Donald J. Trump is about to enjoy the best chance any president has had for the fast enactment of an agenda since FDR’s first 100 days.
With Trump and a Republican Congressional majority at each end of Pennsylvania Avenue, that clogged artery can finally see traffic move in the form of economic reform legislation. Of course, the legislative calendar and its arcane procedures always impose some stateliness over the process of change. We should not expect speeds equal to Elon Musk’s Hyperloop. But the pace of change will be brisk, especially for Washington.
After years of stagnation, pragmatism is finally about to take precedence over ideology, "what works" over "what’s politically correct."
Success will require political egos to be held in check. It will be necessary to screen out a deafening wall of noise as the remaining liberals in Washington shriek and tear at their clothing like paid mourners at an ancient Greek funeral. If Trump and his Congressional counterparts can ignore these distractions, policies will be enacted that should undo the current, long-standing stagnation in productivity and personal income growth.
The winners will not just be the usual crowd of capital, elites, and owners, but also labor, workers, Millennials looking for work, small businesses and mom and pop investors.
President Donald Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seem to be preparing to focus sector by sector, policy by policy, to unleash long held back energies to drive national, economic growth.
Near the top of their agenda is removing the stigma of the United States having the highest corporate tax rate among major economies. Allowing for the repatriation of offshore corporate holdings at a reasonable tax rate could return more than $2 trillion, currently parked off shore, to the U.S. economy. These policies, coupled with lower, flatter personal taxes, will have a significant and impactful stimulating effect on the economy and the nation.
In energy, Trump will move with alacrity to greenlight the Keystone XL Pipeline, giving downstream refiners and chemical-makers on the Gulf Coast access to abundant Canadian oil. Coal-fired utilities will be liberated from carbon limits, though they will still have to compete for market share against the glut of fracking-induced natural gas.
Trump’s promise to build world-class bridges, highways, airports, and ports will not be a hard-sell to either party in Congress. An infrastructure boom will be a bonanza not just for construction companies, but also their workers, as well as electricians, engineers, plumbers, architects, lawyers, software engineers, and local shopping by all these workers.
Despite Trump’s feuds with Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Tim Cook of Apple, Silicon Valley should benefit from his economic policies. Trump will appoint FCC Commissioners who are all but certain to repeal net neutrality, something many technologists don’t like. But such a move will be a boon for the whole tech sector, unleashing significant pent-up investment to build out networks, hardware, and services we have yet to imagine.
The repeal and immediate replacement of Obamacare will be a cornerstone act of this administration. One likely change will be the allowing of health insurers to compete across state lines. This will create a more efficient market and lower prices, assuming insurers are willing to invest in building up local networks in other states.
On the other hand, pharmaceutical companies best beware of being perceived as offering EpiPen levels of pricing for life-saving medicines. If a company is judged in the public eye as exploitive, expect a Trump administration break out of the conservative box to play from the populist side.
Manufacturers will benefit from lower taxes and streamlined environmental and labor regulation. What about Trump’s threatened 45 percent tax on Chinese goods? Expect Trump and Ryan to feud over the costs and benefits of tariffs to U.S. manufacturers.
The financial services sector will benefit from alterations of the most onerous parts of Dodd-Frank and other legislative detritus that has clogged up the financial system without improving accountability. But giant financial service companies, as with pharmaceuticals, best beware of potential for Trump to move left, perhaps in concert with Sen. Elizabeth Warren. The next financial services company with a scandal à la Wells-Fargo will find itself not just in a lonely place, but perhaps broken up.
Some of these policies Trump can achieve with a pen and his megaphone. Others require a flipping of the turnstiles in Mitch McConnell’s brain. Senate Republicans must be willing to curtail the filibuster and use the 51-vote majorities of reconciliation to allow large-scale changes to roll forward.
Not everything can be fixed in Washington. No amount of economic reform or reshoring can stop the ultimate competitor — the robot. From “fintech” in financial services to robotics in manufacturing, to the millions of truckers who will soon be replaced by self-driving trucks, the pressure to replace humans with robotics will be inexorable, leading millions of jobs lost and creating new issues.
Which only makes it more urgent for policymakers to pick all the low-hanging fruit that can be gathered now.
Richard Torrenzano is chief executive of The Torrenzano Group, a New York strategic communications and high-stakes issues management firm. Mark Davis is a former White House speechwriter. Torrenzano and Davis are co-authors of "Digital Assassination: Protecting Your Reputation, Brands, or Business Against Online Attacks." Read more reports from Torrenzano and Davis — Click Here Now.
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