The first presidential debate is now behind us. I, for one, found the debate short on substance and long on bloviating with both candidates more interested in trying to cut into each other than offering real solutions to problems. We were greeted with many generalities and platitudes about the issues with a few details peppered in for seasoning. I came away with no real satisfaction on either side. I am not going to pretend that I am completely objective because I do support Trump, but I am trying to be fair to Clinton as she did make a few points that made sense even if I disagree. I didn’t really see any zinger “gotcha” moments like have been in the Carter/ Reagan or even Clinton/ Bush debates. All in all, I feel that the debate fell flat with each side gaining small victories but no one ran away with the show.
While Mrs. Clinton could have elaborated on some of her points, she tended to blame policies that were enacted during her husband’s administration for much of the problems in the black community. She also seemed obsessed, as most Democrats are, that tax policies that seem to help the rich are to blame for the condition of the poor in the US. She also acted like creating jobs is the function of the government by “investing” in the middle class. Remember that “investing” is Democrat speak for spending taxpayer money. Aside from road projects and federal agencies, I don’t see where spending more taxes will create jobs. She hinted at more spending for education but we already outspend all other industrialized nations per student and still have some of the lowest graduation rates in the world. She spoke about debt-free college but she did not say how she would pay for it. Here is a hint, you will with higher taxes. Under Clinton as she has come across, the more successful you are, the more taxes you need to pay to help those in college get a degree and become successful as well. There is one problem with this logic. Taxes, especially the way she would like them to be, discourages success. Why would anyone want to make more money if they will just lose most of it to the government?
To be fair, Trump seems to have the same mindset about government although in a different direction. While renegotiating our trade deals is a step in the right direction we have to address other issues that make it attractive for companies to move operations out of the US. We have to reconsider the corporate taxes in this country. We have the highest corporate tax rates in the world with a combined federal, state, and local rate approaching 50% in some cases. That means for every dollar a company makes in profit, fifty cents go to the government. Mind you, that is on top of expenses such as materials, labor, and operating costs to name a few. Most people think of corporations as these big, faceless, unfeeling juggernauts like Wal-Mart, Target, and Haliburton but they fail to realize that their local, hometown hardware store is also a corporation. Many corporations are nothing more than a person who is in business and most of the time counts their profits as income. Most people who advocate for higher corporate taxes because of the high profits of businesses like Wal-Mart fail to realize those same taxes will be imposed on the local mom-and-pop stores they claim Wal-Mart is putting out of business. I like the 15% rate that Trump is suggesting, but I would go a step further and just do away with the corporate tax altogether.
Another issue that was discussed was the state of race relations in the US and how to best approach this sometimes over delicate subject. While both candidates agree that better communication and understanding between law enforcement and the black community needs to be addressed, each had a different idea on how that should be accomplished. Mrs. Clinton’s comments on the issue were predicated on the belief that the US is an inherently racist nation and that all white people somehow are the descendants of slave owners. This is a position that not only is untrue but also detrimental to the discussion as a whole. During the height of slavery in 1858, only 1.4% of the US population owned slaves so the vast majority of white people did not own slaves. We also must remember slavery was abolished during the Civil War and no one born in the US and alive today was a slave. With that said, there are some legitimate issues that the black community have that are unique to them but most of these issues have to do with culture, not race. I will go into detail on these issues at a later time.
Another issue that was discussed with a little more elaboration was income inequality and how the candidates want to address it. Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump agree that a raise in the minimum wage is a starting point. They believe that by increasing the minimum wage it will lift people out of poverty and allow those in positions that earn lower wages to have more disposable income. This has never been the case and, in fact, increases in the minimum wage have often hurt the very ones that it was intended to help by reducing hours worked or even eliminating jobs. I don’t know where politicians learned economics but it certainly was not at the school I attended. The basic laws of supply and demand will dictate the level of wages. Here is the best explanation that I have ever heard on the subject and, mind you, it was from an eighth grade class. When there is a low supply of jobs due to companies not hiring or expanding and abundant supply of workers creating a large demand wages will stagnate or even drop as companies don’t have to compete as much for workers. When there is a high supply of jobs and a low supply of workers, companies must be competitive in what they offer to attract workers. This usually means companies will offer higher wages or better benefits to get the best workers. This is proven true in North Dakota where even McDonald’s is paying $12.00 plus per hour. Because of the boon in the oil industry, there are fewer people seeking jobs at the restaurants and there is a high demand for workers so wages have gone up as a result. This is the natural progression of free market economics.
Finally, the last issue that I feel needs more attention is the trade between the US and other countries. I am an advocate for fair and open international trade but there is a limit to how free that trade should be. I was a truck driver when the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, went into effect and I saw first-hand what it did. I remember before NAFTA, I would get loads from slaughterhouses in places like Kansas and Wyoming and transport them to processing plants in Illinois and Iowa. After NAFTA was implemented, many of the processing plants closed and move their operations to Mexico because it became cheaper to send the meat over the border to be made into hotdogs and sausage and then back into the US. Completely free trade can only work when both nations in the trade deal are equal in such things as wages and worker’s rights. When it becomes cheaper to produce goods abroad and import them back it incentivized what has been called inversion where a company will move operations form one country to another for tax and financial advantage. Tariffs have been used in the past to equalize trade between nations and was a source of revenue for the US in the beginning.
Another side effect of trade tariffs is that they encourage foreign companies to produce their products in the US rather than import them. A prime example is that the US imposes a tariff on cars made in Japan and imported to the US. This has caused Japanese automakers to invest in production plants in the US, creating jobs and adding tax revenue that did not exist before. Right now China has a very big advantage in trade with the US. Bill Clinton, when he was president, normalized trade with China and began the spiral in which we are now caught. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, TPP, would further hinder the US trade with China and make it much easier for companies to produce goods in Asia and import them to the US. This could hurt US manufacturing by allowing cheaper and less durable goods to flood the market and cause US prices to fall creating a volatile market and harming companies who have remained in the US. Although I agree with Trump on his ideas about using tariffs to balance the trade deficit, I would urge caution and careful consideration on implementation to ensure that neither China nor the US will be thrown into an economic free fall.
So who do I think won the debate? While there were many jabs and a few punches were landed, there was no knockout. There were not any superior performances by either candidate and neither one truly nailed the other decisively. Mr. Trump came across as a little bombastic with no real specifics as to his proposals. He generalized much of his platform and gave a less energetic performance than he has given to his rallies. Mrs. Clinton mainly repeated the old tired Socialist lines that the Democratic Party has been spouting for years. She had no new ideas and just embraced the policies that have failed time and time again. She did not show energy and seemed less enthused and disinterested. My overall impression of the debate was that it was not as energetic as I would like to have seen, it lacked true enthusiasm, and aside from a few moments of levity, it did not rise to the level of entertaining. Even though there were some good jabs on both sides I feel each candidate missed great opportunities to capture great moments and left much to be desired. In all, I would call it a draw. There really was no clear winner.