Following their impressive Super Tuesday victories, it is clear that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the front-runners in the race to their respective parties’ presidential nominations.
What is not nearly as evident, and may remain as such until deep into their presidency, is how either candidate's administration might affect Wall Street.
Publicly, Hillary Clinton has run on a platform to regulate and reform Wall Street. Her tough talk includes plans to tackle dangerous risks in the financial system and hold corporations accountable if they break the law. Privately, however, she has made millions giving speeches to some of Wall Street’s biggest financial corporations, including Goldman Sachs, which paid Clinton $675,000 for just three appearances.
So while she claims to be a foe, Wall Street is certainly banking on Clinton being a friend. With Clinton, Wall Street’s big banks and investment firms have done what they are supposed to do: invest. In this case, large sums of money they hope will influence how Clinton runs the country.
Still, there are sure to be some pitched battles with Clinton. For one, Wall Street doesn't embrace her proposals for higher estate tax rates, taxes on high frequency trading and increases in short-term capital gains taxes on those earning more than $400,000 per year as well as lengthening the holding period for long term capital gains treatment.
Based on his presidential priorities and sweeping declarations, Wall Street is likely more concerned with Donald Trump in the White House. While he wants to cut income taxes, increase the standard deduction, lower business taxes, and eliminate estate taxes altogether – all policies embraced by Wall Street – he also wants to eliminate the carried interest provision favored by private equity investors, and to a lesser extent, hedge fund managers. In addition, he advocates protectionist trade policies by increasing taxes on imports that will lead to trade wars as countries will tax U.S. exports. Most troubling, Trump has yet to explain how he can fund these initiatives, cut military spending while strengthening the military and building that wall on our Southern border.
While famously lacking details, Trump’s policies, if they can get through Congress, could have a transformational impact on the economy and stock market. A proposal to cut $11 trillion in taxes could lead to a much larger deficit. Moreover, with so much unpredictability surrounding a Trump presidency, what will his influence be on the stock market? If there’s one thing investors don’t like, it’s uncertainty. A wild card president such as Trump could create a lot of market volatility, triggering many investors to sell off stocks and sit on the sidelines.
Then again, certain industries – and stocks – could certainly thrive under Trump. Here’s a tip: the construction of giant walls requires a lot of heavy machinery and cement.
While it’s looking more and more like a two-candidate race, at least for now there are still others in the race. Among those, it is quite clear which candidate among the Democrats Wall Street prefers and essentially Wall Street doesn't "Feel the Bern." Bernie Sanders is running almost purely on a populist platform that points out income disparity and the plight of the middle class and opting to heavily tax those in higher incomes (although a big problem is that his definition of wealthy is overly broad). Notwithstanding his social policies, the simple accounting of his dramatic economic policies -- free college, for instance -- simply don't add up. While he advocates extreme economic measures, there is little chance that Sanders would be able to advance many of his populist policies through the US Congress.
Among the other Republicans, the Wall Street choice is much more murky. All propose, on balance, like Trump, seemingly pro-business policies. Yet none of the candidates left standing can adequately explain how they would fund the government if these policies were indeed enacted.
Ted Cruz advocates a 10% flat tax rate, eliminating estate taxes altogether, raising IRA contribution levels to $25,000, and replacing business and payroll taxes with a Value Added Tax system. Similarly, Marco Rubio wants to cut personal income tax rates across the board, cut corporate taxes, and eliminate taxes on capital gains and dividends. How Cruz and Rubio would pay for these initiatives and dramatically increase military spending - as both have indicated - is a true head-scratcher.
Does anyone have Michael Bloomberg's phone number?
Robert R. Johnson is President and CEO of The American College of Financial Services, a nonprofit private educational institution located in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.