Americans want to work.
Forget the name-calling, insults and conspiracy theories in this raw and ugly presidential race. Workers want jobs. Jobs where we can earn a decent living, send the kids to school, and save enough to retire.
We culled the speeches, websites and statements of Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican Donald J. Trump to compare their promises on economic issues.
Clinton is the daughter of a small business owner and granddaughter of a factory worker. She backs up her positions with white papers filled with details.
Trump got his start with an inheritance from his mega-millionaire real estate developer father. He says he's worth $10 billion. We can't know for sure because, unlike Clinton and previous presidential candidates for decades, Trump has kept his tax returns secret.
Trump's isn't a conventional candidate, and that endears him to his followers. That also means his positions on key issues aren't always clear.
Let’s use Social Security, a critical issue for all Americans, as an example of his “un-clarity.”
Trump On Social Security: Trump, hasn't said that he wants to privatize it as many Republican leaders propose. He has talked about leaving it alone and paying for it by cutting what he calls “waste.” That’s the common explanation for every Republican who wants to reduce costs for the wealthy and show a way to pay for it without appearing to hurt the average Joe (laugh out loud here!)
The Republican platform, however, says they "believe in the power of markets to create wealth and to help secure the future of our Social Security system." In no uncertain terms the Republican Party platform calls for PRIVATIZATION of Social Security: read that put it in the hands of “investment counselors” and open to the ups and downs of the stock market.
The two messages are contradictory and it's hard to tell what a President Trump would actually do with the Social Security safety net.
Clinton on Social Security: Her position is crystal clear – she will defend it against Republican privatization and enhance benefits for the poorest recipients. On keeping it solvent for the future, she says she will consider raising the Social Security tax on the wealthiest recipients.
Specifically, she clearly commits to:
• Fighting any attempts to gamble seniors’ retirement security on the stock market through privatization.
- Opposing reducing annual cost-of-living adjustments.
- Opposing Republican efforts to raise the retirement age — an unfair idea that will particularly hurt the seniors who have worked the hardest throughout their lives.
- Opposing efforts to close the system’s long-term shortfall on the backs of the middle class, whether through benefit cuts or tax increases.
Let’s now look at other bread & butter issues that impact the way we live.
Trump promises a “new era of prosperity” through building up infrastructure and getting rid of burdensome government regulations, cutting taxes for businesses and creating what he calls fair trade deals. NO DETAILS.
Clinton promises to make jobs a priority during her first 100 days. She would boost jobs through infrastructure projects. She promises the largest investment in jobs since World War II by building and modernizing roads, bridges and other repairs.
Clinton is more specific than Trump about the money: She promises $25 billion in federal “seed money” to unlock more than $250 billion for bridges and other construction, and another $10 billion toward scientific research and other innovations. She says she'll cut red tape for small businesses, helping them access to bank credit, and simplifying tax filing for small business owners.
First he said wages are too high: “... we are a country that is being beaten on every front,” Trump said during a GOP debate in November 2015. “Taxes too high, wages too high, we’re not going to be able to compete against the world.”
During an interview on Fox News a few days later, he did yet another about face, insisting that he never said wages were too high, just that the minimum wage should not increase.
Clinton says, “the middle class needs a raise.”
In sharp contrast to Trump, Clinton details her proposals to achieve her goal, including tax fairness, job creation and higher wages.
She calls for more robust and accessible training programs for 21st Century Technology that lead to good jobs and lifelong skills.
To help curb the decades-long trend of rising corporate profits and falling wages, she calls for a new business tax credit to reward companies that have profit-sharing plans.
“I want to make the economy work for everyone,” she says, “not just those at the top.”
Trump has said minimum wages are too high. At other times, he has said he wants to leave the minimum wage up to the states.
More recently, he has said he wants “great jobs” for workers so they won't have to depend upon the minimum wage. NO DETAILS
The federal minimum wage has remained at $7.25 an hour since 2009. Clinton wants to raise the minimum wage to at least $12 and has spoken out in favor of the fight to raise it to $15.
She supports the expansion of overtime rules to millions of more workers.
Trump has made no secret that he is courting the votes of blue collar and union members. He has joined the Screen Actors Guild.
Labor leaders point out that Trump's running mate – Indiana Gov. Mike Pence – has a long record of being in favor of free trade and against raising the minimum wage.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called Pence the “second worst” vice presidential pick in history. He calls the Republican ticket “the enemy.”
Clinton vows to restore collective bargaining rights for unions. She will defend labor against Republican attacks on workers' rights.
“I've always believed that when unions are strong, families are strong and America is strong,” Clinton says. “That is not a slogan for me. That is a statement of fact.”
Trump has a seven-point plan to change the U.S.'s trade policy.
He proposes protections against currency manipulation, tariffs against any countries that cheat unfairly by subsidizing their goods, and a renegotiation of NAFTA. “If we don't get a better deal, we will walk away,” he says.
Clinton and Trump have a similar message on trade. Essentially, it goes like this – “I'm for trade deals; just not these trade deals.”
Clinton says she doesn't want the U.S. “to cut ourselves off from the world” and that trade can “work for us.”
But she adds: "I will stop any trade deal that kills jobs or holds down wages – including the Trans-Pacific Partnership. I oppose it now, I'll oppose it after the election, and I'll oppose it as President."
Trump hasn't devoted much attention to higher education. The GOP platform proposes reprivatizing the student loan industry, which critics contend would raise costs to borrowers.
Trump also favors abolishing “all or part” of the U.S. Department of Education.
Clinton advocates free college tuition for most students and refinancing of college loans (at lower interest rates).
She has called for allowing most students to attend public colleges without having to pay tuition, though not the wealthiest students. Her "debt-free college" plan would drop tuition at public schools for students in families earning $85,000 a year or less, at first, with that threshold increasing to $125,000 by 2021.
Clinton goes beyond the usual mantra that a college degree is the only way to build a decent life financially. She proposes tax credits to companies that offer paid apprenticeships for trades like those of welders, machinists, computer coders, and health technicians.
“More than half of the jobs that are going to be available in 2020 do not require a college four-year degree,” she says.
Trump wants to give a tax deduction for child care.
Clinton criticizes this as aiding mainly the rich. Trump, she said, “would give wealthy families 30 or 40 cents on the dollar for their nannies, and little or nothing for millions of hard-working families” who don’t itemize their deductions.
Clinton wants to expand the existing child care tax credit, which allows middle-income parents to lower their federal tax bills by $1,000 per child.
Trump claims he would save “two million American jobs” by repealing the Affordable Care Act. That’s an old distortion of the Congressional Budget Office’s analyses, which found some workers would choose to work fewer hours or retire earlier mainly due to the insurance-expansion provisions of the law.
Clinton vows to defend and expand the Affordable Care Act, which has enrolled 20 million people. She wants to make enrollment in Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act easier. She says she will double funding for community health care centers.
At the GOP convention, Trump bragged that he has proposed the “largest tax reduction of any candidate who has declared for the presidential race. “Soon after, that plan disappeared from his website.
He proposed a new plan, which his advisors said would reduce the cost of his tax breaks only about one-quarter to one-third as much as his old plan, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
Trump's new plan cuts the top income-tax rate to 33 percent for personal taxes from the current 39.6 percent, and to 15 percent for corporate taxes from the current 35 percent. Not even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce seeks a corporate tax rate that low.
For the super-rich, Trump said he'd abolish all estate and gift taxes. Fewer than 5,000 wealthy Americans had to pay any estate tax in 2014.
Clinton opposes Trump's plan – because of the revenue losses, which are estimated in the trillions of dollars. And, she adds, because inequality is bad enough already.
She would increase taxes on the rich (incomes more than $2 million) and the very rich (incomes over $5 million.)
The independent Tax Policy Center estimates that her tax plan would raise about $1.1 trillion over 10 years – enough to pay for her proposed programs without blowing a hole in the budget.
Nearly all the new revenue would come from the top 1%. The bottom 95 percent of taxpayers would see no change in their taxes.
(This article has been carefully researched and written exclusively for the Labor Tribune by Michael Sorkin, award-winning investigative reporter now retired from St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He is a member of St. Louis United Media Guild [formerly the St. Louis Newspaper Guild].)