What will Donald Trump's presidency mean for architects?

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What will the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States mean for architecture?

An overview of President-elect Trump's stances on the issues that matter to the profession

In January, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. What will a Trump White House mean for architects and the profession? As described in AIA's 2016 presidential candidate profiles, here are President-elect Trump's stated stances on energy, international trade, small businesses, and other issues that matter to architects.

Energy

Donald Trump has said that oil is the lifeblood of our nation and job market. He argues that America's energy potential remains untapped, and he would encourage more drilling by cutting regulation and expanding access to new oil-rich areas. President-elect Trump also promises to restore coal production as a central source of American energy, and he would like to see fracking greatly expanded.

He has said he believes that climate change is a myth, and that acting to mitigate its effects will make US manufacturing uncompetitive. As a result, he would rescind most of President Obama’s executive actions to reduce carbon emissions, including the Clean Power Plan. He would also try to exit the Paris Climate Accords.

President-elect Trump also is skeptical of alternative clean energy, like renewables, and he would like to see America go in a different direction. He has said that that wind power is an environmental disaster that has killed hundreds of the world’s most precious birds and endangered golden eagles. He also argues that solar power is an unproven technology and a risky investment. President-elect Trump does want to invest in nuclear energy.

Infrastructure

In 2015 President-elect Trump emphasized the importance of investing in our nation’s infrastructure, stating, “We’ve spent $4 trillion trying to topple various people [in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan]…if we could’ve spent that $4 trillion in the United States to fix our roads, our bridges and all of the other problems…we would’ve been a lot better off.” In his book, Crippled America, he makes a similar point and stresses that inadequate infrastructure costs the American people “an estimated $200 billion a year in reduced productivity.” He has also touted his background in the construction industry as an asset. Trump has said he would commit at least $500 billion to infrastructure spending over five years.

International trade

President-elect Trump has expressed strong opposition to international trade deals, and has called for congressional rejection of trade promotion authority and the Trans Pacific Partnership.

He also wants to move in a different direction in our trade relations with China. He argues that the most important component of our China policy is leadership and strength at the negotiating table, and that the US has been too afraid to protect and advance American interests and challenge China to live up to its obligations. He has vowed to put in place better negotiators who will serve the interests of American workers and oppose any efforts to move US manufacturing and investment offshore. He would also introduce a 45 percent tariff on all Chinese goods to sharply reduce their exports to America.

President-elect Trump has proposed similar actions towards Mexico, including significant economic sanctions if they do not build a wall on the border. He has proposed a 35 percent tariff on all of their imports.

Small business

On his website and in public statements, President-elect Trump has reiterated his view that small businesses should fall under the same statutory tax rate as bigger firms. He points to this as the rationale for imposing a lower, 15-percent top rate both for businesses paying the corporate rate and for pass-through businesses, which include S corporations, sole proprietorships and partnerships, which make up the large majority of design firms and pay the individual rate. However, in September the Trump campaign released a new version of its tax plan, which kept the 15-percent corporate rate but did not mention its application to pass-through businesses. Due to subsequent conflicting reports from Trump spokespeople, the plan’s intent is still unclear.

President-elect Trump favors phasing in a “reasonable cap” on the deductibility of business interest expenses; that is, the amount of interest generated from a loan that a business can deduct. He has called for reducing or eliminating some “corporate loopholes that cater to special interests” (though no specifics have been provided) and generally reducing the amount of regulations faced by small businesses, particularly those issued by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Student debt

As President, Trump said he would end the federal government’s involvement in giving loans to college students. He has said that education costs should be driven by the marketplace, not the state. He has not released any specific proposals regarding debt for former students.

Taxes

President-elect Trump has stated that too few Americans are working and that too many middle-class families cannot make ends meet, and that a better tax plan will meet this challenge. He would offer tax relief for middle class workers, simplify the tax code, and prevent corporations from escaping taxes on foreign earnings.

He would establish four individual tax brackets, with rates of zero percent, 10 percent, 20 percent, and 25 percent. (The zero percent rate would apply to single filers making under $25,000 and joint filers under $50,000; the top rate is for income over $150,000 for single filers and $300,000 for joint filers.) The Alternative Minimum Tax would be eliminated, along with the Net Investment Income Tax, and a 3.8 percent Medicare surtax on certain investment income. With the exception of the charitable deduction and mortgage interest deduction, all personal tax deductions would be eliminated.

Business tax rates would also see across-the-board cuts, with the top corporate rate being dropped to 15 percent. President-elect Trump’s plan would end the deferral of overseas corporate income and impose a one-time “deemed repatriation” of corporate cash held overseas at a 10 percent rate, but keep in place the foreign tax credit. He has not discussed modifying existing business expenditures, such as the 179D deduction for energy efficient commercial buildings or the research and development credit.

For more on President-elect Trump’s policy positions, visit his website.

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Kevin Morris

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