Here are 5 crucial ways Donald Trump can defy worried economists' expectations

AP

Ahead of the win by President-elect Donald Trump, hundreds of economists denounced the candidate's platform, arguing he had misled the public about the effects of free trade and immigration, among other financial and economic issues.

But Democratic Party leaders struck a conciliatory tone after the election, with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton urging the country's new leadership to make "our economy work for everyone, not just those at the top" during her Wednesday concession speech — and President Barack Obama saying the country is now "rooting" for Trump to succeed in leading the nation.

Trump also tried to reach across the aisle in his victory speech early Wednesday morning, reaching out to his critics for "guidance" about how to unify the country. 

Here are five ways Trump can defy the negative expectations set by the economists who called him dangerous, as well as his numerous other critics.

1. Trump could persuade his supporters that not all free trade is bad.  

One of Trump's signature policy proposals from the campaign trail was the idea that existing trade deals were ripping Americans off: He famously called the Trans-Pacific Partnership a "rape of our country."

That's one of the main reasons economists have been so concerned about a Trump presidency. 

"The mindset of Trump about trade and immigration and maybe even foreign investment is one that's very much against the economist's way of thinking," New York University economics professor William Easterly said. "It's where you blame foreigners for doing damage to us as if we're all fighting over slices of a pie that's a fixed size. ... Economists really reject that view."

Indeed, there is evidence free trade has greatly benefitted the United States.

Donald Trump has called for scrapping trade deals like Trans-Pacific Partnership. Source: Mandel Ngan/Getty Images
Donald Trump has called for scrapping trade deals like Trans-Pacific Partnership.  Mandel Ngan/Getty Images

Trump likely wouldn't be able to dismantle existing trade deals like NAFTA — the North American Free Trade Agreement — unilaterally, explained Columbia University political economics professor Sharyn O'Halloran.

But it also might not be that hard for Trump to get the votes he needs to do so, especially if he were able to scrounge up some votes from the anti-trade wing of the Democratic Party

Regardless, any uncertainty over trade tends to take a toll on business, O'Halloran said: "Any growth that we saw in jobs and in wages may be short-lived."

That's because markets don't like uncertainty.

Companies like Apple and Nike, for example, rely on complex supply chains to make their products, O'Halloran explained. If they're not sure they can rely on stable tax or cost assumptions, they'll be less likely to invest and hire.

Trump will need to soften his rhetoric going forward to put companies like these at ease. 

2. Trump needs to acknowledge that immigration doesn't necessarily kill jobs. 

It's not a secret that Trump has benefitted from his tough talk on immigration, which flies directly in the face of the reality that immigrants — even undocumented ones, who contribute $12 billion a year toward Social Security  — benefit U.S. citizens economically.

To ease concerns, Trump would have to convince critics that his threats to close borders to save American jobs have been more rhetorical than literal.

Donald Trump will face an uphill battle trying to prove his protectionist policies aren't racist.Source: Russell Contreras/AP
Donald Trump will face an uphill battle trying to prove his protectionist policies aren't racist.  Russell Contreras/AP

"It's pretty clear his de facto policy in the campaign was to shut down immigration for everyone but white Christian Europeans," Easterly said, calling Trump's immigration policies a "throwback to the dark days of our past."

One reason economists are so concerned about Trump's immigration policies is that immigrants are an important source of productivity and innovation.

Trump needs to make it clear the United States doesn't just welcome immigrants — we need them.

3. Trump should promise not to take away 24 million people's health insurance. 

While it's true costs are rising and provisions of the Affordable Care Act are struggling, there have been inarguable successes from the law, chiefly the large reduction in the uninsured rate.

At least one study suggests repealing the ACA, aka Obamacare, could leave up to 24 million people without health insurance.

That is serious.

"It's very likely millions of people are going to lose health insurance," said Tim Jost, a health law professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law. "People are going to die."

Before you roll your eyes and assume that is hyperbole, know that a 2009 Harvard University study found that uninsured workers have a 40% higher risk of death compared to those with health insurance — and a lack of coverage is associated with nearly 45,000 deaths annually.

Experts worry that scrapping Obamacare, or even parts of Obamacare, without a viable replacement could cost lives. Source: Karen Bleier/Getty Images
Experts worry that scrapping Obamacare, or even parts of Obamacare, without a viable replacement could cost lives.  Karen Bleier/Getty Images

Jost explained that many of the provisions of the ACA are entrusted to the executive branch to enact, meaning that Trump wouldn't even need to pass any legislation to effectively gut the law.

So-called "targeted changes" to the law could include the elimination of subsidies and may likely include the elimination of the employer and individual mandates.

To defy expectations and assuage fears, Trump needs reassure Americans that they aren't going to lose health insurance — at least until the GOP comes up with a viable alternative.

4. Trump must protect the EPA.  

Jost wasn't the only person who was worried that a Trump presidency might come with a significant human cost.

Of particular concern were Trump's promises to roll back energy regulations and other reforms enacted under the Obama administration. Trump has even said he would like to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency. 

"This will kill people, that sort of goes without saying," said Bentley MacLeod, a professor of economics and public affairs at Columbia University, referring to the many ways the EPA currently protects the public from contamination from mercury and lead, pollution and other health dangers.

The EPA is tasked with enforcing the Clean Air and Clean Water acts. Source: Drew Angerer/Getty Images
The EPA is tasked with enforcing the Clean Air and Clean Water acts.  Drew Angerer/Getty Images

To be fair, experts say Trump would have a hard time completely abolishing the agency, founded in 1970 by President Richard Nixon under the auspices of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. 

But he would also have the support of some pretty high-profile people in Congress, including Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, among others. 

Keeping environmental protections — including those that would limit the effects of climate change — may be the least likely of concessions progressives can expect from Trump.

Ideally, the president-elect would acknowledge the existence of climate change — and the need for government regulation of clean water.. 

5. Trump should show more concern about exploding the deficit with tax cuts. 

One of the most likely things to happen under a Trump presidency, MacLeod and others have said, is a bevy of tax cuts. 

"The one thing they all agree on is that they all want to lower taxes," MacLeod said of the GOP. Lower income and, moreover, corporate taxes could very well have some positive short-term effects, MacLeod explained: "There might be more jobs." 

Trump's tax cuts would also almost certainly increase the deficit, which could reduce the value of the dollar, MacLeod explained.

That could make U.S. goods more competitive in the short-term — but come with major long-term costs. 

"Consumers overall will lose because all those goods and services they're buying [from] overseas will become more expensive," MacLeod said.

Overall, the mood among economists Mic interviewed was grim. 

"I'm not very hopeful," Easterly said. "The hope that people in the Midwest seem to have, that this guy is going to do something for them, I don't think that's going to occur."

Trump's success in the Midwest was indeed essential to his victory: The election was called just shortly after his victory in the state of Wisconsin, which no Republican has won in a presidential race since 1984.