As President-elect Donald Trump prepares for his transition to the White House, the Elm City continues to speculate what the new federal administration could mean for New Haven’s economy.
Just a week after Trump’s victory in the presidential election, the Dow Jones Industrial Average peaked at an all-time high on Tuesday’s closing bell, showing investor confidence in many of the world’s largest companies. Though U.S. markets signaled optimism about the upcoming administration, several residents interviewed by the News said they were conflicted about how the federal government might impact Elm City life in the future years, particularly with regards to funding, fiscal policy and economic development.
During his first 100 days in office, Trump said he would halt federal funding to sanctuary cities to “restore security and the constitutional rule of law” throughout the country. However, given the elasticity of the term “sanctuary city,” Mayor Toni Harp has said the city contains characteristics of a sanctuary city — though New Haven is not exactly a sanctuary city, according to Jonathan Wharton, Southern Connecticut State University professor of political science and urban affairs. And uncertainty lingers about the seriousness of Trump’s proposal and the degree of its potential funding cuts.
“Is he talking about welfare, Medicaid, entitlements, transportation funding? Nothing is really specific,” Wharton said.
He said municipalities face a dilemma when dealing with federal immigration policies as many cities prefer free movement of labor, and thus choose to ignore federal calls for enforcement. Wharton added that hopefully under a Trump administration, federal policies will more closely align with the desires of cities.
Though Trump campaigned on building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, he has shown some signs of leeway with that proposal. In place of a concrete wall, fences might be put up on some parts of the border, Trump said in an interview with “60 Minutes” last week. As the president-elect softens some of his hard-line positions, residents hope Trump will preside over the country with more moderate stances.
“I don’t think he’s as crazy as he campaigned as,” area resident Stephen Harris said.
Since this is Trump’s first government position, it remains unclear what his actual policies will be, Wharton said.
But the Republican majority leaders in both congressional chambers — Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-K.Y., and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-W.I. — have long track records in government, and based on past policy positions, Elm City residents might face cuts in federal welfare spending, Harris pointed out.
Resident Maria Garcia said she has applied for federal housing assistance numerous times, and that her application has never been accepted. Though Garcia did not vote, she said she continues to feel pessimistic about her chances of receiving federal help in the upcoming years.
Other Trump policies could also cause ripples in New Haven’s economy. For example, Trump will soon appoint individuals to head federal departments that regularly make decisions that can impact the market.
For the Federal Reserve System, Trump will likely appoint four new members on the seven-person board in the upcoming two years. Because two spots remain vacant after Republicans chose to not hold hearings for President Barack Obama’s proposed appointments, and both Chair Janet Yellen GRD ’71 and Vice-Chair Stanley Fischer have terms that expire in the beginning of 2018, it’s likely Trump will eventually have appointed the majority of the board, which has major influence on determining the interest rates paid by businesses to borrow money.
In Trump’s own Cabinet, banker Steven Mnuchin ’85 and investor Wilbur Ross ’59 remain on the shortlist for Treasury and Commerce Secretaries, respectively, investor Carl Icahn said in a tweet.
With these appointments in place, Trump hopes to grow the U.S. economy at an average rate of 4 percent, Trump said in a Sept. 15 speech.
According to Wharton, New Haven could benefit from this potential growth. New Haven, he said, will continue to attract pharmaceutical, health care and technology companies given its location between New York and Boston, as well as the presence of many universities such as Yale nearby. He added that New Haven remains in a better position than neighboring Bridgeport and Hartford, where growth is not as promising given their poor bond ratings.
Resident Kiara Marty speculated that service businesses, such as restaurants, help bring these more advanced businesses into the city.
But even if more jobs are created, Marty said the city’s well-being would fall under the Trump administration.
“He’s going to hurt families and people in the whole,” she said, citing the language Trump often used in his campaign.
DataHaven Executive Director Mark Abraham ’04, who creates well-being data about New Haven, said he plans to monitor the greater New Haven area’s well-being data and send the information to local governments. Then, municipalities can use his data to determine potential responses to any decrease in well-being. DataHaven’s goal is to ensure the gross domestic product and other economy measurements are not the only data used to assess the community’s utility, Abraham said.