The latest spin out of Washington is that stock-market declines over the last 10 days are due to Donald Trump's surge in the polls. Well, it is true that Wall Street tends to hate change -- even when it's positive. And if Donald Trump is anything, it is a change agent that will rattle the cages in Washington, D.C., and perhaps on Wall Street. Investors didn't respond at all well to Ronald Reagan until his policies were put in place and the economy rocketed forward. Only then, in 1982, did the greatest bull-market expansion in American history launch.
Something else is being missed here: Hillary Clinton's agenda on the economy and the financial markets. Clinton says she has a cabinet full lot of new ideas on the economy. Unfortunately, most of them are really dimwitted.
I've identified five of Clinton's lousiest ideas that could hurt employment, growth and stocks.
1. Raise the Minimum Wage to $12 or Even $15 an Hour: She might as well call this the Teenage Job Elimination Act. Even using the methodology of the liberal Congressional Budget Office shows that a $12 minimum wage would reduce the number of starter jobs by as many as 770,000. Seattle recently raised its minimum wage to $11 and is headed to $15. An independent assessment by the University of Washington finds that so far the law has had the "negative unintended consequence" of fewer hours worked and fewer jobs. Is this what we want for the nation?
2. Hike Income Tax Rates: There is virtually no economic philosophy that holds that raising taxes will help the economy. But Hillary Clinton is going to give it a try -- to the tune of $1.5 trillion sucked out of the economy.
Under Clinton's plan, for the very rich the income tax rate would rise to above 45 percent and the death tax would rise to as high as 65 percent. Capital gains taxes would nearly double.
IRS statistics indicate that most of the people who fall into the top 1 or 2 percent of income are small-business owners -- and they are America's major employers. In the 1980s, when income tax rates were slashed from 70 percent to 28 percent, the amount of tax revenues over the decade doubled and the share of taxes paid by the rich increased.
3. Subsidize 500 Million Solar Panels: We tried these green-energy handouts under Barack Obama and they were a failure. (Remember Solyndra?)
The Institute for Energy Research estimates a price tag of $200 billion for the solar panels Clinton proposes. That is more than it cost to put a man on the moon. Solar energy already receives more than $100 of taxpayer subsidy per kilowatt of energy produced for every dollar that goes to oil and gas or coal. Let the free market pick the next great energy source, which may be clean-burning natural gas.
4. Offer Free College Tuition: It's one of the greatest financial scandals in America today -- the exorbitant fees that universities and colleges are charging students. Some colleges now cost an annual $60,000 for room, board and tuition, and the average cost is near $30,000. But if the students and the families aren't paying these costs, taxpayers will, and costs will spike even higher. Universities will raise their tuitions, as they have every time the government provides more subsidies through Pell Grants. A better idea would be to require every school to freeze tuition for four or five years as a condition of receiving any federal aid. Purdue University has done this. Why not require schools with billion-dollar-plus endowments to use some of that money to lower the tuition for families?
5. Increase Social Security Benefits: Clinton wants to fatten benefits to certain senior citizens, and she wants to raise the tax on Social Security to "pay for it." Really? The system is already tens of trillions of dollars in the red, according to the Social Security Administration's own actuaries. Are we now going to increase the outflow and make even bigger benefit promises? Clinton would also apply the payroll tax of 12.4 percent on wages of up to $250,000 (up from about $110,000 today), which would be one of the biggest tax increases of all time. Let's rein in the entitlement programs, not expand them.
If Wall Street really thinks Clinton's agenda is good for stocks, the country is in even worse shape than I thought.