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Are taxes a driving force?

O’Leary’s words are reflective of a recent Politico report that put a spotlight on several Wall Street titans doing an about-face on Trump, as several prominent figures have now endorsed the former president.

Blackstone CEO and co-founder Stephen Schwarzman — who once described Jan. 6 as “an affront to the democratic values we hold dear as Americans” — announced in May that he will support Trump in the 2024 election with a “vote for change.”

Billionaire hedge fund manager John Paulson is also apparently backing the former president. Paulson hosted a fundraiser for Trump at his Palm Beach, Florida, residence in April. According to the Republican National Committee, the event raked in over $50.5 million.

O’Leary believes that tax policies can be an important factor for Wall Street tycoons when choosing their preferred presidential candidates. He then illustrated the differences in corporate tax policies between the two candidates.

“Tax rates matter. I mean, you heard Trump talk 15 to 21%, add three to four [percent] for each state, you kind of get into the range of, say, 21 to 24, 25% all-in for U.S. corporate tax,” he said. “That's sort of middle-of-the-road-ish on competition.”

During his time as president, Trump lowered the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%. The Washington Post reported that his team has discussed lowering it even further, possibly down to 15%, should he win back the office.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden has proposed setting the corporate tax rate at 28%, a move that O'Leary believes would diminish U.S. competitiveness.

“If you go to 28 and add 4% to that, you are the most uncompetitive country in the G7,” O’Leary stated bluntly.

He added that the “Cathie Woods of the world” are concerned with attracting capital to their funds, making the corporate tax rate a significant factor for them.

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'It's a killer'

O’Leary also addressed another pressing issue in America — food price levels, which he described as “a killer.”

“The food inflation — the 32% since pre-pandemic prices on proteins like chicken and steak — that's a killer. It's a killer, because everybody sees it every day,” he explained.

Food prices have risen significantly in America over the past few years. The food index in the consumer price index (CPI) was 259.83 in December 2019 and has climbed to 329.12 today, an increase of 27%, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

To be sure, overall headline inflation seems to be easing up. In May 2023, the CPI saw an annual increase of 3.3%, while remaining flat from the previous month, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

O’Leary has previously expressed concern about the impact of inflation and wages on the restaurant industry.

Seafood restaurant chain Red Lobster and fish taco chain Rubio's Coastal Grill have both filed for bankruptcy, each citing rising minimum wages as a factor putting pressure on their operations.

O’Leary is not optimistic that inflation will be resolved before the election, stating, “It's tough out there, and that's not going to get fixed by November, unfortunately.”

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Jing Pan Investment Reporter

Jing is an investment reporter for MoneyWise. He is an avid advocate of investing for passive income. Despite the ups and downs he’s been through with the markets, Jing believes that you can generate a steadily increasing income stream by investing in high quality companies.

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