NMHC Chairman Bob Dewitt led a conversation with former Speaker of the House John Boehner, who has been a key Republican figure in Congress for roughly 25 years. The impending presidential election was unsurprisingly a major topic of conversation. “We are in the most bizarre period,” Boehner said.
But the election’s outcome has implications far beyond what it says about the frustrations of the American people, explained Boehner. Whoever is elected as the next president will likely appoint the next two, three, or possibly four Supreme Court justices. Those appointees are critical, as the judicial branch is set to become more involved in determining policy as protracted political gridlock curbs the legislative branch’s effectiveness.
“I don’t see the political process being able to do much,” Boehner said, “So, more issues are going to end up in the Supreme Court.”
CNN’s Senior Political Analyst Ron Brownstein traced what he called this election season’s “volatility and hairpin turns” to a number of tectonic shifts destabilizing the political status quo. A revolution in the way we communicate combined with the flat if not declining trajectory of living standards for families and massive demographic reversals among the voter population have been the major driving forces.
Brownstein said these changing dynamics were creating a clear lean toward Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump, but “she doesn’t have it locked up,” he said, pointing to voters’ skepticism over her honesty and trustworthiness. However, “the North Star of this race is that consistently, month after month, poll after poll, roughly 60 percent of Americans say he’s not qualified to be president,” Brownstein said.
For the business community, the question is: How will the outcome of the November election affect the U.S. economy, which continues to struggle in its recovery despite stronger-than-expected job growth trends?
Economist Austan Goolsbee, a professor at the University of Chicago and former chief economist for the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, said that the uncertainty that is felt today is fairly typical of the end of an administration. The impending election leaves things unsettled, and in the absence of new leadership, legislative work gets put in park while the independent regulatory agencies rev up their rulemaking to push particular issues higher up on the political agenda post-election.
However, what makes this uncertainty all the more unsettling this time around is that both candidates have vastly different priorities on their agendas. And should history hold true, most newly elected presidents push very hard in the first year of their administrations to advance their first and second priorities-and usually succeed.
“If Trump wins, it’s conceivable that Republicans would have taken both houses of Congress. In which case, he’s going to build a wall and pass a giant tax cut,” said Goolsbee. “If Clinton wins, they will make a push on infrastructure, education and raise high-income people’s taxes.”
The one area of overlap is arguably corporate tax reform. But Goolsbee said he thought there was too much focus on the economy’s health given its actual performance. “What can be done right now to improve the economy? That’s the crisis mentality. We need to get out of that because the crisis is over,” he said.
While he acknowledged the seriousness of the nation’s fiscal issues, he said they are manageable in magnitude-especially compared with the challenges facing other global economies. So, the slow, prodding growth that we’ve experienced is likely to continue as the new norm for at least the next couple years. But for those looking to accelerate growth, Goolsbee said the key was our people.
“We remain the most productive workforce of all the world. We need to invest in the skills of our people, but we need to realize we start from a period of strength,” he said. “The things that made us rich have not changed. ... The innovative capacity of our people is unbounded.”
This was a similar note on which Boehner closed. “This giant economic engine that we have-it’s immense. We represent 2 percent of the world's population but 25 percent of its economic productivity," he said. “This economic juggernaut could be sped up with fewer regulations and taxes and it could be slowed down ... But if anyone thinks it's going to stop, it's not going to happen.”
Ron Brownstein, senior political analyst, CNN
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