This is part two of my series of posts on Why I am voting third party. This is a long post that you may not agree with, so here is your trigger warning. Read at your own risk.
As I explained in my previous post, Donald Trump is a terrible person running as a terrible candidate with terrible policy ideas, nearly all of which I disagree with. I’m confident that his campaign has already been disastrous for the credibility of the Republican party and Christian churches in America, and a Trump presidency would provide disastrous for the country. On the other side you have one of the most seemingly qualified candidates ever to run. A two-term senator from New York, former first lady of Arkansas and the U.S., former secretary of state, and former runner up for the democratic nomination. She should honestly be winning by a landslide right now.
I’ve been a moderate-leaning-conservative for a long time, but given how strongly I oppose Trump, I could have easily seen myself crossing the aisle this election. If the final candidate had been Bernie Sanders, I would have had to have a serious talk with myself over it. Sure, many of his policy ideas were also pretty terrible, but I felt he was at least a candidate who appeared consistent and believed in the things he advocated. Instead we have Clinton, and so the post begins.
I’m going to do my best to give an honest evaluation of the current policies Hillary Clinton is advocating and my feelings on them. I’m going for a bird’s eye view here, because her platform is absolutely massive. Unlike Trump, Hillary also has a political history, a voting record, and a lot of emails that can be reviewed. I’m going to do my best to pull in some of that information as I go.
Hillary’s campaign has focused on a number of economic issues, but almost all of them are wrapped up in the idea of changing the tax code so that “the wealthiest and the largest corporations” end up paying “their fair share” in taxes. She’s serious about this. Really serious. Really super serious. Nearly every issue on her website she promises monetary outlays, and every one of those is to be paid for by taxing wealthy individuals and large corporations at higher levels.
The nonpartisan Tax Foundation did an assessment of Clinton’s tax plan last month. They found that the plan would lower GDP by 2.6%, lower wages by 2.1%, and cause the loss of 697,000 jobs. In return for this damage to the U.S. economy, they found that it would increase government revenue by $663 billion over the next decade. That equals out to roughly $66 billion annually, or about 2/3 of a Bill Gates. This number doesn’t mean a lot to me by itself, so I decided to give it some context by looking at the current federal budget of the United States and the current U.S. deficit. For fiscal year 2016, the U.S. planned to spend about $4 trillion. This includes $940 billion on social security, $585 billion on medicare, $350 billion on medicaid, and $650 million on “other mandatory programs,” which covers things like retirement income for federal employees and military personnel. We also planned to spend $1.2 trillion on discretionary programs, which includes $631 billion on defense and $563 billion on everything else you typically think of the government doing (food stamps, unemployment, housing assistant, NASA, the park service, education, humanitarian aid, infrastructure, and so on and so forth). Oh, we also planned to pay $283 billion in interest on the national debt. Much of this spending is already covered through existing taxes. Anything not covered is borrowed, and the total amount borrowed each year is referred to as the deficit. For fiscal year 2016, the congressional budget office estimated the deficit to be $590 billion. $66 billion a year is an incredible amount of money. If spending was kept at the same levels, this would reduce the annual deficit by 11%. So, given those numbers, I had to ask myself if it is worth the 697,000 jobs and an across-the-board decrease in wages of 2% to get that extra $66 billion. For you, that might be the case. For me, it isn’t. There are a number of reasons for this.
The first reason I don’t think Clinton’s plan is worth it is one of practicality. These extra taxes would actually have to be collected, and the wealthy are really good at avoiding paying taxes. Closing every loophole is impossible, and even if actually happened, the wealthy have the means available to them to move themselves and their investments elsewhere in the world. There’s a reason so many U.S. businesses are based in other countries. While thousands of people threaten to move themselves and their money to Canada every election year and never do so, the wealthy are actively moving money outside of the U.S. all the time.
The second reason this isn’t worth it to me is that the wealthy make a significant percentage of their money through capital gains, which is when they sell stocks and other investments for higher prices than what than they bought them for. Clinton’s plan ramps up taxes on capital gains across the board, but especially for investments held for short periods of time. Taxes on investments held for less than two years more than double from 15% to nearly 40%. While this does affect the wealthy, it also affects many in the middle class who dabble in the stock market, and it discourages investment because of it. It is perhaps for these reasons that the Tax Foundation estimated this particular part of Clinton’s tax plan would actually decrease revenues by $50 billion over 10 years.
A third reason this isn’t worth it to me is that Clinton already has plans in place to spend all of that extra revenue, and way more beyond it. Take her $275 billion infrastructure plan, her $60 billion clean energy plan, her $10 billion manufacturing plan, and her $50 billion youth employment plan. These are just the programs with definite numbers attached. Let’s take a look at one of her other platform planks: the issue of housing. This hasn’t gotten any media play during the election that I’ve heard. Yet here it is, on her website. One of the key policies she proposes is to offer to match up to $10,000 of a down payment for first time homebuyers. This is incredibly relevant to me as I’m about to purchase my first home…and I also work for a nonprofit that helps people purchase their own homes. I love the idea. The National Association of Realtors reported total home sales of 5,760,000 in 2015. They also reported that 32% of these were first-time home buyers. Do some math and you find that Clinton’s plan could have cost $18 billion last year. I realize that some people put nothing down and that this number is likely very high, but I also expect this would incentivize a lot more people to buy a home. Just this one tiny policy in her huge platform full of them has the potential to eat more than a quarter of the new revenue. I would love this policy, I would have taken full advantage of it, and other people would be paying for it. This is just one of the 7 or 8 policies she proposes on housing alone, and taking all of the together, I’m sure just this one issue could approach $20 billion. How the heck does she plan to offer a free community college education to everyone?
Clinton is promising to pay for all of these things with the money gained from increasing the taxes on the rich, but the money just isn’t there. I actually like some of these ideas. I’ve been worried for our infrastructure for years, and it only takes a few minutes of conversation with a sewer worker to discover how terrifyingly bad off we are. I really like the idea of promoting renewable energy. I think youth employment is a great thing to pursue. I like the idea of encouraging kids to pursue technical diplomas through community colleges. I think all of these could promote future growth, but I just have no idea where she plans to get the money to pay for them, and that feels incredibly irresponsible and deceptive to me. Oh geez, I’ve already said it. I was hoping I could at least make it through this first section without having to state my mistrust of Hillary Clinton, but now it’s on the table. You’re going to hear a lot more about that, so brace yourself.
This is a big one, so it gets its own post. I actually didn’t know what I really believed on minimum wage before writing this post. I had always wanted to take some time and really research it, so it’s been a fun one to write. It’s also the main reason this post took so long to put together…it was a lot of research.
Clinton states on her issue page concerning manufacturing that she wants to “Crack down on companies that ship jobs and earnings overseas and create incentives for companies to bring back jobs to the U.S.” That second part sounds great. Provide all the incentives you want. That first part sounds awful. I don’t support efforts that try to prevent companies from hiring foreign labor for identical reasons that I don’t support tariffs and I don’t support deporting undocumented immigrants. Namely, because higher wages nearly always lead to higher prices, which decreases the real effective income of everyone else in the economy. They also almost always lead to fewer buyer options and lower quality products in the long-run.
I know this sounds incredibly un-American. Arguing against “made in America” is tantamount to burning the flag or shooting an eagle or saying positive things about France. I agree that things made overseas are often of lower quality, especially in industries like electronics and accessories. I agree that losing American jobs is bad. However, maintaining artificially high prices for the sake of keeping U.S. jobs hurts the economy in its own ways. Anytime you remove competition, you remove incentives for businesses to actually meet the needs and wants of their customers. Look at Comcast, who suddenly decided it was time to invest in fiber in Atlanta shortly after Google Fiber came in. Look at Mylan, who raised the price of life-saving Epi-pens by 400% this past year and saw few consequences due to a lack of viable competition. Look at Verizon, who just this year significantly slashed the price of their mobile plans as other carriers began to gain more market share. Look at the Subway at the Peachtree Center Mall who finally decided to start making sweet tea, probably in large part because I asked about it every time I came and the Firehouse subs right next door offered it. Sure, some of this could be avoided by more regulation, but regulation often serves to reduce competition itself.
This all comes back to what I used to call the Walmart conundrum. They’ve done a lot to improve their image recently, including raising their minimum pay rate to $10. However, lots of people think Walmart is terrible. I think it can be objectively stated that it has treated its employees badly for most of its existence. It often leads to the closing of family-owned businesses. However, lots of people are obviously shopping there, or else it wouldn’t have had nearly half a trillion dollars in revenue last year. I’ve seen so many movements over the years urging people to shop elsewhere, but the fact of the matter is Walmart is extremely convenient in the variety of things it carries and it does often have the loweest prices on many items. Sure, many of these items are incredibly low quality, especially those generic kitchen accessories, furniture, and sporting goods. However, people still buy them. If you want a good knife, you go to William Sonoma. If you want a cheap knife, you go to Walmart. Some people can’t afford William Sonoma, and Walmart actually provides them with additional choices that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford.
I don’t like unions. I think they’re a blunt bludgenoning instrument that did great things for worker health and safety in the early 20th century but now primarily serve to increase labor costs, prevent competition, and otherwise add unnatural rigidity to labor markets. Having said that, my dislike of them is more philosophical than economic. I think they often have the effect of making members of a profession even more beholden to people in power (the union leaders) rather than empowering the individual worker. I think they’re prone to corruption and can cause massive inefficiency. Way before super-PACs were legal, unions were throwing around huge amounts of money and leveraging their influence to push through policies that may have been more for the union’s good than the good of the members they were meant to represent. Hillary strongly supports unions, so in this she and I disagree.
I will also fully admit this is one of my more blind viewpoints. I make every effort I can to have frank discussions with people on the other side of most issues, but I’ve thus far not found a lot of union members to talk to about their views. I never took a course in my economics program that focused on the economics of unions. I also fully admit that I have had relatively relaxed jobs throughout my professional career and have not had to stress about supporting a family or dealing with regulations or bad policies that directly affect my profession. I’d be willing to change this stance, but I honestly don’t even know where to start here.
I could actually get behind much of Clinton’s immigration plan. A lot of it aligns with my own feelings on the matter. The only thing I mainly disagree on is a bit convoluted. In a paid Wall Street speech, Clinton stated that her dream “is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, some time in the future with energy that is as green and sustainable as we can get it, powering growth and opportunity for every person in the hemisphere.” She clarified in a later debate that she was referring only to energy policy. However, I think this is a good point of clarification for me as well. I’ve argued at length that I am in support of immigration. However, due to the significant costs associated with our welfare programs, I am not in support of completely open borders. I am in support of huge numbers of worker visas as long as welfare restrictions are placed upon those. That said, I am in support of open trade. Tariffs are dumb.
As I stated in my post on Trump, I feel foreign policy is my weakest area of knowledge on how to evaluate a candidate. However, given Clinton’s history as Secretary of State, we have a unique opportunity to see ahead of time how a presidential candidate will conduct foreign policy. From this, Clinton looks incredibly pro-conflict to me, especially for a democrat. The New York Times featured a whole article about the topic.
I don’t know whose fault it is that Libya collapsed, but every source I read seems to tell the story as one of President Obama pushing for restraint and Secretary Clinton pushing for aggression. The New York Times gives a very piquant perspective on that decision in their exposé on the fall of Libya, saying:
This is the story of how a woman whose Senate vote for the Iraq war may have doomed her first presidential campaign nonetheless doubled down and pushed for military action in another Muslim country.
If the Times is to be believed, intervening in Libya turned out to be a catastrophe, with the failed state becoming a haven for terrorists a the death of president Gaddafi. Ripples of that failure spread out, leading to escalation of the Syrian civil war, increased terrorist activity in countries near and far, contributed to the growth of ISIS, and added to the foundation of the current refugee crisis. This of course, leads into the Benghazi situation, which I don’t want to go into detail on. I don’t know if it was directly Clinton’s fault or not, but it feels like she has to bear at least some responsibility for it. If nothing else, two former Secretaries of State seem to agree privately agree on that, and I think they probably have a decent perspective on the thing.
I can appreciate a bit of firmness in foreign affairs, especially with the recent aggression from Russia and North Korea. However, the extent to which I see that in Clinton is more than a bit concerning. Part of me wants to see something significant done in these situations, an intervention to assure U.S. security and influence. However, given the catastrophic results of the Iraq war and Libya intervention, I’m definitely far less interventionist than I used to be. I could be completely off base on Clinton’s hawkishness, but I haven’t seen her campaign do much to combat that perspective. In the end, I’m less concerned with Clinton’s foreign affairs perspective than I am with Trump’s, but I still feel very uncomfortable imagining her in charge of our military given her record.
I wish I had more time to cover this in depth, and perhaps I’ll return to it for further discussion on a later date. Suffice to say the economics of it are quite complicated, and my feelings on it are even more complicated. I liked the idea of the ACA initially. The goal was to expand insurance coverage, which is something I could get behind. Everyone knew it would increase premiums, and I was extremely wary of the extent to which that would happen. My premiums are increasing 5% this year. From talking with friends, it seems all of them are experiencing at least that, while many of them are facing double digit increases. While this is only anecdotal evidence, I would still call that excessive. I don’t know if there’s a good answer here, so I’m going to just say this doesn’t significantly affect my vote.
Hillary Clinton has official stances on a huge number of social issues. It’s actually pretty impressive how many she covers. These range from general policies such as affordable childcare and criminal justice reform to extremely specific provisions such as providing first responders with pharmaceuticals to reverse opioid overdose. I don’t have time to cover anywhere near all of them, but I’ll hit the high points that matter to me and seem to matter to other people.
As I said in my writeup on Trump, I don’t think gun ownership will ever be outlawed in America. I think a lot of the things democrats tend to fixate on, such as banning AR15 rifles, are simply to placate their base and will have few actual effects on gun violence. I don’t see anything excessive in Clinton’s official plans for this. She seems to be keeping it pretty minimalist. so I’d say this one is a wash for me.
In what is perhaps a first, from what I’ve read, Clinton seems to be in agreement with Trump about letting states decide on marijuana legalization. I’d prefer it to be legalized at the federal level, so I guess I disagree with her here.
Abortion is one of the most important moral issues to me. It’s a very complicated issue that I’ve written extensively on. Nearly 25 years ago, Bill Clinton ran on the belief that abortion should be “safe, legal and rare.” Clinton agreed with this view in 2008. I’ve actually looked back for years about that statement, because I think it’s probably the most productive approach that someone who supports abortion can take on the issue. Despite my complete opposition to abortion, that would have been a statement that I could consider productive. That said, the Hillary Clinton from 2016 doesn’t seem to fully agree with the Hillary Clinton of 2008. I’ve heard safe and I’ve heard legal, but rare seems to have vanished. It’s very obviously excluded from the issue page on her website.
I don’t know what that means. Perhaps Clinton has embraced the view of abortion as a means of population control. Perhaps she’s finally fully bought into the idea that a fetus is just a bundle of cells and therefore it’s entirely a women’s rights issue. However, one of her discussions about this issue in particular has continued to bother me. Back in April on an episode of Meet the Press, Clinton was asked about abortion. Reading through the transcript, Clinton said this:
My position is in line with Roe v. Wade, that women have a constitutional right to make these most intimate and personal and difficult decisions based on their conscience, their faith, their family, their doctor and that it is something that really goes to the core of privacy.
And I want to maintain that constitutional protection under Roe v. Wade. As you know, there is room for reasonable kinds of restrictions. After a certain point in time, I think the life, the health of the mother are clear. And those should be included even as one moves on in that pregnancy.
The unborn person doesn’t have constitutional rights. Now, that doesn’t mean that we don’t do everything we possibly can, in the vast majority of instances to, you know, help a mother who is carrying a child and wants to make sure that child will be healthy, to have appropriate medical support.
It doesn’t mean that you don’t do everything possible to try to fulfill your obligations. But it does not include sacrificing the woman’s right to make decisions. And I think that’s an important distinction, that under Roe v. Wade we’ve had enshrined under our Constitution
Well, under Roe v. Wade that is the law. And as I said, I support the reasoning and the outcome in Roe v. Wade. So in the third trimester of pregnancy, there is room for looking at the life and the health of the mother. Now, most people, not all Republicans, not all conservatives even agree with the life of the mother. But most do.
Where the distinction comes in is the health of the mother. And when you have candidates running for president who say that there should be no exceptions, not for rape, not for incest, not for health, then I think you’ve gotten pretty extreme. And my view has always been this is a choice. It is not a mandate.
I get that this was a live interview and things sometimes don’t come out clearly, but this is one of the worst conglomeration of viewpoints that I could imagine. As I covered in my post about abortion, the entire pro-choice argument depends upon the assumption that a fetus is just a fetus. It’s a clump of cells. It’s no more a full person than a cyst or a tumor is a full person. The fact that Clinton referred to a fetus as an “unborn person” and then goes on to say that it has “no rights” is just baffling. She also went on to discuss her vote against a bill that would ban late-term third trimester abortions, which take place after the baby has become viable. This discussion was echoed in the third presidential debate, in which she said she voted against the bill because it did not leave exemptions for the life of the mother, rape, or incest. The fact that she is willing to even consider a late-term abortion ban is encouraging to this pro-life supporter, but also confusing. If an unborn human doesn’t have rights, then why would she even consider banning late-term abortions at all? She received very vocal criticism from both sides on this statement, and for good reason.
To me, Clinton’s stance is completely incoherent and has no logical consistency. If she’s willing to ban late-term abortions as a concession to her opponents, then she should just say so. If she’s willing to ban it because she believes a viable “unborn human” should be given a chance at life, then she should just say so, and she should reconsider her views abortion generally. This is one of the few cases where I’m actually fine with people believing either extreme because it is somewhat required for consistency’s sake. She seems to believe a fetus is actually an unborn human, but one that has no rights…that it should be given a chance at life, but not in some cases…that it’s “one of the worst possible choices that any woman and her family has to make“…but is also just a routine medical procedure for women. All of this makes me feel like she’s trying to appeal to every viewpoint at once despite where her morality would carry her, and that is somewhat terrifying.
So, now we’re to the final topic. Having written everything I have, this one actually doesn’t need nearly the mass of text I was imagining. When it comes down to it, I think Hillary Clinton states the situation quite well in her Wall Street speeches, the contents of which were leaked through various channels:
politics is like sausage being made. It is unsavory, and it always has been that way, but we usually end up where we need to be. But if everybody’s watching, you know, all of the back room discussions and the deals, you know, then people get a little nervous, to say the least. So, you need both a public and a private position
I think this is the core issue, and is the reason why Hillary Clinton continues to be seen as untrustworthy. Despite her claims that she is running the most transparent campaign in history, there is still so much that goes unexplained. Despite the fact that she goes into great detail on 20+ issues in depth on her campaign site, the things she says in public (and private) seem to indicate that she may not actually believe these things. Even on issues that she seems to have a clear view, like abortion, the view itself is not always internally consistent and seems to be up for modification as needed. Part of me appreciates this…politics sometimes requires compromise. However, over and over I get the feeling that her actual objectives do not actually align with what she says. Granted, Trump’s don’t either, but I’m pretty sure I can just chalk anything he says up to self-aggrandization and personal advancement. With Clinton, I assume the end game is something similar, but the fact that I can’t be sure of that is disconcerting.
Along with her trustworthiness, I have serious concerns about her ability to run a modern nation. This doesn’t have anything to do with the foreign policy or economic or even social issues I mentioned earlier. This has solely to do with the fact that she’s of a previous generation and, in my opinion, has never been forced to modernize to such an extent as to be able to do what needs to be done. People have argued that it’s a stupid excuse, but the fact that FBI director Comey stated that Clinton wasn’t “sophisticated enough” to know she was risking national security is perhaps even more concerning to me than if it was intentional. As Politico put it, Clinton appears to be
a busy and uninterested executive who shows little comfort with even the basics of technology, working with a small, harried inner circle of aides inside a bureaucracy where the IT and classification systems haven’t caught up with how business is conducted in the digital age. Reading the FBI’s interviews, Clinton’s team hardly seems organized enough to mount any sort of sinister cover-up. There’s scant oversight of the way Clinton communicated, and little thought given to how her files might be preserved for posterity—MacBook laptops with outdated archives are FedExed across the country, cutting-edge iPads are discarded quickly and BlackBerry devices are rejected for being “too heavy”
The article is almost offensive in its tone, essentially describing Clinton as the proverbial out-of-touch grandmother in the ways of technology. It says that “according to multiple aides, [Clinton has] never even learned how to use a desktop computer.” Maybe it’s the fact that I’m a computer programmer, but having someone who doesn’t know what a mouse is in charge of nuclear launch codes, stealth bombers, and other such advanced technology feels a little concerning. It almost seems inevitable that her emails would be hacked, given the lax security protocol and adherence to highly outdated technology the article shows. From all this, Clinton’s assertion that she is “kind of far removed” sounds quite believable.
Combining all this with the evidence found on Reddit (the fact that the often liberal-leaning Snopes hasn’t denied it yet is telling, at least to me) and the recent discovery of additional emails, I’m torn. I’m quite convinced that someone high up in Clinton’s campaign asked for emails to be deleted or modified, but I’m not sure if it was her. If it was, I tend to agree with Comey, that she probably had no idea what that actually meant. In this case, I wonder about the trustworthiness and competency of her top advisors and employees. That said, ignorance does not a defense make, and if solid proof was found of illegal behavior, I think it needs to be searched out and an indictment issued.
Beyond this, there are plenty of incidents that just scream “corrupt” to me. You’ve got the multiple incidences of countries or their leaders donating money to the Clinton foundation and shortly after receiving contracts or preferential treatment. You’ve got large donors to the foundation receiving ambassadorships. I’ve tried to avoid bringing her husband into this, but you’ve got Former President Clinton meeting with Loretta Lynch on the eve of the investigation into Hillary’s emails. If Clinton really is trustworthy and aboveboard, she certainly seems to make a lot of stupid decisions that bring that into question. This is, of course, leaving out all of the issues surrounding the DNC coordinating with her in her defeat of Bernie Sanders, but I’ll cover that on my post for why I’m voting for the third party candidate himself. Suffice to say, maybe it was all the DNC’s fault, but I don’t see her pushing back on the “help” she was getting at any point.
Finally, I try not to buy into conspiracy theories, despite the host of them surrounding Clinton and her staff involving various deaths, connections to ISIS, and worse. The seemingly universal antipathy from many conservatives is astonishing, honestly. I don’t remember this much hate for John Kerry. It was all swift boats and “he’s a coward” and that was it. Sure, plenty of people saw muslim connections in Obama and there was the big birther movement that Trump himself was connected to, but this feels like something even more. The mistrust and loathing of both candidates this cycle seems to have reached a level unprecedented in recent history.
Where this leaves me
I was surprised at how many positives I found for Clinton while going through this. As I said earlier, this is the closest I’ve ever come to crossing the aisle. However, I still can’t bring myself to vote for her for a variety of reasons. While I like some of her economic ideas, I think she’s being misleading in her assertions that increasing taxes on the wealthy can generate enough revenue to cover the cost of them. I can’t agree with her stance on raising minimum wage without additional evidence that will not be available for another couple of years and I’m opposed to unions. I’m extremely nervous that her aggressive foreign policy would bring pain and suffering to people in places that don’t need any more of that, as well as tying our interests up in such places. I’m against her views on a few social issues, and am strongly against her incoherent views on abortion. I see significant character flaws that cause me not trust her and seriously doubt her ability to successfully navigate modern issues in a modern world. I also feel that she is corrupt to some extent. She came out better than I expected and it was a close thing, but in the end, I can’t vote for her.