Four years from now, will investors, taxpayers, workers and consumers say that President Donald Trump’s economic policies helped their finances—or hurt them? The answer will, of course, depend on how much of the agenda that Trump proposed during the campaign is actually pursued and enacted…and then how those policies play out.
Bottom Line Personal asked Greg Valliere, a leading consultant on how federal policies affect markets and personal finances, to share his insights about what is likely to happen to taxes, wages, jobs, Social Security benefits, and stocks in the next four years with Trump as president.
Trump said he wants to reduce the number of income tax brackets from the current seven (with a top rate of 39.6%) to three (12%, 25% and 33%), with the biggest breaks going to the top-earning 1% of households. He would seek to eliminate the alternative minimum tax (AMT) and estate tax. Trump said the tax cuts would stimulate economic growth and help fund immigration enforcement and expansion of health care for veterans. But according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, the cuts would greatly inflate federal deficits over the next decade.
Trump said he wants to prevent certain tax-avoidance strategies, such as “corporate inversions,” which allow US companies to merge with foreign companies to avoid most US taxes. Defeated presidential candidate Hillary Clinton wanted this as well. But while Clinton, the former US secretary of state and senator, would probably have tried to impose an “exit tax” on any profits held overseas of US firms going through inversions, Trump is more likely to push for a limited tax holiday, allowing US multinational corporations to bring the more than $2 trillion in untaxed profits they already have in overseas accounts back to the US and pay just a onetime 10% tax. He may also seek to discourage corporate inversions by dropping the federal tax rate on all US companies to a flat 15%, compared with the current range of 15% to 35%. Even some Republicans would likely balk at that rate, and Trump might settle for dropping the top rate to 27%.
This became one of the most heated issues in the presidential primaries as both Trump and former Democratic candidate Senator Bernie Sanders blamed trade agreements for US wage stagnation and lost jobs. As president, Trump said, he would oppose the new 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement. That could undermine the stabilizing economic role of the US in Asia but could save hundreds of thousands of American jobs in the future. Trump said he would also pursue changes in the decades-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico. And Trump has threatened to impose a 45% tariff on goods from China and a 35% tariff on auto imports from Mexico to stop US automakers from moving facilities there. Such tariffs would prompt retaliation from those countries. Also, US consumers would have fewer imported goods to choose from and would pay higher prices on many kinds of items.
Trump said he would seek an economic stimulus package focusing on improving and repairing the nation’s transportation infrastructure, including highways, bridges and airports. He has spoken of a “trillion-dollar” spending plan over five years to create 13 million infrastructure jobs. Details of the plan are sparse, but Speaker of the House Paul Ryan would be influential in crafting a bill and shepherding it through Congress. Regarding the federal minimum wage, after initially saying that he opposes raising it, Trump said that he would “like to raise it to at least $10” but prefers that the states do it.
Many Republicans, including Trump’s own vice president, Mike Pence, would push Trump to reduce some Social Security and/or Medicare benefits such as cost-of-living adjustments. But Trump has pledged not to cut Social Security or Medicare benefits and would likely not support reductions.
THE TRUMP EFFECT ON STOCKS
Under president Trump, consider investing in the following areas of the stock market…
Defense manufacturers. Trump has pledged to seek a declaration of war from Congress against ISIS and to make the military so strong that “nobody’s going to mess with us.”
Energy companies. They will enjoy a more favorable regulatory environment. Trump has vowed to resuscitate the coal industry and virtually eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency.