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Tire Business illustration by Michael Carle

WASHINGTON (Oct. 25 2016) — Putting aside for a moment all the conspiracy theories, charges, countercharges, scorched-earth tactics and vitriol being heaped by both sides in the upcoming U.S. presidential election, an examination of both parties’ platforms presents a stark contrast in how the two major party candidates would approach issues of utmost concern to small business operators — including those toiling in the tire and automotive service industries.

Democratic Party candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican standard bearer Donald J. Trump offer clearly delineated choices on trade and the economy, with few points of agreement, according to their campaign websites and other sources.

Former Secretary of State Clinton’s policy prescriptions on her website tend to be more elaborate than Mr. Trump’s. On Ms. Clinton’s presidential campaign website, there are 32 position papers posted, compared with 13 on Mr. Trump’s.

However, their basic positions are clear: Ms. Clinton sees government as an agent of positive change, whereas Mr. Trump —with some exceptions such as trade policy — believes the government that governs least governs best.

It is difficult to say whether business in general, and tire dealers in particular, necessarily favor one candidate over the other on trade and economic prescriptions, according to Roy Littlefield, executive vice president of the Tire Industry Association (TIA).

[Tire Business’ recent unscientific online poll — asking readers, “Whom do you want to win the U.S. Presidential election?” tabulated 979 total votes, with 53 percent of respondents favoring Mr. Trump (522 votes); Ms. Clinton pulled in 23 percent (229 votes); Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson received 8 percent (82 votes); and Green Party candidate Jill Stein garnered 1 percent (14 votes).

Meanwhile, perhaps indicative of the feeling of many voters who believe they’re choosing between the “lesser of two evils,” the candidate “None of the Above” picked up 13 percent (132 votes).]

Policies

“It’s a mixed bag,” Mr. Littlefield said of the policies of Ms. Clinton and Mr. Trump.

For example, TIA’s retreader members may tend to favor Mr. Trump’s call for tariffs on goods imported from China because of their concerns about low-cost Chinese truck tire imports that compete with retreads and have casings that aren’t strong enough to be retreaded, Mr. Littlefield said.

On the other hand, tire retailers want to have as wide an inventory as possible at every price point, including the lowest price point, which Chinese imports serve, he said.

Also, the value-added tax mentioned by Mr. Trump has been discussed in Congress on and off for decades and has remained unpopular with both business and its advocates in Congress, according to Mr. Littlefield.

In the end, he said, it depends on how keen one is on changing the policies of President Barack Obama.

“If you like what’s going on, and you want a continuation of current policies, you should vote for Secretary Clinton,” Mr. Littlefield offered.

The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) and the Auto Care Association (ACA) both declined comment because neither association endorses political candidates or comments on political campaigns.

“We are concerned that neither candidate supports the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), which is a major issue for our members,” Aaron Lowe, ACA senior vice president of regulatory and government affairs, told Tire Business.

The Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) said it looked forward to working with a new administration in 2017.

“We will seek to engage transition team members of the new administration to educate incoming leadership about the tire manufacturing industry’s position, economic contribution to the nation, the safety innovation that benefits consumers on the road and the issues facing our industry,” the RMA said in a statement to Tire Business.

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) noted on its website that both candidates made small business an issue at the first presidential debate, held Sept. 26 at Hofstra University on Long Island, N.Y.

“I want to invest in you,” Ms. Clinton said during that debate. “I want us to invest in your future. That means jobs in advanced manufacturing, innovation and technology, clean, renewable energy, and small business — because most of the new jobs will come from small business.”

Ms. Clinton promised to cut and streamline regulations for small business, the NFIB said, but also said she favors paid family leave and an increase in the minimum wage, two things the NFIB opposes.

Mr. Trump said he would reduce the top corporate tax rate to 15 percent from 35 for both small and big businesses. “That’s going to be a job creator like we haven’t seen since Ronald Reagan,” he said. “It’s going to be a beautiful thing to watch.”

Positions

Following is a list of Ms. Clinton’s and Mr. Trump’s positions on major trade and economic issues, in capsule form, gathered from their campaign websites and other sources:

  • Taxes

Besides lowering the corporate tax rate, Mr. Trump would limit the top ordinary income tax rate to 33 percent; cap the top rate on capital gains to 20 percent; and repeal the estate tax, a major issue for TIA and other small business associations.

Ms. Clinton’s position on a top corporate tax rate is unclear, but she would leave the top ordinary income tax rate at its current 43.6 percent rate; allow a 47.4-percent top rate on capital gains; and return the estate tax to its pre-2001 rate of 45 percent on estates of $3.5 million or more.

  • Healthcare

Ms. Clinton, who has advocated universal healthcare since the early 1990s—during her husband Bill Clinton’s administration—would retain and build on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and work with interested state governors to establish a public option plan.

Mr. Trump would repeal the ACA in its entirety in favor of allowing people to buy health insurance across state lines and making healthcare premiums tax-deductible.

  • Trade

Mr. Trump’s most detailed position statement is probably on trade. Among other things, he has said he would withdraw from the TPP; direct the Commerce Department and other relevant agencies to identify and counter every trade agreement violation committed by foreign countries; renegotiate the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to give U.S. workers a better deal; and instruct the Secretary of the Treasury to identify China as a currency manipulator.

Ms. Clinton, an early supporter of the TPP, has said she now opposes the trade agreement as it is written. She too has said that she will crack down on China and other countries that abuse global trade rules, and that she would like to renegotiate NAFTA.

(Mr. Littlefield said TIA is not enthusiastic about renegotiating NAFTA, because officials of the former International Tire & Rubber Association worked so hard in the 1990s to negotiate an equitable deal for retreaders in that agreement.)

  • Energy and environment

Mr. Trump maintains that climate change is a hoax — and is on record speculating China is behind the premise. That’s a position Ms. Clinton strongly rejects.

The candidates agree that hydraulic fracturing (fracking) should not be banned, but they part ways on whether offshore drilling should be banned and whether the U.S. should stay in the Paris climate accord.

Ms. Clinton would strengthen environmental regulations and give support to clean-energy initiatives; in the Sept. 26 debate, Mr. Trump brought up the solar developer Solyndra L.L.C., which went bankrupt despite more than $500 million in federal loans. “I’m a great believer in all forms of energy, but we’re putting a lot of people out of work,” he claimed of the clean energy industry.

  • Business and labor

Ms. Clinton has more recommendations on how to stimulate U.S. business and help U.S. workers than on any other subjects. In her first 100 days as president, she said she will work with both business and labor to make major investments in infrastructure, manufacturing, research and technology, clean energy and small business. She also has said she supports raising the federal minimum wage to $12 an hour and will support state and local efforts to raise minimum wages to $15; invest in high-quality training, apprenticeship and skill-building programs; reward companies that invest in their workers and share profits; and fight for equal pay for women and for guaranteed paid leave.

Mr. Trump has no section on his campaign website devoted to labor. He has promised to “create a dynamic booming economy that will create 25 million new jobs over the next decade.”

His jobs growth plan includes the aforementioned tax cuts and a “complete regulatory overhaul” including repeal of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan and a moratorium on new federal regulations “that are not compelled by Congress or public safety,” along with oft-repeated claims that he will bring back to the U.S. jobs taken offshore by American companies.

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To reach this reporter: mmoore@crain.com

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Previous | Published November 17, 2017

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