I’m the guy who made Democracy 3, a political strategy game. Not surprisingly I’m a politics geek. Politically, I’m probably pretty centrist. More right wing economically, more left wing socially. very Green. Now I’ve got that out of the way, and the extremists have stopped reading…here we go.
I have never in my life watched a US presidential debate live. Last night, I stayed up till 4AM to watch Clinton vs Trump round two. I read a LOT about politics, including US politics. I understand the issues and the references. i know the history, I know the characters involved. I was NOT prepared.
I’m from the UK, a relatively small country. The US has a population of 324,000,000 people. Out of that staggering number, the only choices are a billionaire(he claims) reality TV show star and the wife of one of the previous presidents. How is this possible? how is the bar set so low, how bad is US politics that these are the choices?
The thing that really depressed me about the debate was actually not just the lies (there were lots) or the avoiding the question, or the accusations of rape (yes really) or the semi-fascist claims that if candidate A won they would imprison candidate B (not put them on trial, not let justice take its course, not allow a jury to decide…nope.. ‘they would be in jail’). The thing nobody seems to be talking about is policy. It was a policy free debate. Totally. it was like people campaigning to be the star of a TV show, all personality, all character, no damn clue how to run the country, or what should be done.
Describing a policy as ‘beautiful’ is a waste of words. Describing a tax plan as ‘amazing’ is a waste of words. Don’t panic…I have done the homework for you (very) briefly. Here are the noticeable 9to me) bits of the tax plans:
Clinton: (src: candidates website)
An extra 4% tax charged on people earning more than $5milllion per year.
Ensure that people earning over $1million a year pay at least 30% effective tax rate.
Trump: (src: candidates website)
People earning under $75k pay 12%.
$75k to $225 25%
Business tax cut from 35% to 15%.
Inheritance tax abolished.
You probably have more sympathy with one of those than the other. Thats fine. Thats how it is supposed to work. And issues like that (I just picked tax as an example) is how elections should be decided. Issues, Policies, these are what matter. Nobody is voting for their best friend. You aren’t going to hang out in a bar with the president, they get to make policy decisions. Given a choice, I’d rather hang out in a bar with GW Bush than Al Gore, Bush would be hilarious. Given a choice between which of the two picked environmental policies… then its a different matter.
As someone who literally makes a living from designing a complex simulation of how politics and economics work, I KNOW that its not a simple matter of tax plans. Tax plans affect government income which affects education, healthcare provision, defense and so on and so on. The trouble is…this NEVER comes up.
I would love to see a big spreadsheet or pie chart showing how Donald Trump thinks taxes should be raised and revenue spent. I would love to see the same for Clinton. This is not technically hard. You present both candidates with a simplified breakdown of the current US income and expenditure and ask them to list the top 50 changes they would make. Then those are presented (after being fact checked by economists) to people for them to make a dispassionate choice on. I want to see the TV debate version of this amazing chart:
No tax plan/policy is ‘beautiful’ or ‘amazing’. One persons ‘fair share’ is another persons company-wrecking punitive tax. One persons bloated government waste is another persons vital lifeline. The issues cannot be boiled down to petty mud slinging and TV charisma. The candidates have disagreements over what POLICY decisions should be taken. Forget the personal bullshit, lets have a 90 minute prime time TV program where the only thing that gets discussed is (fact-checked) firm policy proposals.
In my dreams.
Good luck America. You need it.