An Election Like No Other

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Controversy continues to define the presidential race, yet everyone can agree on one thing—the outcome will dramatically impact both the national economy and individual businesses.

election-2Temperament also comes up a lot. As former General Motors CEO Dan Akerson put it in endorsing Clinton, “Serving as the leader of the free world requires effective leadership, sound judgment, a steady hand and, most importantly, the temperament to deal with crises large and small. Donald Trump lacks each of these characteristics.”

Other notable business leaders backing Clinton include, of course, Warren Buffett; Barry Diller, chairman of IAC/ Interactive; Eric Schmidt of Google; Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook; Wendell Weeks, CEO of Corning and Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix. Also backing Clinton is HP’s Meg Whitman, who has spoken out against Trump, likening him to Hitler and expressing concern about his impact on business. “I think his policies around free trade will be damaging to business as a whole,” she explained to CNBC in a recent interview. Yet Trump is backed by many CEOs, as well, including Sheldon Adelson of Las Vegas Sands, Stanley Hubbard of Hubbard Broadcasting, Robert E. Murray of Murray Energy, PayPal founder Peter Thiel and oil man T. Boone Pickens.

When it comes right down to it, many CEOs will support Trump simply because he agrees with them on one of the biggest fundamentals: taxes. “Trump says that by cutting everyone’s taxes, he will create jobs. That’s going to stimulate the economy, so people are going to make more money and, in the long run, also raise more revenue” for the government,” argues Giacomo Santangelo, an economics professor at Fordham University. “So as we approach the election, more CEOs may support Trump just because he’s talking about cutting their taxes and Clinton is talking about increasing them.”

Another big difference between the candidates that has emerged on economic policy also reflects their broader, stylistic differences. The bombastic Trump fixates on just a few bold and controversial ideas, such as the “wall” with Mexico and tariffs on Chinese imports. A relatively wonkish Clinton peppers her economic proposals with so many specifics that general themes are easily lost. She actually has spent time, for instance, discussing her proposals to protect horses from specific abuses and to speed up the Internet in rural areas.

Perhaps the largest difference is in basic attitudes toward CEOs. Trump promises a friendly one in part because he is one and knows and works with so many of them. Clinton is likely to be much more wary of business leaders philosophically. After all, it was Obama’s basic anti-business actions and attitudes that one CEO after another cited as disincentives to capital spending and expansion efforts during the last eight years—and Clinton has essentially promised a third Obama term.

Another major area where most CEOs agree with Trump is the view that the U.S. economy remains in rough shape, with disappointing GDP growth, a declining pace of business startups, disappointing wage growth and rising inequality. Trump has been hammering that theme from the beginning of his campaign.

Clinton, however, argues that private-sector job gains have been strengthening under Obama and that the unemployment rate has anchored itself below 5 percent. While acknowledging the economic discontent and “inequality” that fueled the rise of both Bernie Sanders and Trump, she presents herself as the person best qualified to address it. As her campaign shifted into general-election mode, Clinton emphasized the remaining problem of a long-term divergence between worker productivity and wages.

Clinton also touted an analysis by Moody’s Mark Zandi, who said that by constricting trade and immigration and slashing taxes while not cutting spending significantly, a President Trump would plunge the U.S. into “an unusually lengthy recession—even longer than the Great Recession.” (For more on Zandi’s predictions, click here.)

Moving into the final leg of the presidential campaign marathon, only one thing is truly certain about the outcome of this election: It has fueled an unprecedented level of passion among CEO supporters—and detractors—of both candidates.

Read more:
What the Election Could Mean for Your Business and the Economy

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