, his positions appeared no further evolved than when he was on the campaign trail. On taxes, for example, he said little more than this:
My economic team is developing historic tax reform that will reduce the tax rate on our companies so they can compete and thrive anywhere and with anyone. At the same time, we will provide massive tax relief for the middle class.
On infrastructure, he said only that it would “financed through both public and private capital,” and create “millions of jobs.” On healthcare, he said “I am also calling on this Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare with reforms that expand choice, increase access, lower costs, and at the same time, provide better healthcare.”
“When it comes to the difficult work of government, namely passing legislation in the days and months ahead, more questions about details than answers remain,” Mark Hamrick, Bankrate.com’s senior economic analyst, wrote after Trump’s speech was over. “Members of Congress listening for the fine print on top priorities like individual and corporate tax reform didn’t hear it in this speech.”
Market reaction so far in overnight trading has muted. The US dollar index, which values the dollar against a basket of other currencies, was up slightly in the hour after the speech, as were US stock futures.