Americans in the 21st century judge their presidential candidates on many parameters: Issues, party, character, demeanor (presidentialness, if I may coin a phrase), trustworthiness and experience. Often how the candidates say what they’ll do is as important as what they say they’ll do.
Let’s set aside all other aspects of the voting decision for a bit and focus exclusively on issues, which to a large extent means focusing on what the political parties stand for, especially for the Democrats who seem to be marching arm-in-arm towards a vision of government that follows and builds upon the successes of the New Deal and Great Society. By contrast, on some issues, Donald Trump is either to the right or to the left of the GOP establishment, while on other issues he follows long-time Republican orthodoxy.
As a long-time Social Democrat, I naturally favor the platform of Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. But for the purpose of this article, I will restrain my snarky partisan comments and stick completely to the positions that each candidate has laid on her-his website and past statements. I will point out, however, when the candidates’ plans don’t add up or are based on false premises or misinformation.
Clinton: The net effect of Hillary’s tax proposals will be to create trillions of dollars in additional revenue for the federal government (which she plans to spend: see below) by increasing taxes on the wealthy and ultra-wealthy. She will provide a little tax relief for small businesses, the middle class and the poor. Key provisions include:
- Make people who earn $5 million or more a year pay a surcharge tax on their income.
- Make people who earn $1 million a year pay a minimum of 30% of their income in income taxes, no matter how many deductions they take.
- Close a number of loopholes, so notorious that many have names, such as the “Bermuda Reinsurance loophole” and the “Romney loophole.”
- Restore estate taxes to the higher level of 2009 and close certain estate tax loopholes.
- Charge companies that want to leave the United States an exit tax based on their unrepatriated earnings.
- Create a standard deduction and streamline tax requirements for small businesses.
- Provide tax relief for excessive healthcare out-of-pocket costs, childcare and caring for an elderly family member.
Trump: The net effect of the Trump tax proposals will be to lower federal taxes for everyone, but only a little for the middle class and poor and significantly for the wealthy and businesses. Trump says he intends to prevent these tax cuts from causing a greater deficit by cutting government waste, but virtually every economic expert to weight in says that his numbers don’t add up. Key provisions include:
- Reduce tax brackets from seven to three, with a lower than current marginal rate for the top bracket.
- End both the Alternative Minimum Tax and the 2.8% tax on investment income to fund healthcare.
- Lower corporate tax rate from 35% to 15%
- Give companies a one-time chance to repatriate income at a mere 10% tax rate
- End the estate tax, which only applies to individuals with more than $ 5.45 million in assets, or the richest 6/10ths of one percent of the population.
THE ECONOMY AND JOBS
Clinton: Hillary is going to use the billions of dollars she raises by taxing the wealthy to stimulate the economy with the goal of creating millions of new jobs. The net effect of several of her proposals will be to suppress corporate profits in favor of more remuneration to employees. Here are major details:
- Use grants, government contracts, tax breaks, low-interest loans and other standard government means to invest federal dollars in rebuilding our infrastructure of mass transit, bridges and roads, stimulate manufacturing, increase research and development, and stimulate the development and commercialization of clean energy.
- Raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
- Strictly enforce trade agreements and make sure all future trade agreements set a higher bar for U.S. job creation, which translates to opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) as it currently stands.
- Use federal agencies to crack down on wage theft, enforce overtime rules and make it easier for unions to organize and bargain for their members.
- Reward companies that share profits with employees.
Trump: Trump is selling the traditional nostrums of lower taxes and fewer regulations (which all available research demonstrate do not work), to which he adds protectionist trade policies. His details are fare sketchier than Clinton and a lot of what he is proposing consists of blowing up existing agreements and structures, some decades old. Details:
- Review all federal regulations to see which can be dropped. Trump wants to target environmental regulations, and in particular restraints on coal production.
- Renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and other trade agreements.
- Go after China as a currency manipulator.
- Rescind all Obama executive orders related to energy and the environment.
- Resurrect the Keystone pipeline.
THE ENVIRONMENT AND GLOBAL WARMING
Clinton: Clinton’s environmental plans are truly impressive in their detail. She sets quantified goals, proposes specific actions to reach those goals and integrates the plan into creating more jobs, giving the lie to those benighted souls who incorrectly believe that cleaning up the environment is bad for the economy. She even takes time to talk about protecting wildlife and the traditional rural way of life. The details provided here only scratch the surface of what Hillary has in mind:
- Install 500 million solar panels by the end of her first term.
- Reduce American use of oil by one third by making more efficient cars, trucks, ships and boilers.
- Cut energy waste in schools, hospitals, homes and offices by a third.
- Do our part in reaching the goals of the Paris Accord, which includes reducing greenhouse gases by 40% in 2025, and 80% in 2050.
- Protect wildlife by keeping public lands public.
- Protect wildlife from illegal trafficking and farm animals from cruelty or abuse.
- Support the continued operation of small family farms.
Trump: Donald Trump believes that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese for their own economic benefit. He has no proposals to combat global warming or resource management. He has explicitly stated that he will remove the United States from the Paris Accord.
Clinton: Hillary supports comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship. She will end family detention and close private immigration detention centers. She will let undocumented immigrants buy into the Affordable Care Act (ACA) medical exchanges and end the three- and 10-year bars which make the undocumented leave the country for a certain amount of time before returning.
Trump: Perhaps his signature issue during this presidential cycle is building a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border, which he somehow believes he can get Mexico to pay for. For the past few months, Trump has been waffling concerning the fate of the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants, but the waffling has only been in tone, not substance. Even if he claims he will deport criminals first (as if that hasn’t already been done and be as humane as possible with those who are contributing, he remains vehemently against a path to citizenship. He will seek to prevent immigration, and perhaps even travel, from Muslim countries.
Clinton: All of the talk this election season has focused on Hillary’s proposal to provide tuition free education at our nation’s public colleges and universities to families earning less than $125,000 a year. But she has a top to bottom program that starts with preschool:
- Establish universal preschool for all four-year-olds.
- Double the current investment in Early Head Start programs
- Provide funding to increase the teaching of computer science in public elementary and high schools.
- Enhance the training of teachers and raise their salaries.
- Double the “Build America Bonds” subsidies to modernize school buildings.
- Make all public community colleges free.
- Enable current college loan debtors to renegotiate their loans at current rates.
- Crack down on predatory schools and lenders.
Trump: Trump has nothing on his website about education, but he recently announced plans to privatize all elementary and high school education, giving families money to make unfettered choices between public or private schools, despite the fact that recent data shows that public schools do a much better job at educating our youth than private schools, when you factor in income, food insecurity, learning disabilities, divorce and early childhood trauma (see The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools by Sarah Theule Lubienski and Christopher A Lubienski). Trump has said nothing about education past high school.
Clinton: It goes without saying, Hillary will defend the ACA from any attempts to end or downgrade it. But beyond support of Obamacare, Hillary has laid out an extensive health program that leaves no stone unturned in its pursuit of less expensive, higher quality health care:
- Implement a plan to provide non-punitive treatment to addicts
- Invest $2 billion a year in Alzheimer’s research
- Expand insurance coverage for autism services and conduct a national autism screening program
- Support a woman’s reproductive rights, including the right to inexpensive birth control and abortions
- Place a cap on out-of-pocket expenses paid by people with HIV and AIDS and on copays and co-insurance costs paid by anyone
- Bring down the cost of prescription drugs
- Make it easier to enroll in Medicaid
- Double the current funding for community health centers.
Trump: Trump pretty much follows the Republican playbook on healthcare, starting with appealing the ACA and instituting a series of free market principles, which will benefit the wealthy more than anyone else since the wealthy have the most money to spend on healthcare:
- Allow sale of health insurance policies across state lines
- Allow individuals to deduct the cost of health insurance premiums and to open Healthcare Savings Accounts
- Make federal support of Medicaid a block grant program, which means that the states will decide what to do with the money
- Allow people to purchase prescription drugs from other countries
He also now follows the GOP line on abortion.
Clinton: Clinton will tend to use diplomacy, economic sanctions and coalition building to confront global hotspots, such as Iraq, Syria and North Korea, but she won’t be afraid to use military force as a last resort. In Syria and Iraq, she will use airstrikes and support of local armies on our side to defeat ISIS. Domestically, she will seek to tweak our current domestic security systems, build relationships with Muslim communities and try to pass a number of new laws that will keep guns out of the hands of suspected terrorists, such as a “nor fly, no buy” law and a ban on military assault weapon sales and possession.
Trump: Trump is both more hawkish and more dovish than Hillary. He seems to be appealing widely to non-interventionists and seems to believe that the United States can basically ignore the rest of the world. Yet at various times, Trump has proposed some very aggressive actions such as walking away from our NATO commitments, allowing South Korea, Saudi Arabia and other allies to develop their own nuclear warhead capabilities, dropping nuclear bombs on our adversaries, reinstituting the torture program and loosening the rules of combat for American soldiers so they are free to hurt civilians and commit atrocities. Domestically, he thinks keeping immigrants out—especially immigrants from Muslim countries—will do the job. He has declared his intention of firing most of the current senior American military staff. He says he has a secret plan to defeat ISIS, but will give his new generals 30 days to come up with a plan of their own, after which he will select what to do from all his plan.
Clinton: Clinton’s focus is on making certain the police treat all citizens the same and that our civil rights are protected. Among other initiatives, she wants to spend $1 billion to identify and develop programs to train police officers to recognize and overcome racial bias; add funding to the U.S. Department of Justice unit that investigates civil rights abuses; and start a federal matching program to make body cameras available to all local police forces. She wants to reform the mandatory sentencing laws that have led to mass incarceration of Black males. She proposes to invest $5 billion in job-training programs for ex-cons and pass legislation that restores voting rights to them. She wants to end racial profiling.
Trump: Trump seems to think we are in the midst of a crime wave that requires us to allow the police to get tough. He is practically the only national American politician to want to toughen mandatory criminal sentences instead of loosening them. His past statements have tended to exonerate police from the use of unwarranted lethal force and blame the demonstrators against police brutality. He is fine with racial profiling. He is also in favor of reinstituting “stop-and-frisk” policies, which have been declared unconstitutional.
Clinton: Hillary wants to pass a large number of gun safety laws, including to expand gun checks, revoke the licenses of gun dealers who break the law, keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, other violent criminals and the severely mentally ill, reinstate the assault weapons ban, and revoke laws that prevent people from suing gun companies.
Trump: Trump wants to expand the rights of gun owners, primarily by allowing anyone with a permit to carry a gun in one state to be able to carry it any in any state, even where concealed carry is banned. He doesn’t want to ban any type of weapon. He has expressed ambivalence towards the national registry: he thinks it doesn’t help protect communities because criminals would never buy a gun directly from a registered gun dealer, but he wants states to do a better job of putting mentally ill people on the list. He wants to allow military personnel to carry their own personal firearms on military bases.
Clinton: Clinton wants to overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court decision and pass a law making groups publicly disclose significant public spending; until such a law passes, she will direct all federal contractors to disclose. She wants to create a federal matching fund program for small donations to increase the power of individuals in elections.
Trump: He expressed an openness to campaign reform early in the year, but there is nothing on his website and no recent statement about the issue.
There you have it: The OpEdge Notes version of how the major party candidates stand on the major issues. For more information, the best place to start are the candidates’ websites.
In a normal year, I would advise readers to take a careful look at where the candidates stand compare to their own views and weight that analysis more heavily than personality or party.
But this year is different.
Because of Trump’s erratic and irrational behavior, racist comments, high propensity for lying, attachment to the fascistic alt-right, bromance with Vladimir Putin, past ethical and business lapses and ignorance on virtual every issue, I am asking even the most extreme proponents of free market capitalism and low tax rates for the well-off to vote for Hillary. The ultra-wealthy have had a pretty good ride in this country going on 40 years now. At worst or at best, depending on your perspective, Clinton will turn back the clock to 1975 as far as equality of wealth and income goes (which will be a good thing for 99.5% of the population). I know that the typical Reagan Republican will dislike that prospect. But it’s better than a nuclear war, a deep depression, or a foreign policy directed by the for-profit Trump organization or Vladimir Putin.