Unlike with the first two of this year's debates, last night I didn't have something better to do, so I actually watched a good chunk of the debate. And of course, my reward was to be reminded over and over again why this is the worst presidential election ever.
I could comment on many things, but let me narrow the focus. There's not much point in paying attention to anything the candidates say about how they will deal with foreign affairs or foreign powers, because whatever they say now, it will all become inoperative in the specifics of any situation that might arise. And who really cares about the name calling and character attacks? If you follow the news at all, you are not going to learn anything new about their respective bad characters from what they say about each other.
But I do care about domestic economic policy, and what candidates say on that subject can be a rather good predictor of what they will do, or at least try to do, once in office. So my ears perked up around the middle of the debate when moderator Chris Wallace said he was going to "move on to the next topic," namely "the economy," and asked each candidate to "please explain to me why you believe your plan will create more jobs and growth for this country and your opponent's plan will not." The exchange that followed really encapsulated the awfulness of the whole thing for me. The candidate's answers are a little long for this blog post, so I will edit them for space, while attempting to capture the essence.
Hillary went first, and proceeded to lay out a vision where all improvement in human economic condition comes from additional government spending, rules, and programs, all to be paid for by taxes and yet more taxes on the successful. She didn't put it in exactly those terms, but the idea that private economic activity is the source of wealth and needs to be allowed to flourish doesn't seem ever to have occurred to her. Here is the somewhat edited version:
I want us to have the biggest jobs program since World War II. Jobs in infrastructure and advanced manufacturing. I think we can compete with high wage countries and I believe we should. New jobs in clean energy. Not only to fight climate change, which is a serious problem but to create new opportunities and new businesses. I want us to do more to help small business, that’s where two-thirds of the new jobs are going to come from. I want to us raise the national minimum wage because people who work full time should not still be in poverty. And I sure do want to make sure women get equal pay for the work we do. I feel strongly that we have to have an education system that starts with preschool and goes through college. That’s why I want more technical education and community colleges, real apprenticeships to prepare young peel for the jobs of the future. I want to make college debt-free and for families making less than $125,000, you will not get a tuition bill from a public college or a university. . . . [W]e are going to have the wealthy pay their fair share. We're going to have corporations make a contribution greater than they are now to our country. That is a plan that has been analyzed by independent experts which said that it could produce 10 million new jobs.
This is an economic program truly worthy of a Venezuela or a North Korea, and couldn't be more destructive on many levels. A government "jobs program" is going to create zillions of jobs in "advanced manufacturing"? Can anybody give a single example where any government has succeeded at such an endeavor? Indeed, this is exactly what New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is in the midst of failing at spectacularly. And there will be lots of jobs in "clean energy," to create "new opportunities and new businesses"! Sure! Dozens more Solyndras! How ignorant do you have to be not to know that so-called "clean energy" jobs only exist by reason of massive government subsidies, which tells you that they destroy rather than create wealth, and that the so-called "opportunities" can only exist for Hillary's politically-connected cronies like the "FOBs" and the donors to the Clinton Foundation. And then we'll price all poor kids completely out of the job market with a greatly increased minimum wage! And then, deep into unsustainable and exploding deficits resulting from out-of-control entitlements and the new Obamacare program, let's create another huge new entitlement of free college! It can all be paid for by having the "wealthy pay their fair share." Does she have any idea that much of this money to be taken from the wealthy was going to be invested in businesses and now won't be? But don't worry, "independent experts" (who? Paul Krugman?) tell her that this world of massively increased spending and programs and taxes will "produce 10 million new jobs"!
Really, Hillary could not possibly have handed Trump a better opportunity to rip her to shreds. But it was not to be. To be fair to him, he did start out OK with a couple of sentences about her destructive plans for big tax increases:
[H]er plan is going to raise taxes and even double your taxes. Her tax plan is a disaster. . . . We will have a massive, massive tax increase under Hillary Clinton's plan.
But from there it was immediately off into irrelevancies. I'll make Japan and Germany and South Korea and Saudi Arabia pay us for their defense! We have "horrible" trade deals (NAFTA) and I'll do better ones! We'll bring our jobs back! That's about it. Here's the (somewhat edited) transcript:
[W]hen I said Japan and Germany and I'm not just singling them out. But South Korea, these are very rich countries. Saudi Arabia. Nothing but money. We protect Saudi Arabia. Why aren't they paying? . . . We're protecting people. They have to pay up. And I'm a big fan of NATO but they have to pay up. She comes out and says “we love our allies. We think our allies are great.” Well, it is awfully hard to get them to pay up when you have somebody saying we think how great they are. We have to tell Japan in a very nice way, we have to tell Germany, all of these countries, South Korea. We have to say, you have to help us out. . . . So my plan, we’re going to negotiate trade deals. We’re going to have a lot of free trade. More free trade than we have right now. But we have horrible deals. Our jobs are being taken out by the deal that her husband signed. NAFTA. One of the worst deals ever. The jobs are being sucked out of our economy. You look at the places I just left. You go to Pennsylvania, you go to Ohio, you go to Florida, you go to any of them. You go to upstate New York. Our jobs have fled to Mexico and other places. We're bringing our jobs back. I'm going to renegotiate NAFTA. . . . We're going to cut business taxes massively. They're going to start hiring people we're going to bring the $2.5 trillion that’s offshore back into the country. We are going to start the engine rolling again because right now, our country is dying.
OK, at the very end he did work in that bit about tax cuts for businesses, which is not a trivial point. But other than that, he basically veered off on tangents and forgot to mention what his economic plan is or why it is superior to Hillary's government-only vision.
The phrase "It's the economy, stupid" is generally given more credit than anything else for getting Bill Clinton elected in 1992. Today, it's still "the economy, stupid," and we continue to live with a way sub-par economy afflicted by too high taxes, too much spending, and too many regulations. We have before our very eyes the living cases of Venezuela, not to mention Cuba and North Korea, to teach us what happens to an economy when the government takes everything over. And we have the entire European Union to show us that when the government gets up to 50% of the economy and above everything goes into stagnation. But the Republican candidate seems unable to articulate the optimistic free market small government vision.
It's a good thing there aren't any more debates.