Mike and Co.,
The VP debate last night did not make much news on the economic policy front. Perhaps the most resonant moment of the debate came when Sen. Kaine drew the contrast between HRC’s “you’re hired” vision and Mr. Trump’s “you’re fired” trademark reputation. Kaine also started to scratch the surface on Mr. Trump’s unethical and potentially illegal business and political practices. We outline the most salient charges below.
Historically, VP debates have had minimal impact. Such news and impact as this one had we examine below, highlighting key stances taken last night and analyzing noteworthy digressions from previously-stated positions.
You can read an abridged version of the debate that covers the below issues here.
• Taxes — Pence Over-Compensates
Pence said the Republican plan calls for across the board tax cuts for “working families, small businesses and family farms” while the Democratic plan advances “a trillion dollars in tax increases.” When asked about how he would reduce the national debt, Pence cited the strong balance sheets of Indiana but failed to outline how the Trump platform would pay down the debt, instead saying that 3.5 to 4 percent growth under the Trump administration would allow for debts to eventually be reduced.
• Taxes / Kaine: Middle-Class Relief
Sen. Kaine described HRC’s tax plan as “tax relief to middle class individuals and small businesses and asks those at the very top who’ve benefited as we’ve come out of recession to pay more, by contrasted with his opponents’. Theirs is designed to benefit wealthy individuals, including Mr. Trump himself, Kaine charged, equating the GOP plan to Bush’s tax cuts that put our economy in to a recession ten years ago. Sen. Kaine pointed out that Donald plan gives the middle class zero in tax relief.
• Jobs / Pence Urges Tax Cuts
Pence did not spend a lot of time talking about jobs, what sectors growth would come from, or how re-negotiated trade deals would put Americans back to work. Instead, the logic used consistently throughout the debate relied on the standard GOP rationale: decrease taxes on the wealthy, let them generate growth, and the jobs will follow. Pence did criticize the Obama administration of a “war on coal” — an explicit appeal to blue collar swing voters in battleground states (Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania).
- Jobs / Kaine: Fair Growth
Repeating HRC’s aspirations for a fair economy, Kaine called for raising the minimum wage (without listing a number) and equal pay for equal work. With the ability to use past voting records, he noted Pence voted against raising the minimum wage above $5.15 when he was in Congress and has stood against increases in Indiana. This is meaningful because Trump has said he would not raise the federal minimum wage. When Pence tried to tie HRC to the failed policies of the Obama Administration, Kaine successfully defended the state of the economic recovery by citing the creation of fifteen million new jobs, decreased poverty levels, and an increased median income.
• Spending / Pence: Status Quo
Pence did not list any investments other than in the military and in our nuclear arsenal throughout the entire debate. He did suggest the government should make several discretionary spending cuts, most notably to Obamacare healthcare subsidization, but even these positions were vague. On the mandatory side, he vowed to keep promises with American retirees to pay for Social Security and Medicare, without giving any specific ways to reform their long term solvency. Like during national debt deliberations, Pence relies on economic growth to boost government coffers and pay for these entitlement programs. The notion that reduced taxes would increase government revenues has never been accepted by mainstream economists and should remain the main rebuttal to this argument.
•. Spending / Kaine Details Positions
Kaine outlined investments a Democratic administration would make in manufacturing, infrastructure, research and education. He went beyond HRC’s promise in the first debate to deliver debt-free college, instead calling for “tuition-free college for families that make less than $125,000 a year.” Questions in the coming days on any perceived disparity between the principles’ policy positions.
On Social Security, Kaine promised to defend the public nature of the program; he suggested increasing the payroll tax cap as a possible mechanism for keeping the program solvent. This position has not been clearly endorsed or refuted by the HRC campaign. Ambiguity on these questions is receiving attention.
Trump Inc. and Foundation
Kaine described the Trump Organization as “octopus-like” with tentacles that reach all over the world, including Russia. Kaine pointed out that Trump Foundation dollars have been spent on a political campaign for a Florida attorney general, an allegation many in the media view as true. Pence largely ignored these claims and did not take the bait, instead defending Mr. Trump more broadly as being a strong businessman.
Kaine here refers to one of several allegations. Five of the principal allegations raised, are listed as described or distorted in the media below:
ALLEGATION 1 | Trump claimed the perhaps the largest personal income tax loss to avoid paying taxes, bilking Uncle Sam of almost $1 billion over 18 years
ALLEGATION 2 | Trump has solicited international contributions to his 2016 presidential campaign
ALLEGATION 3 | Trump gave Granny a haircut (and took her savings) when he went bankrupt
ALLEGATION 4 | Trump’s Foundation broke the non-profit minimum payout rule
ALLEGATION 5 | Trump attempted to influence public office holders with cash, the FLA AG only the most recent of a lifetime pattern if not practice.
We will likely return to these charges and explore in more depth which of these are true, which can be grasped by undecided voters, which are damning, and which may have legitimate political and legal implications for the GOP nominee.