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From trade to taxes, Trump turned economic policy on its head in 2017

From trade to taxes, Trump turned economic policy on its head in 2017
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President Donald Trump took office in January 2017 promising to upend many of the United States's long-standing monetary and fiscal practices.

The president won the election in large part due to his promises on the campaign trail to fight for blue-collar manufacturing workers whose economic prospects have declined in recent years thanks to enhanced global competition and improving automation. 

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In the immediate aftermath of Trump's election victory, stocks jumped higher as investors and companies held out hope for sweeping deregulation and an overhaul to the tax code. 

 

The labor and GDP outlooks, which began to perk up during the second term of the Obama presidency, continued to pick up steam in 2017, with unemployment falling to unanticipated lows and growth exceeding 3 percent. 

In the latter half of the year, the fight for tax reform dominated headlines, as the GOP looked to score a major political victory before the 2018 midterm elections. 

Lastly, bitcoin captivated the investing world in December as it soared to over $20,000 before losing over one-third of its value overnight.

Here’s a look at analysis and opinions on some of the year’s biggest financial and economic issues. 

1. Tax reform

While most experts across the political spectrum agreed the U.S. needed to overhaul its complex tax code, those on the left and the right differed on how to accomplish the first major federal tax reform since 1986.

Kim Clausing, an economics professor at Reed College in Portland, Ore., who specializes in the taxation of multinational firms, pointed out four fatal flaws of the GOP's tax bill.  

Bernie Marcus, the retired co-founder of The Home Depot, co-founder of the Job Creators Network and chairman of the Marcus Foundation, strongly objected to how the left portrayed the GOP's tax bill as a "reverse Robin Hood" scenario in which the government steals from the poor to give to the rich.

Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, took exception to the bill adding to the national debt while using budgetary sleight of hand

2. Jobs

The labor market continued to improve in 2017, particularly in November, the latest month for jobs data. Stephen Stanley, chief economist for Amherst Pierpont Securities, was impressed with the robust nature of the November labor report, which stated that firms added 228,000 employees to their payrolls — a much higher figure than economists anticipated.

As the unemployment rate continues to fall, Stanley anticipates that labor market tightening will result in some much-needed wage hikes for workers. 

3. Trade

President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Guardian slams Trump over comments about assault on reporter Five takeaways from the first North Dakota Senate debate Watchdog org: Tillerson used million in taxpayer funds to fly throughout US MORE gained notoriety during the campaign season for his disparaging remarks on global trade deals he felt put U.S. workers at a significant disadvantage relative to their global competitors. He has made rewriting the rules on trade a key objective for his administration.

Stuart Eizenstat, the former U.S. ambassador to the EU and the former deputy secretary of the Treasury under President Clinton, urged the president to see the benefits of international trade and, in particular, the benefits of the World Trade Organization

The steel industry has come out in strong support of President Trump's tough stance on trade. American steel producers believe unfair trade practices by foreign competitors, known as "dumping," have contributed to the degradation of U.S. steel production.

Todd Leebow, president and CEO of Majestic Steel USA, encouraged President Trump to keep fighting for U.S. steelworkers.

While Trump has often cited the United States's large trade deficit with China as a significant economic problem, Daniel Griswold, a senior research fellow at George Mason University's Mercatus Center, argued that those concerns are largely overblown

4. Bitcoin

As the price of bitcoin continued its meteoric rise in early December, bank regulatory expert Bert Ely warned readers that the cryptocurrency was similar to a Ponzi scheme, while Andrew Wu, an assistant professor of finance at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business, urged investors to proceed with extreme caution.

After bitcoin's price collapsed in the early hours of Dec. 22, losing 41 percent of its value in the process, Ely returned to emphasize that the cyber currency — and those like it — has little if any real value.