Shriver: The debate from an economist’s view


In what was talked up to be—and turned out to be —the most-watched presidential debate ever, Monday night’s debate at Hofstra University between Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton became a battle of personal achievements and failures slung across the candidates’ podiums. Moderator Lester Holt tried his best to keep both parties on track and specific, holding each accountable to answer the questions presented, and allowing little room to dance around, as so many viewers have grown accustomed to from both campaigns in past debates.

Now that the race is drawing closer to November, a decision is still floating ambiguously above the heads of voters. The candidates are forced to expand on policy and reform for our nation’s security, posterity and our economy, which they have failed to do in previous primary debates.

Right out of the gate, Hillary Clinton firmly made points on investing for the future, specifically saying that she would add jobs in high-knowledge industries. However, all future planning that Clinton has proposed describes a work force that involves high levels of skill, a market that will allow a small increase in employment, reserved for degrees in fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. These are degrees that the United States does not have a high abundance to hire from. The jobs that Clinton proposes are not those of the average American with a simple bachelor degree.

She also wants to tackle the issue of a “fairer economy” by “raising the national minimum wage.”  A policy to raise the minimum wage—although it might seem like a victory in the short run for low-income houses—will be devastating in the long run for the low and middle class, already being squeezed by taxation. We see in economics that if wages are to increase for the average worker, then companies will have to decide if average workers are worth keeping on for higher wages, which in in the past has led to job loss.

Donald Trump started his remarks as more of a warning to the American people. He said that “jobs are fleeing the country” and made points throughout the night that we should bring those jobs back. He said that no one in America has been fighting for our country’s citizens, but that it’s a fight he says is “winnable.”

Trump compared the United States to a piggy bank for China and other countries, and said that we have let ourselves be taken advantage of by these countries, resulting in job losses in the United States. He made the example of Ford leaving America to take assembly to Mexico. However, recent reporting shows that Ford is only moving assembly of the Ford Focus to Mexico to make room for a new model soon to be assembled in Michigan.

After the first portion of the debate, which lasted roughly 30 minutes, the personal attacks and “fluff” streamed in. It is obvious that the candidates can easily move the America people emotionally; otherwise, I do not believe either of them would have been at their podium last night. However, our citizens must be able to tell an economic plan or policy from a personal attack.

For the upcoming debates, I urge viewers to break down candidates’ answers into categories: What is factual, what is emotional? Are they presenting new ideas for policies and do they expand on the idea? A perfect example of this being Trump’s slogan “Make America great again.” Finally, will the idea or policy help or hurt the United States on a global level?

The following debates should help force the candidates to be specific about economic, monetary and fiscal policy. I believe both candidates can bring more to the table than what we have seen so far.