Topic A for business leaders worldwide is the presumed avalanche of pro-business actions about to cascade from Washington soon after the new Congress is sworn in today, and especially after Donald Trump is inaugurated in 17 days. But how much of it will actually get done? And when rhetoric becomes statutory reality, what surprises will be buried deep in the bills that are enacted and rules that are imposed?
The scope of what may be about to happen is vast. Here are the big themes that business leaders will want to monitor, especially between now and May 1, the end of Trump’s first 100 days:
-Obamacare repeal. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised that the first Senate vote of 2017 will be to start dismantling Obamacare, but that move could be largely symbolic. The details of the Republicans’ vowed “repeal and replace” policy are from from complete; the process will be extremely complex. Repealing without simultaneously replacing Obamacare could be bad news for employers, forcing them and their workers to take action with little idea of what might come next from Washington, or when.
-Regulatory rollback, especially on Dodd-Frank and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Financial stocks rocketed after Trump’s election on expectations that he’d end Washington’s war on Wall Street. Some deregulation looks inevitable, and courts are already chopping away at the extraordinary structure of the largely unaccountable CFPB. But even some conservative policy wonks favor higher capital requirements for big banks as a step toward avoiding another financial crisis.
-Corporate tax reform. Candidate Trump proposed slashing the corporate tax rate to 15%, which looks highly unlikely, but some reduction from today’s stratospheric top marginal rate of 39.1% could well happen. The real action would be on the accompanying changes intended to broaden the tax base by eliminating sundry deductions, credits, and other deals.
-Infrastructure. Trump proposed a trillion-dollar program funded partially by private investment. The important questions are how drastically that number will be reduced and, as always in infrastructure programs, how much pork must be dispensed to secure passage of actually useful projects.
-Confirmation of cabinet appointees. The Democrats don’t have enough votes in the Senate to block Trump’s appointees, but they can make the confirmation process long and painful for some of them, conceivably even unearthing information that would turn a few Republican senators against one or two of them. That’s important because the Treasury, Energy Department, Labor Department, Justice Department, HHS, and other executive departments are where much of the deregulatory and pro-business action will take place.
The broad outlines of the next few months look clear, but Congress can’t pass broad outlines and agencies can’t implement them. An epic lobby-fest is already underway to shape the details, the precise language of coming changes, which will determine the winners and losers as the Republican-controlled government gets to work. That’s what leaders need to focus on now.
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What We’re Reading Today
House Republicans weaken ethics office
Without the consent of House Speaker Paul Ryan or Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, members of the House GOP voted in a closed door session to cripple the independent Office of Congressional Ethics. Set up eight years ago to investigate potential wrongdoing by House members, it would now be overseen by the House Ethics Committee and be stripped of the power to investigate anonymous tips or refer crimes to prosecutors without the committee’s consent. The measure is expected to pass the full House. Washington Post
Trump says North Korean intercontinental missile…
…”won’t happen!” North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, in his annual address, said the country is nearly ready to test such a missile. President-elect Trump called it a nuclear intercontinental missile and said he won’t let the test happen. He also said China must do more to stop the North Korean threat. USA Today
Scandal-tainted startups multiply
Elizabeth Holmes‘s Theranos, Josh Tetrick‘s Hampton Creek, Lending Club, WrkRiot — fraudulent or tainted Silicon Valley startups are on the rise, and some wonder if a culture of “fake it until you make it” is part of the cause. Fortune
Building Better Leaders
PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi says in order to rise…
…have a “hip-pocket skill”– something you’re known for that will attract others to turn to you when that skill is needed. CNBC
Finland launches universal basic income test
Some 2,000 unemployed workers will get $587 a month for two years without restrictions, even if they find jobs. Fortune
CEOs expect uncertainty in 2017
The causes: populism, Trump, and political divisiveness. WSJ
Police question Israeli prime minister
Benjamin Netanyahu answered questions from police for three hours yesterday about whether he took gifts from businessmen. Investigators provided few details. Fortune
South Korean president won’t attend impeachment trial
President Park Geun-hye, impeached for misconduct, faces a trial but has refused to defend herself; the court concluded today’s proceedings after just nine minutes. Claiming she’s innocent of the charges, her lawyers say Park does not plan to attend the proceedings. NYT
France’s ‘right to disconnect’ takes effect
The new law allows workers to ignore company emails after hours. Companies with more than 50 employees must negotiate guidelines for handling post-work email. Backed by President Francois Hollande‘s government, it’s one of the first measures of its kind. CNN Money
Up or Out
Twitter’s China chief Kathy Chen will resign after just eight months. WSJ
Cantor Fitzgerald has tapped former Deutsche Bank co-CEO Anshu Jain as president. CNBC
Fortune Reads and Videos
The best selling car in Sweden…
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Bank regulators delay new capital rules
Global regulators were ready to raise capital requirements but delayed a vote over concerns that the new rules would crimp lending in Europe. Fortune
MyPillow’s Better Business Bureau rating…
…gets slashed to an ‘F.’ Apparently its “buy-one-get-one-free” special offer isn’t a special offer; it’s available to everyone all the time. Fortune
The Vatican gets its own McDonald’s
It isn’t within Vatican City but is just 100 meters away, despite protests. Fortune
On this day…
…in 1961, the U.S. severed diplomatic relations with Cuba as friction with Fidel Castro’s government intensified. History