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posted on 02 November 2016

Trump Vs. Clinton: How Do They Stand On The Issues?

by Elliott Morss, Morss Global Finance

Introduction

Many have been transfixed by the media's portrayal of Clinton's and Trump's shortcomings: Hillary - emails and foundation, Trump - the tape and lawsuits. Be that the nominees were Biden and Kasich! In what follows, I actually look at how the candidates stand on issues. But first, I briefly review the various ways the candidates are being judged without regard to their standings on issues.

The Need for Change

This election was originally pitched as either more of the same or change. And there are certainly good reasons for change. In earlier pieces, I have asked why we have lousy education and health systems, why our banks remain dangerous, and why we keep getting in foolish wars. The answer: DC lobbying. The following table provides a listing of lobbying expenditures by industry. One can ask just how important the President is with the 10,000+ lobbyists well-ensconced in DC being paid more than $3 billion.

Washington Lobbyists by Industry, 2015

picture1

Source: Open Secrets

Back to the election. Sanders was the change pick for the Democrats and Trump for Republicans. Trump won and Sanders lost to Hillary. So Trump is the candidate for change and Hillary, fairly or unfairly, is seen as the candidate for more of the same.

This issue alone explains much of the support for Trump. Secondly, as indicated earlier, the shortcomings of each, magnified by the press, have been enough for many voters to choose one or the other. And of course, an important factor is party. Some always vote Republican, some Democrat.

For many, their policy positions do not matter. However, I am undecided and they matter to me. So below, I do something few have done: I present the candidates' policy positions as stated on their web sites (https://www.donaldjtrump.com/policies/ and https://www.hillaryclinton.com/issues/.

As an aside, I note that the traffic on their web sites is far less than traffic to web sites highlighting their shortcomings.

Almost every topic is mentioned on their web sites. The issues each headlines are presented in the following table.

ct2

Sources: Clinton's and Trump's websites

Having reviewed their featured policy positions, I come up with my own list of policies most important to me and describe what each candidate says about them.

Jobs

Trump

  • 25 Million New Jobs Created In the Next Decade;

  • Every income group receives a tax cut, with millions more being removed from the income tax rolls and low-income Americans paying no income tax at all;

  • The plan eliminates the carried interest loophole for Wall Street and the death tax, which falls especially hard on small businesses and farmers.

Trump claims his tax cut will stimulate enough growth to make up the revenue losses from the tax cuts. History tells us this is nonsense. The Tax Foundation's assessment is that between 2016 and 2025, Trump's proposed tax cuts will cost $2.6 to $3.9 trillion in lost revenues.

Clinton

  • A 100-days jobs plan;

  • Break through Washington gridlock to make the boldest investment in good-paying jobs since World War II;

  • Make debt free college available to all Americans. Will make college debt-free, and provide relief for Americans with existing debt by allowing them to refinance their student loans;

  • Make certain that corporations, the wealthy, and Wall Street pay their fair share. Will pay for her economic priorities and avoid adding to the national debt by ensuring the wealthiest Americans and the biggest corporations pay their fair share.

While Clinton is not likely to get Congress to approve free college, it is possible she reduces the burden on attending a community college.

Both candidates dodge the real problem here: jobs lost to labor-saving technologies.

Here, I give Hillary the edge: cheaper community colleges. Trump's proposals are unrealistic and costly.

Income Inequality

Trump

I saw nothing on his web site specifically on this issue. In all likelihood, he will defer to Republicans, most of who are not concerned over growing inequality.

Clinton

Her web site is replete with references on the need to reduce growing inequalities.

I see the growing US inequalities as very important and disturbing.

Hillary gets the nod.

Obamacare

Trump

  • Completely repeal Obamacare;

  • Eliminate the individual mandate: no person should be required to buy insurance unless he or she wants to;

  • Modify existing law that inhibits the sale of health insurance across state lines. As long as the plan purchased complies with state requirements, any vendor ought to be able to offer insurance in any state;

  • By allowing full competition in this market, insurance costs will go down and consumer satisfaction will go up;

  • Allow individuals to fully deduct health insurance premium payments from their tax returns under the current tax system;

  • We must review basic options for Medicaid and work with states to ensure that those who want healthcare coverage can have it.

  • Allow individuals to use Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). Contributions into HSAs should be tax-free and should be allowed to accumulate;

  • Require price transparency from all healthcare providers, especially doctors and healthcare organizations like clinics and hospitals. Individuals should be able to shop to find the best prices for procedures, exams or any other medical-related procedure;

  • Block-grant Medicaid to the states. The state governments know their people best and can manage the administration of Medicaid far better without federal overhead;

  • Remove barriers to entry into free markets for drug providers that offer safe, reliable and cheaper products. Congress will need the courage to step away from the special interests and do what is right for America;

  • Allow consumers access to imported, safe and dependable drugs from overseas will bring more options to consumers.

Clinton

  • Defend and expand the Affordable Care Act, which covers 20 million people;

  • Bring the promise of affordable health care to more people and make a "public option" possible.

  • Allow people over 55 years old buy into Medicare.

  • Bring down out-of-pocket costs like copays and deductibles.

  • Reduce the cost of prescription drugs. Prescription drug spending accelerated from 2.5 percent in 2013 to 12.6 percent in 2014;

  • Protect consumers from unjustified prescription drug price increases from companies that market long-standing, life-saving treatments and face little or no competition. Hillary's plan includes new enforcement tools that make drug alternatives available and increase competition, broaden emergency access to high-quality treatments from developed countries with strong safety standards, and hold drug companies accountable for unjustified price increases with new penalties;

  • Incentivizing states to expand Medicaid - and make enrollment through Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act easier;

  • Expand access to affordable health care to families regardless of immigration status;

  • Expand access to rural Americans, who often have difficulty finding quality, affordable health care;

  • Defend access to reproductive health care. Hillary will work to ensure that all women have access to preventive care, affordable contraception, and safe and legal abortion.

  • Double funding for community health centers.

In my view, the problem with the US healthcare system is the lack of competition and the stranglehold the big players have on it. This is a classic oligopoly and ways to foster more competition are needed. Trump's notion of throwing out Obamacare makes no sense. However, I think he would do more to foster competition than Hillary; like Saunders, he once supported a single-payer system.

I see good features in each's proposals.

Immigration

Trump

  • Begin working on an impenetrable physical wall on the southern border, on day one. Mexico will pay for the wall;

  • End catch-and-release: anyone who illegally crosses the border will be detained until they are removed;

  • Move criminal aliens out immediately in joint operations with local, state, and federal law enforcement;

  • End sanctuary cities;

  • Immediately terminate President Obama's two illegal executive amnesties. All immigration laws will be enforced - we will triple the number of ICE agents.

  • Suspend the issuance of visas to any place where adequate screening cannot occur, until proven and effective vetting mechanisms can be put into place;

  • Ensure that other countries take their people back when we order them deported;

  • Reform legal immigration to serve the best interests of America and its workers, keeping immigration levels within historic norms.

Clinton

  • Introduce comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to full and equal citizenship within her first 100 days in office. It will treat every person with dignity, fix the family visa backlog, uphold the rule of law, protect our borders and national security, and bring millions of hardworking people into the formal economy;

  • End the three- and 10-year bars. The three- and 10-year bars force families - especially those whose members have different citizenship or immigration statuses - into a heartbreaking dilemma: remain in the shadows, or pursue a green card by leaving the country and loved ones behind;

  • Defend President Obama's executive actions - known as DACA and DAPA - against partisan attacks;

  • Do everything possible under the law to protect families; Enforce immigration laws humanely;

  • End family detention and close private immigration detention centers. Hillary will end family detention for parents and children who arrive at our border in desperate situations and close private immigrant detention centers;

  • Expand access to affordable health care to all families. We should let families - regardless of immigration status - buy into the Affordable Care Act exchanges. Families who want to purchase health insurance should be able to do so;

  • Promote naturalization. Hillary will work to expand fee waivers to alleviate naturalization costs, increase access to language programs to encourage English proficiency and increase outreach and education to help more people navigate the process.

I favor Clinton's approach here. We are a nation of immigrants. Trump's oft-repeated claim that he will get Mexico to pay for the wall is nonsense. There have been remarkably few terrorist attacks in the US that were not the result of some American-borne nut cake. And despite Trump's claims, Obama has deported more immigrants than any other President. The number of unauthorized immigrants has fallen from 12.1 million in 2009 to 11.1 million today.

Foreign Policy

Trump

  • Peace through strength;

  • Advance America's core national interests, promote regional stability, and produce an easing of tensions in the world;

  • Rebuild our military, enhance and improve intelligence and cyber capabilities;

  • End the current strategy of nation-building and regime change;

  • Ensure our security procedures and refugee policy takes into account the security of the American people.

Clinton

  • Provide budgetary certainty to facilitate reforms and enable long-term planning;

  • End the sequester for both defense and non-defense spending in a balanced way.

  • Invest in innovation and capabilities that will allow us to prepare for and fight 21st-century threats.

  • Create a defense budget that reflects good stewardship of taxpayer dollars; prioritize defense reform initiatives, curb runaway cost growth;

  • Take care of our veterans and their families;

I believe that in this area, there is a need for a reset. I highlighted in the Trump summary:

"End the current strategy of nation-building and regime change."

For too long, US policies have featured nation-building and regime change. In addition, the Cold War is over. It is time for a policy reset with Russia. And the military-industrial complex is always looking for another war. I often quote Robert Borosage:

"The country finds itself constantly at war. New presidents inherit the wars of their predecessors. They are faced not with deciding to go to war, but whether to accept defeat in one already in progress....And slowly, the great power declines from the inside out. The wars are costly, running up national debts. Vital investments are put off. Schools decline. Sewers leak. For a long time, circuses distract from the spreading ruin....Other societies become productive centers, capturing the new industries. Some begin providing better education for their citizens, better support for their citizens. Their taxes, not drained by the cost of wars past and present, can be devoted to what we used to call 'domestic improvements.'

This is a very rich country.... But even wealthy countries must choose. We can afford to police the world - to sustain 800 bases across the globe, to station troops in Korea, in Japan, in Bosnia, in Europe, fight wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, sustain fleets to police the seas....South Waziristan, Yemen, Somalia, Kosovo, the Taiwan straits, the North Korean border, the seven seas - we can do this. But the result is that we are continually at war. And the wars cost - in money, in lives, in attention. And inevitably, domestic priorities, as well as emerging security threats that have no military answers, get ignored. A rich country, Adam Smith wrote, has a lot of ruin in it. We seem intent on testing the limits of that proposition."

I see Hillary as continuing Obama's policies with increased militancy. In this area, Trump gets my nod.

Supreme Court

Trump

  • Favors Scalia-like view that US Constitution must be interpreted literally;

  • Strong support for Second Amendment and rights to bear arms.

Clinton

  • Will defend women's rights to abortion;

  • Get rid of Citizens United allowing anonymous large political donors.

I view Supreme Court appointments as possibly the most important and lasting legacy of the next President.

Energy

Clinton

Generate enough renewable energy to power every home in America, with half a billion solar panels installed by the end of Hillary's first term.

  • Cut energy waste in American homes, schools, hospitals and offices by a third and make American manufacturing the cleanest and most efficient in the world.

  • Reduce American oil consumption by a third through cleaner fuels and more efficient cars, boilers, ships, and trucks.

  • Defend, implement, and extend smart pollution and efficiency standards, including the Clean Power Plan and standards for cars, trucks, and appliances that are already helping clean our air, save families money, and fight climate change.

  • Launch a $60 billion Clean Energy Challenge to partner with states, cities, and rural communities to cut carbon pollution and expand clean energy, including for low-income families. Read the fact sheet here.

  • Invest in clean energy infrastructure, innovation, manufacturing and workforce development to make the U.S. economy more competitive and create good-paying jobs and careers. Read the fact sheet here.

  • Ensure safe and responsible energy production. As we transition to a clean energy economy, we must ensure that the fossil fuel production taking place today is safe and responsible and that areas too sensitive for energy production are taken off the table. Read the fact sheet here.

  • Reform leasing and expand clean energy production on public lands and waters tenfold within a decade.

  • Cut the billions of wasteful tax subsidies oil and gas companies have enjoyed for too long and invest in clean energy;

  • Cut methane emissions across the economy and put in place strong standards for reducing leaks from both new and existing sources;

  • Revitalize coal communities by supporting locally-driven priorities and make them an engine of U.S. economic growth in the 21st century, as they have been for generations;

Trump

  • Unleash America's $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, plus hundreds of years in clean coal reserves.

  • Become, and stay, totally independent of any need to import energy from the OPEC cartel or any nations hostile to our interests.

  • Open onshore and offshore leasing on federal lands, eliminate moratorium on coal leasing, and open shale energy deposits.

  • Encourage the use of natural gas and other American energy resources that will both reduce emissions but also reduce the price of energy and increase our economic output.

  • Rescind all job-destroying Obama executive actions. Reduce and eliminate all barriers to responsible energy production, creating at least a half million jobs a year, $30 billion in higher wages, and cheaper energy.

The differences are pretty stark here. Trump's frame of reference has to be that man's actions are not contributing to global warming so we can continue to run on fossil fuels. Clinton's positions stem from a concern that man is contributing to global warming. While one cannot definitively say that man is part of the cause the global is warming, I believe it is only prudent that we take steps to reduce CO2 emissions. I give a nod to Clinton here.

International Trade

Trump

  • Withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which has not yet been ratified;

  • Appoint tough and smart trade negotiators to fight on behalf of American workers;

  • Direct the Secretary of Commerce to identify every violation of trade agreements a foreign country is currently using to harm our workers, and also direct all appropriate agencies to use every tool under American and international law to end these abuses;

  • Eliminate Mexico's one-side backdoor tariff through the VAT and end sweatshops in Mexico that undercut U.S. workers;

  • Instruct the Treasury Secretary to label China a currency manipulator;

  • Instruct the U.S. Trade Representative to bring trade cases against China, both in this country and at the WTO. China's unfair subsidy behavior is prohibited by the terms of its entrance to the WTO;

  • Use every lawful presidential power to remedy trade disputes if China does not stop its illegal activities, including its theft of American trade secrets - including the application of tariffs consistent with Section 201 and 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 and Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.

Hillary

Aside from changing her position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership to no, Clinton has said very little on international trade.

Trump's positions on international trade are not well-informed. And as a consequence, his policy recommendations make no sense. Charge China with currency manipulation? Nobody charged the US with currency manipulation when the dollar weakened relative to the yen from ¥360/$ in 1971 to ¥120/$ in 2015. A 35% tax on Chinese goods? Keep in mind that US consumers have benefited greatly from inexpensive Chinese imports.

As I have written, 80% of jobs lost in manufacturing were lost to labor-saving technologies and not to jobs going overseas. And when talking about jobs lost overseas, should we not talk also about jobs coming to the US? Foreign direct investment in the US that leads to US employment has averaged $185 billion annually since 2000.

Working with Congress

Trump has been a divisive force. He has attacked the leaders of the Republican party. He has said "I don't need you." Nonsense: to get anything through Congress, he needs to work with Congressmen and Senators.

As a Senator and earlier, Clinton has shown an ability to work with Republicans as well as members of her own party.

Uncertainty over What the Candidates Will Do

It is pretty clear what Clinton will do if she wins - work to improve on Obama's initiatives. We don't know about Trump. Will he make peace with the Republican Congressional leaders and pretty much toe their line? Or will he continue to view them as part of the problem. Not clear. So even if you favor the "change agent (Trump), it is not clear what he will do.

Conclusions

Having gone through this exercise, the following table indicates how I rate the candidates on issues that mean the most to me. Keep in mind that the table includes unweighted ratings only. Clearly, the issues are not equal in importance. I view foreign policy, how we get rid of oligopoly in causing heath costs to rise so rapidly, and Supreme Court appointments as being critically important.

ct3

But my views are only important to me. I urge all to do a similar exercise and see where you come out.

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