by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The latest issue of Barron’s examines the impact of Republican and Democratic presidential contests on stock markets. John Kimmelman’s cover story suggests Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are making an impact — for good or ill.
The rise of outsider presidential candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders is more than a fascinating political story. Their ascendancy—Trump’s in the Republican Party, and Sanders’ among Democrats—could be one more reason why stock markets are under pressure and could remain so for awhile.
Many market pundits are too focused on the latest Chinese economic data, oil-price movements, or negative-interest-rate chatter to connect the dots between the presidential-primary results and the stock indexes. By taking such a traditional view of market-moving developments, they might be overlooking a story that is leading news reports every day and night.
Investors have every right to be nervous about what is playing out on the campaign trail.
The thinking goes that those who buy and sell stocks are comfortable with establishment candidates such as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, because both are fairly predictable and won’t upset Washington’s apple cart.
If Donald Trump, a real-estate developer and television star, gets elected, however, and brings his reality show to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the Free World could have a shoot-from-the-hip leader who carries through on threats to punish China and other trading partners with tariffs to level the playing field. Many economists view such protectionist measures as a cause of the Great Depression, and Barron’s, too, thinks they would be harmful (see “Trump Is Wrong on China,” Nov. 16, 2015).
And that’s when he isn’t trying to deport millions of undocumented immigrants—a view that most Republicans view as highly impractical and likely to cause tremendous civil strife.
If the more earnest Sen. Sanders of Vermont, who bested Clinton by a wide margin in last Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, were to win the White House, the U.S. would have a professed democratic socialist at the helm, with a long list of ambitious but expensive goals, such as single-payer national health care, free tuition at public colleges, and a major federal bridge- and highway-construction effort.
The Wall Street Journal has written that his proposals, if enacted, would “amount to the largest peacetime expansion of government in modern American history.”