SALT LAKE CITY — When the votes are finally tallied, the impact of the contentious presidential election of 2016 will ripple through the economy. But just what the impact will be remains to be seen.
"The immediate impact will be to see how Wall Street responds to this election," said Natalie Gochnour, director of the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah. "It will be the first signal to how people view these two candidates."
She said the results of the election will send a message to the rest of the world about what kind of leadership the United States will have during the next few years. It will also determine the kinds of policies the country will undertake in three key areas: trade, immigration and taxes.
"These are candidates with two very different views of America," Gochnour said. "Secretary Clinton has a view that continues much of what we've been doing in the current administration, so there is much more certainty and much more stability. That can be a good or bad thing. "
In the case of Donald Trump, "He has a view of 'shaking things up.'"
Critical is how the U.S. engages with the rest of the world going forward, particularly as it relates to trade, she said.
"Many people in the world are going to be looking at what is going to happen with America's relationship to globalization," Gochnour said. "Are we going to be at the table with these trade agreements?"
"By and large, the economic data would show that engaging with the world does more to raise living standards than reduce it," she said. "Open markets grow the economic pie."
Regarding immigration, she said the country's exceptionally low unemployment rates shows that more workers are needed to fill jobs and that a reformed immigration policy would go a long way toward alleviating the problem.
"(We need) to reward immigrants (that have) greater education and English fluency, and (we need) to increase the number of hourly and high-skilled immigrant workers," Gochnour said. "These are all things that will be helpful to our economy, both nationally and locally."
How the winning candidate deals with tax policy and government spending will be another key issue following the election.
"Donald Trump wants a massive overhaul of the tax code," she said. "The problem is that he has stated opposition to any changes in Medicare and Social Security."
She said that major decreases in tax revenue with no corresponding cuts in federal government spending don't solve the problem the nation faces.
"In a Trump presidency, the deficit would rise," she said.
However, Clinton proposes large spending increases to infuse money into infrastructure projects and other "expensive" priorities that would require significant tax increases, Gochnour said. Those plans could be problematic when presented to congress if Clinton achieves the Oval Office, she added.
Gochnour said one of the main issues this election has shown is that America is deeply divided. "The election will not heal this division it will reveal it," she said.
She added that, generally speaking, a Clinton victory would create greater economic certainty.
"Her plans are more specific than her opponents, and we’ve seen her govern before as a senator and Cabinet member," Gochnour said. "America knows Hillary Clinton. Wall Street will reward this certainty, even as it’s troubled by her penchant for regulation and big government. Business confidence and consumer sentiment will improve in the near term, which will boost the economy."
She noted that the U.S. economy would likely continue to plod along, much like it has for the past year, growing, but not in an overwhelmingly fashion.
"Very quickly, however, the forces for change will challenge the status quo, and division will likely increase," she said. "President-elect Clinton (would) be under fire from day one and the fight over the future of our country will carry over right into the 2018 mid-term elections and beyond."