On Monday, August 8th and Thursday, August 11th, major party presidential nominees Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton gave talks on their proposed financial policies. Both were given in the Detroit area, which has been about the slowest and worst in the country at recovering from its mid-century manufacturing emphasis. The speeches were just as rusty.
And remarkably similar. Trump, as expected, spent most of his stage time criticizing Clinton and Obama, but Clinton went on almost as much about Trump. Both speeches were short on positive ideas. Both speakers seemed to advocate protectionism, to the point of asking for tariffs. Perhaps influenced by their local audiences, both said they expected to increase manufacturing. Each mentioned bolstering child care, with Hillary proposing making it “available” to everyone and Trump supporting tax deductions for it. Both talked about cutting regulations for businesses in the same general and nonlogistical way we have heard from all Republican presidential candidates and most of the Democrats since Ronald Reagan’s time. Both were also internally inconsistent. Clinton said, after asking for tuition-free university attendance, that “we’ve got to reverse what has become a kind of commonplace view, which is everybody needs to go to college,” and “it doesn’t help anyone to be trained for a job that doesn’t exist.” Trump said that “the rich will pay their fair share,” but spent several paragraphs asking for income and estate tax reductions benefiting primarily the wealthiest people. The two each asked for things actually destructive to employment, Clinton for raising the minimum wage and Trump for repealing Obamacare. And neither, most unfortunately, proposed enough to have a large positive effect on the number of American jobs.
There were, though, two glimmers of light. First, both Trump and Clinton said they wanted to comprehensively improve our infrastructure, paid for through a formal program for the latter and from regulation-cutting savings for the former. Second, both discussed changing the tax code to reward companies with headquarters, and jobs, in this country. They did not agree on exactly how to do that, but their ideas had great merit. If Congress can, indeed, rediscover bipartisan legislation, our next president should ask for their agreement in principle on that idea, and then have them work out specific proposals. To name just one more, if corporate income taxes included deductions for the number of American-based workers each company employed, we could raise the base rates while allowing labor-intensive firms to pay less than they do now.
That across-the-aisle cooperation is what we need more than anything. Even though I do not consider tax reform to be a comprehensive solution to our permanent jobs crisis, it would ease it more than anything Washington has produced these past seven-plus years. Given the state of our current presidential campaign, I would call that a large victory.