After one of the most contentious and divisive election seasons in recent history, on January 20 the United States will swear in Donald J. Trump as the country's 45th president. Whether or not you agree with his politics, a few things are clear about Trump. First, he has no government experience that might offer clues as to how he'll govern the country. Second, he's a populist with a penchant for late-night Twitter rants. And third, he's likely to continue to keep people guessing about his next moves.
Perhaps the best guidepost available (aside from his tweets) is Trump's 100-day plan, which he unveiled before election day. It's been customary since Franklin D. Roosevelt took office in 1933 to use the first 100 days in office as a measure of a president's effectiveness and influence. With that tradition in mind, here's a list of the proposals Trump promises to pursue by April 29 that are most likely to affect business owners.
1. Repeal and replace Obamacare.
Trump told the New York Times on January 10 that he wants Congress to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act simultaneously--and that he expects to see a new plan and a vote on it within weeks. Several congressional Republicans on board with repealing the ACA have balked at the aggressive timetable, arguing that swift action shouldn't happen before a comprehensive plan is in place. And Republicans don't necessarily agree on what should replace Obamacare.
Expect any plan put forth to put a big emphasis on health savings accounts and a larger role for states. It will also likely target the employer coverage mandate and associated fines for non-compliance, Michael Bodack, president of the New York-based benefits firm York International told Inc. in November.
Regardless of how quickly the legislative process happens, any changes would likely be phased in over a number of years, as insurers would need time to adapt their plans and Republicans are acutely aware of the risk of scaring Americans--especially those with preexisting conditions--who depend on the coverage Obamacare offered them.
2. Labor regulations.
The president-elect wants to enact the Affordable Childcare and Eldercare Act, which he claims would encourage employers to provide on-site childcare services, though he has not yet explained what the incentives would be or how they would work. The act also proposes six weeks of partially paid maternity leave for mothers who don't already receive paid leave from an employer.
Trump may weigh in on another labor law issue that is not on his 100-day plan: On the campaign trail, he promised to get rid of President Obama's overtime rule--which doubled the salary eligible for overtime pay to $47,476. He couldn't undo it on his own, but he could work with Congress to make changes to it or to rewrite the rule, which is currently in limbo since a federal judge in Texas blocked it in late November.
3. Business regulations.
Trump's 100-day plan states that he wants to require that for every new federal regulation, two must be cut. He's already given some indications as to which regulations would be in the crosshairs: The labor law above is a potential candidate. Likewise, the president-elect has been very vocal about wanting to "dismantle" the Dodd-Frank law and Volcker Rule, two pieces of banking regulation passed in the wake of the financial crisis. Doing so, however, would be far from straightforward, and many say deregulating Wall Street's banks would go against his populist messages of looking out for working class Americans. It wouldn't do much to help small business owners get bank loans either, as my Inc. colleague Maria Aspan points out.
Another area to watch, particularly for tech companies, is Net Neutrality, which is currently protected by Federal Communications Commission rules. The rules prohibit internet service providers from blocking access to or charging extra to access certain data or content. Trump hasn't specifically called for changes to the rules, but he's appointed two Net Neutrality critics to the FCC, and in 2014 he claimed that Net Neutrality would "target conservative media" in a puzzling tweet.
In addition, the future for green energy companies may hang in the balance. Trump has selected Scott Pruitt, a climate change denier, as his pick to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and has promised to lift restrictions on fossil fuel companies. While the president-elect hasn't specifically said he'd cut alternative energy credits, they could become a target in his plan to slash government spending.
4. International business.
Trump promises to end the Offshoring Act and slap a "very large border tax" on companies that lay off employees and move their business abroad but ship their products back to the U.S. (He's previously stated this tariff could go as high as 35 percent on such products.) Economists and even some Republicans have criticized this plan, arguing that companies would simply pass the costs onto consumers.
Trump vows to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he has called "the worst trade deal in history" and blamed for lost U.S. manufacturing jobs. Changes to the pact could have broad implications for businesses that trade across the Canadian and Mexican borders. Trade between these countries has increased from $290 billion in 1993 to more than $1.1 trillion in 2016, and while some jobs have left the U.S., the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says that 6 million U.S. jobs depend on trade with Mexico alone. Even if Trump doesn't revise or withdraw from NAFTA, notes NPR, his administration could undermine it by hassling companies engaged in cross-border business. In other trade matters, relations with China could also see strain, as Trump has said he wants to label the country a "currency manipulator." And he's no fan of the Trans Pacific Partnership.
5. Creating jobs at home.
In addition to tax changes (more on that below), Trump's plan to grow the economy focuses largely on generating more jobs in the fossil fuel economy (in coal and onshore and offshore drilling for oil and gas) and as a result of new infrastructure projects. He's specifically called for moving forward with the Keystone Pipeline project and has said he wants public-private partnerships to spur investment in water and environmental infrastructure projects.
There are plenty of potential ramifications in this thorny debate for small and midsize companies. Trump has promised to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border and deport massive numbers of illegal immigrants. To be sure, it's not likely that he would succeed in pushing through a plan to remove all 11 million undocumented immigrants. (House Speaker Paul Ryan recently said of Trump's proposed deportation force, "in Congress, that is not happening.") But a crackdown would directly affect an array of industries that historically have relied on the labor pool of an estimated 8.1 million undocumented immigrants who work (or look for work) in the U.S. Trump has also threatened to ban Muslim immigration, create a registry of Muslims in the country, surveil mosques, and introduce "extreme vetting" of visa applicants' religious beliefs.
Tech companies should watch the H-1B visa program, which Trump may decide to reform. H-1B visas were designed to help U.S. companies recruit high-level talent abroad for specialty tech and science jobs. The program isn't perfect--outsourcing companies often grab a huge share of the 65,000 temporary visas the government awards annually and then use them to fill low-level jobs. But big tech companies such as Microsoft depend on the program. In a meeting with the heads of Silicon Valley's biggest tech companies, Trump suggested he might increase the application fees to discourage businesses from bulk filing.
7. Corporate taxes.
Within the first 100 days, Trump says, he wants to lower the corporate tax rate from its current 35 percent to 15 percent, as well as allow overseas revenue to be brought back at a 10 percent rate.