One year before Americans elect a new president, the positions of the leading candidates for the office from both parties are becoming clearer on topics that advisors care about, and that will affect their clients and, perhaps, the economy and markets.
Vice President Joe Biden announced at press time that he would not run in the 2016 presidential race. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held steady as the Democratic frontrunner just as Donald Trump maintained a pretty wide lead in the Republican race.
It’s still too early to tell who will be the official Democratic and Republican nominees, but with the debates in full gear, candidates were able to air their positions on a myriad of issues that they’d focus on as commander in chief.
Clinton’s closest competitors (according to the polls) are Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. Trump’s biggest opponents include retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. The former Republican Governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, trails all three, and is vying for the fourth-place spot with Rep. Marco Rubio of Florida.
Greg Valliere, who left his post as chief political analyst at Potomac Research Group in early October to become chief global strategist for Horizon Investments, predicted in mid-October — like other political watchers — that Biden would likely wait for Congress to hold its hearings on Bengahzi that week before announcing his decision. But Biden didn’t wait until then to announce that the “window” had closed for him to enter the race.
If Biden had chosen to run, he would have been “the clear underdog,” Valliere said. “Bernie Sanders has a better chance of beating Hillary than Biden.”
While Clinton is the favorite but not a “shoo-in,” Valliere continued, “she’s burning through money, and there’s always something to remind people about her lack of trustworthiness.” The bottom line, however, “is that a vast majority of Democrats simply don’t care about her emails or more Benghazi hearings; she’s the favorite for the nomination unless there’s a bombshell revelation.”
The Democrats on Issues Affecting Advisors
During their first debate on Oct. 13, the Democratic candidates came out hard on such issues as Wall Street reform, debt-free college and strengthening Social Security. If elected, Clinton said she’d push for bolstering the Volcker Rule, taxing high-frequency trading, increasing fines levied by regulators and holding “bad actors on Wall Street accountable — whether they are individuals or corporations.”
Dennis Kelleher, president and CEO of Better Markets, stated that Clinton “deserves credit” for her plan to target “predatory high-frequency trading that is ripping off too many investors and killing public confidence in our markets,” and to “reform broken practices at the SEC” as well as strengthening the Volcker Rule “to keep Wall Street from gambling with taxpayer dollars.”
Clinton also said during the first debate that she’d fight to keep the Dodd-Frank Act intact. She has officially endorsed the Department of Labor’s rule to amend the definition of fiduciary under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.
Both Sanders and O’Malley want the firewall between commercial and investment banking under Glass-Steagall reinstated. O’Malley stated during a radio interview that he’s “committed to putting my muscle as an executive behind robust enforcement on Wall Street, charging people in our Justice Department and the SEC to go after violators. Not just with fines. Not just with slaps on the wrist when they violate the laws. If you slap a bank robber on the wrist, he’ll continue to rob banks. The same is true with people in suits.”
After the repeal of Glass-Steagall in the late 1990s under the Clinton administration, “when we allowed a few big banks to become giant mega banks,” O’Malley continued, “when bets go bad, we’re left with two choices: Either they take us down the tubes into a second Great Depression or we have to bail them out. That’s not capitalism, that’s a rigged game.” O’Malley said he’s for reinstating a “modern version” of Glass-Steagall.
Sanders would increase the top estate tax rate to 65%, and lower the estate tax exclusion to $3.5 million. Clinton had yet to weigh in on her specific tax policy.
The Republicans on the Issues Affecting Advisors
The Republican candidates, meanwhile, have come out heavily in favor of broad tax reform, with Trump stating that he’d provide tax breaks for the wealthy and poor. Under his plan, those earning less than $25,000 ($50,000 for married couples) would pay no income taxes, while the top bracket — those earning $150,001-plus and couples pulling in $300,001 and up — would pay an income tax rate of 25% (a sizable cut from the current top rate of close to 40%).
Bush, on the other hand, according to the Tax Foundation, would establish three tax brackets, with rates of 10%, 25% and 28%. The top rate applies to taxable income over $85,750 for single filers and $141,200 for joint filers. His plan calls for an increase in the standard deduction to $11,300 for single filers and $22,600 for joint filers.
Rubio would lower the corporate tax rate to 25% and eliminate the estate tax.
On economic policy, Trump has said that Federal Reserve Board Chairwoman Janet Yellen is “keeping monetary policy accommodative” as a political favor for President Barack Obama and Clinton.
There is some bipartisan consensus on one issue: closing the carried interest tax loophole exploited by hedge funds, which is backed by Trump and Bush as well as Clinton and Sanders.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin introduced a bill in June, the Carried Interest Fairness Tax Act, that would generate $15.6 billion over 10 years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.