Amid all the optimism about “change” in today’s primary, it’s worth thinking about what the “change” will mean for business and Wall Street. Likely answer? Higher taxes, less free trade, and more regulation.
Today’s New Hampshire voters are choosing from the most anti-business field of candidates in recent memory. Not since the days of William Jennings Bryan and his raving diatribes against the “eastern monied classes” has political rhetoric been so hostile towards Wall Street and big business.
“What’s that, God? You don’t believe in free trade? Me, neither!”
This time around it’s not just the usual suspects. In addition to John Edwards and his seething jeremiads against “corporate greed,” at least one Republican candidate has found success by tapping into a burgeoning populist sentiment among middle and lower-income Republican voters. Mike Huckabee says he wants to “…change the Republican Party,” which in part means challenging the “Washington to Wall Street power axis.” (Huckabee’s campaign has met with resistance from the party establishment, which fears that his proclivity for fomenting class warfare endangers the traditional Republican coalition of social and economic conservatism).
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton, whose husband’s administration had taken a relatively sunny view of both free trade and Corporate America, is now running as a market and free trade sceptic. She has distanced herself from Bill’s free trade policies and has instead embraced “fair trade” (whatever that is). And while she still believes that markets are the “…driving force behind our prosperity,” she insists that they shouldn’t be allowed to “run roughshod over people’s lives as well.”
Meanwhile Barack Obama, Clinton’s chief rival, has hopped onto the business-bashing bandwagon, lamenting that “You’ve got CEOs making more in 10 minutes than workers make in an entire year…” and decrying executives that “dump” employee pensions while “pocketing bonuses.” Obama has yet to articulate a specific and comprehensive economic policy, resorting instead to vague platitudes about corporate bogeymen.
New Hampshire Republican front runner John McCain, meanwhile, would likely maintain the status quo, suggesting that he might support the extension of the Bush tax cuts. His recent conversion to the cause of combating global warming, however, may mean a more prohibitive regulatory regime on carbon emissions and auto-standards (and in this arena, it’s about time). Also, in the most recent New Hampshire debate, McCain referred to drug companies as “the bad guys.”
Republican candidates Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson, and Rudy Giuliani all have generally pro-business records. But after a McCain victory in New Hampshire, they may be relegated to the sideline. Meanwhile, growing income inequality and general economic uncertainty–for which big business and Wall Street are easy scapegoats–and a rising tide of economic populism will likely lead to more protectionism, higher taxes, and more regulation no matter who wins.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.