On Nov. 8, America will elect a new president. The path to this moment started long ago, and now it has been narrowed to two candidates: Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump.
The Democratic and Republican divides are deep in and of themselves, but have proven to hollow further in this duel. This growing trench only makes it more difficult for us millennials to see through the George Washington-warned fog and examine the issues to form a decision. Here’s a narrative to assist you in that endeavor, examining four political issues that affect us more seriously than other generations: campus sexual assault, education, healthcare, gun control and economic impacts.
Campus Sexual Assault
Sexual assault is a topic that resonates for us as college students perhaps more than any other, through reports plaguing our inboxes, victimizing those closest to us and making us all wary.
Clinton has provided step-by-step measures on how to address the issue. She vows to implement campus services from counseling to critical health care that are confidential, comprehensive and coordinated in scope. She advocates for a fair justice system where victims’ voices will be heard. She says that complaints filed in the criminal justice system must be treated seriously. Similarly, she wants to increase sexual violence education, not just to encompass awareness, but to cover consent, bystander intervention and implementing these programs not just in colleges, but also at secondary schools. Despite these steps she addresses, the public is concerned about issues linked to sexual assaults within her campaign, notably that she covered up assaults committed by her husband.
Trump’s campaign contains no statements or proposals on the issue of sexual assault on college campuses. Yet, as per the view construed at the Republican National Convention, Republicans note the issue as one deserving of attention. The party platform approved during the convention supports the issue at large, with an ode to prosecute cases “in a courtroom, not a faculty lounge,” for example. However, his derogatory comments about women, the group most affected by sexual assaults, have shadowed his campaign in doubt regarding his true opinions on the subject.
Clinton’s policy aims to create widespread and tuition-free college education. The first facet is to give free tuition to families making an income below $125,000 a year, for in-state, four-year public colleges and universities. Her plan will also make community college free. The second facet will address the issue of student loans. Clinton will restructure financing by cutting interest rates further and introducing deferred loan payment plans for aspiring entrepreneurs: a plan to make no payments with no interest for up to three years.
According to Clinton’s campaign website, “this plan will be paid for by limiting certain tax expenditures for high-income taxpayers.” This quote sums the ideology that comprises her lack of support among America’s wealthy elite—including her opponent, Donald Trump—who say that is not an efficient way to increase government expenditure.
Trump’s plan constitutes the mantra of school choice, continuing the tradition of excellence in private and public education. He maintains a “national goal of providing school choice to every one of the 11 million school-aged children living in poverty,” keeping them away from Clinton’s proposal of tuition-free, public or community college education. Trump will offer $20 billion in federal investment—a sum derived from reprioritizing existing federal dollars—to give states the option to allocate funds in both the public and private sectors, whichever a student chooses to attend. He also vows to reform the educational system with Congress to make sure universities act in good faith, cutting costs and reducing student debt in a quid pro quo for federal tax breaks and dollars.
Clinton’s healthcare plan, like her proposals on education, is similarly expansive in scope of cost. From a comprehensive end, she plans to expand Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) to “build on its success” with government spending.
Clinton will incentivize states to expand Medicaid and make enrollment in government sponsored healthcare easier. This plan includes making it easier for families to access affordable healthcare “regardless of immigration status.”
Internally in the healthcare industry, her aims constitute reduction of costs in copays, deductibles and prescription drug costs. She focuses specifically on the drug market and plans to monitor drug monopolies, denying them tax breaks for excess profiteering and marketing, and requiring R&D for taxpayer support. She also will aim to increase generic competition.
Expanding upon the concept of competition, Clinton will “allow Americans to safely and securely import drugs for personal use from foreign nations whose safety standards are as strong as those of the U.S.” She will also increase funding for community health centers. Her pro-gender equality values that have blanketed her campaign elide with insurance that all women “have preventative care, affordable contraception, and access to safe and legal abortion.”
While Clinton encompasses her plans for healthcare positively in her plan outlines, cons still arise with the pros. RAND Corporation and Commonwealth Fund—RAND is an American nonprofit think-tank on global policy, funded by the U.S. government and private endowments, and Commonwealth is a private, nonpartisan foundation on health and social issues—performed a study on Clinton’s proposals. Their study found that her plans would insure “several million more people by making insurance cheaper for people in most income categories.” Though this expansion, however effective, would increase the number of insured people by expanding the deficit, adding $90.4 billion to the current sum. Her tax credit, with $2,500 given to individuals whose out-of-pocket medical spending exceeds 5% of their income, will have the largest effect.
RAND and Commonwealth also found that Clinton’s plans encompass demanded reform of ACA, “addressing many of the common gripes about Obamacare: that insurance is still too expensive or that insurers are abandoning the Obamacare marketplace.”
Though Clinton’s plan attempts to address the woes of ACA, Merrill Matthews, a resident scholar at the Institute for Policy Innovation, says the plan still continues to enforce them; premiums will continue to rise and insurers will desert participation. “All Clinton does is try to mask the problem by hiding the costs through subsidies,” Matthews said.
Similarly, the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health policy research and analysis firm, finds that it’s still unclear whether doctors will participate in the public healthcare plan, or how it will affect the wealthier population who buy private insurance.
Trump’s plan would address the problems stated by Matthews: a plan in which he will obliterate ACA. Yet, according to Olga Khazan’s article in The Atlantic, Trump’s plan would replace ACA “with an assortment of half-measures, most of which would only benefit people who are healthy and well-off, if anyone.”
The RAND and Commonwealth Fund study similarly criticize Trump’s plan. By disposing of Obamacare, Trump “would strip insurance coverage from 16 million people while raising out-of-pocket expenses for most people who aren’t insured through their employers.” Repeal would also lead to even greater numbers of poor people left uninsured.
“All of his proposals would also make [healthcare] more expensive for people buying insurance on the individual market, with the exception of high-income people, who would benefit,” the study said. In all, if ACA were to be repealed, approximately 20 million people would be without insurance, including millennials, who planned to stay on their parents’ insurance until the end, until reaching the age of 26.
Even with no expansion of insurance coverage and a substantial populace left uninsured, the study found that Trump’s plan would increase the deficit much like Clinton’s.
Though Trump’s ultra-conservative policies shock liberals, his stance on healthcare shocks parties from both sides. Part of his plan proposes that Medicare should be able to negotiate drug prices, a facet similarly proposed by ultra-liberal primary candidate Bernie Sanders.
Yet perhaps Trump’s seemingly objective plan isn’t representative of his nonpartisan inclination to find the best policy. Journalists from Politico note his hodgepodge of proposals as an “allergy to choosing specific policies and sticking to them.”
Clinton’s gun control policies possess a vow to the word that constitutes their title: control. She odes to expand background checks, by closing loopholes created by gun shows and internet sales and to strengthen the check system in general. She also says she will keep guns away from domestic abusers, other violent criminals and the mentally ill.
Trump’s gun control policies, on the other hand, edge away from the notion of control; “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed upon. Period,” he says on his campaign website. Trump wants to empower law-abiding citizens with the right to self-defense. For the background check system, he wants to reform it from scratch and make it work as intended, not expand upon the existing system, thus furthering its flaws. He also deserts dictation on what types of firearms citizens are allowed to own.
Though economic impact isn’t exactly an issue that affects millennials, mostly for its lack of short-run, punchy effect, it’s a facet that must be evaluated given its underlying statistics that affect lean from one side to another.
The Tax Foundation, a stereotypically conservative think-tank, evaluated Clinton’s tax proposal in Oct. 2016 with their Taxes and Growth Model. Their analysis found that Clinton’s plans as a whole will increase federal tax revenue by $1.4 trillion, but, taking into account the economic impact—decreased GDP, job reduction, lower wages and higher tax rates—the increase in revenue, with the checks and balances, truly ends up rising to only $663 billion.
For example, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), estimated that, with no policy changes (i.e., economic policies and spending remain the same as they are currently under the Obama administration), U.S. real GDP will grow by 19.2% from 2016-2025. However, with the changes proposed by Clinton, the Tax Foundation estimates GDP would end up decreasing from the CBO estimate by 2.6%, generating a net rise of 16.6%.
Similarly, the Tax Foundation study found that Clinton’s plan would take away 697,000 full-time equivalent jobs, also generating 2.1% lower wages, effects generated almost exclusively by the higher marginal tax rates on capital and labor income. In simple terms, the Tax Foundation finds that Clinton’s plan concurs with the theory that by raising taxes on the rich, those who are the most productive, innovative, and, thus, more successful in our society, increase in their tax levels will cause them to find tax loopholes to avoid paying higher tax rates in their income bracket, hence the economic impact. In sum, the Tax Foundation concludes that Clinton’s plan “would make the tax code more progressive overall, but would lead to lower after-tax incomes for taxpayers at all income levels,” even though her progressive tax measures focus on reducing tax income for just the wealthiest.
However, the Tax Foundation as a whole fails to present the deeply embedded, somewhat invisible, silver lining in Clinton’s plan. Economist Alan Cole from the Tax Foundation said that through the firm’s research outlines the catastrophe of Clinton’s policies, “’Disaster’ is probably not the right word” to qualify it. It’s still very much within the bounds of what the United States already looks like,” Cole said—though that doesn’t necessarily comfort critics of the current economic climate.
Nevertheless, Cole does admit that tax increases as part of the augmentation to a progressive tax code could pan out positively. The Tax Foundation’s figures “do not take into account what Clinton would do with the money raised by the new taxes,” he said. Investments in transportation and education could potentially stimulate the economy and cancel out any negative effects. “The cost of the tax increases could be worth it if that money is spent wisely,” Cole said.
The picture becomes even less clear when another study, done by the Tax Policy Center, found that Clinton’s plan would add nearly $1.1 trillion in revenue over the next 10 years, while Trump’s plan would reduce government revenue by $4.4 trillion over the decade. However, these figures do not take into account economic impact of how that revenue will be obtained and other economic health indicators (such as GDP, net jobs added or subtracted, etc.).
Regarding the debt, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, an independent, bipartisan non-profit that analyzes public policy, found estimates of debt effects from Clinton and Trump’s policies: Clinton’s plans adding $200 billion to the debt over the next decade and Trump’s plans adding $5.3 trillion. However, again, these numbers are based only on estimates and “exclude any economic impact.”
Thus, the dependence of policy on economic impact makes truly meaningful estimates for how the candidates’ policies on the debt, revenue and economic growth truly difficult to take to heart. Their nature as mere estimates, aside from context, mean they define little about a candidate’s pros or cons, though they are often used as evidence either way.
Arguing for the best candidate has no objective solidity, which I guess is why, frustratingly so, there are no objective politics. Either way, we’ll have to wait and see who will shape the country one way or another on Election Day.
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