Last night’s debate was what most of us would expect from this particular mash-up of candidates: mudslinging, aggrandizing, and name-calling, interspersed with some discussion of actual policy decisions. Despite what the candidates had to say about each other and themselves (of which there was much), Clinton was the one who brought up the most important issue time and time again: us.
This election, regardless of what any of us may feel for either of the individual candidates, is about us, and the kind of future we want to have. Trump made a point of saying how badly we – the people – have been faring under the current administration, using such statements as: “The only thing that looks good is the stock market…” and “We’ve become a third-world country.”
In truth, the average U.S. citizen has done far better under Obama than Trump wants us to believe. For instance, since President Obama took office:
- The U.S. economy has added more than 10 million jobs (compared to the mere 1.3 million under GWB);
- Unemployment is at an historical low of 4.9% (the historical norm has hovered around 5.5% since 1948);
- Real weekly earnings are up more than 4% – even for nonsupervisory employees (which means the average person’s check goes further);
- 15.2 million people have gained health insurance; and
- Job openings are at a 15-year high (as of July 2016), which is a 109% increase over January 2009 when Obama first took office.
Companies, too, have prospered under the current administration, which Trump claims can’t be done without trickle-down economics and large tax cuts for the wealthy. In fact, corporate profits have risen by 152% and the stock market has grown tremendously. The S&P 500, for example, has grown by 165% since Obama become president (again, as of July 2016), and the DOW has more than doubled. With gains of 244%, the NASDAQ has tripled. Our trade deficit is also down 24%, and petroleum imports have declined by 55%.
Our country also has come a long way under the current president with regard to other metrics. Foreign relations, for example, have improved with almost everyone (other than Russia) under Obama’s care. Illegal immigration has also seen healthy improvements, with the number of border control agents increasing while the number of unauthorized people caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border has decreased.
Now, some voters may believe that Obama’s record is irrelevant. After all, we aren’t voting for him. That’s true. But, we are voting for a candidate, and these two candidates – Trump and Clinton – are not merely people, whom we can choose to like or dislike for their personality traits (as well founded as those likes or dislikes may be). These candidates represent policies. Policies that can – and will – dramatically impact the lives of everyday citizens for at least the next four years, if not far longer.
Many voters are looking at this election cycle as a farce or as a bitter choice between “the lesser of two evils.” And, while it may be that we would all like to be inspired by a particular candidate, to vote for someone whom we truly believe in – as many 2008 voters felt about President Obama – voting for someone whose sound policies will actually benefit each of us is not the lesser of two evils. It is the thoughtful, responsible thing to do.
So, bearing our civic responsibility in mind and the realities of each of our day-to-day lives, let’s take a look at the policies we can expect from each candidate based on Monday night’s debate.
Trump spent the vast majority of the debate being aggressively loud and interrupting Secretary Clinton. Despite his insertions, however, he managed to say very little about anything he would actually do, resolving instead to talk about his temperament and his new Pennsylvania Avenue project. The specifics he actually mentioned involved:
- Reducing corporate taxes from 35% to 15%;
- Taxing imports made by U.S. companies overseas;
- Cutting regulations;
- Bringing back stop-and-frisk (which, despite his claims, was ruled unconstitutional), and
- Waging war on ISIS across the Middle East, with the aid of NATO.
Trump also said he was “very proud of” his tax plan, which analysts say would significantly raise taxes on nearly 8 million families with minor children, while improving take-home pay for the wealthiest 1% by as much as 16%. Trump’s tax plan also would add $5.3 trillion to the debt over the next decade, based on independent valuations from a number of sources. (This is compared to Clinton’s $200 million increase.)
Clinton’s policy specifics, on the other hand, were numerous, including many that male candidates have typically overlooked and/or mentioned only briefly, such as work-life balance and equal pay for women (both of which are major economic concerns for the female population). Her policies also, by and large, are paid for by other policies, including tax increases on the wealthy and the closing of corporate tax loopholes.
Based on Monday’s debate, Clinton wants to:
- Invest heavily in infrastructure, especially manufacturing and green energy, and small business;
- Raise the national minimum wage;
- Guarantee equal pay for women;
- Establish paid family leave (which the vast majority of first-world countries already have) and earned sick leave for all workers;
- Foster affordable childcare;
- Prioritize college affordability without the debt;
- Encourage the end of for-profit prisons at the state level;
- Implement more second-chance programs;
- Prohibit firearm possession by anyone on the terrorist watch list;
- Provide police officers with more training and assistance to handle current problems;
- Utilize cyber techniques to go after ISIS online and prohibit them from using social media and other Internet sources to radicalize;
- Intensify air strikes against ISIS;
- Eliminate Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS;
- Work with NATO to put more emphasis on terrorism prevention; and
- Seek intelligence alliances with Muslim nations, who can help provide us with information we may not obtain otherwise.
These candidates, like all political candidates, talk big. It’s one of the reasons many voters don’t like them. The major point of our debate system, however, is to see whether or not those candidates can back up what they say with strategic, implementable policies that could actually help real people – despite whether any one of us agrees with every one of those policy decisions or not. As illustrated above, Secretary Clinton excelled at supporting her positions, outlining numerous, specific, and measurable ways she will work to improve the prosperity and security of the United States. And she did it despite being interrupted a staggering 51 times by Mr. Trump.
Sarah Hackley is a full-time author, editor, writing coach, and poet based in the Texas hill country. She writes and blogs about writing, publishing, politics, personal finance, migraine, chronic illness, motherhood, domestic violence, women’s issues, and law. Her books include Preparing to Fly: Financial Freedom from Domestic Abuse, Finding Happiness with Migraines: A Do It Yourself Guide, and the Amazon women’s poetry bestseller, The Things We Lose. Learn more at www.sarahhackley.com.