06 April 2016

Endorsing Hillary Clinton

In spite of all the criticism it has received, it is possible that the Republican Party is getting better aligned with the American people. Both the American people and the GOP establishment now agree that the GOP presidential candidates are awful.

Oddly, Trump's behavior has been so atrocious that it has distracted from what is most notable about this campaign: there are stark differences between the remaining candidates. Clinton very much represents a continuation of the status quo (her policies are the most like Obama's of any candidate), Sanders represent a serious move to the left, Cruz an even more serious move to the right, and Trump a serious leap into fantasy.

Cruz wants to get rid of the Environmental Protection Agency, for example. And the Education Department, the IRS, the Department of Commerce, and HUD - housing and urban development. In addition, he would eliminate another 25 agencies such as the corporation for public broadcasting, national endowment for the arts, and any agency attempting to regulate greenhouse gases or climate change. (If there were a Galileo of climate change, Cruz would put him under house arrest.)  And then he would cut government spending another trillion dollars a year.  His policies represent an unwinding of a century of change and a return to 1916 policies. Or perhaps 1816.

One simple way to think about Sanders proposals is that he simply wants to make our policies more like Europe's. A client I was talking with from Italy said that Sanders policies, while considered so liberal here, are what European candidates on even the furthest right agree on: universal healthcare, for instance, is not even questioned in Europe. I think that by the time millennials are my age - that is, in roughly a generation - most of what Bernie is proposing will be normal. About a century ago this country made a push to finance public education for K-12. It seems reasonable that university education has become as essential to a career now as high school education had become then and should be funded similarly. Bernie has a protectionist edge, though, that could reverse economic progress in poorer regions of the world. He has mentioned that fair trade probably means avoiding trade with countries where prevailing wages are lower than the US. The percentage of the global population living in absolute poverty (defined as $1 a day) has dropped by roughly 90% since the 1980s. This is a wonderful thing and refusal of the world's biggest economy to trade with any region poorer than ours could be a serious setback to this. Bernie's economic and military isolationism would better match a country the size of, say, Vermont, than the world's biggest economy. Eugene Debs ran as a socialist three or four times roughly a century ago. By one count he was wildly unsuccessful: he never came close to winning the presidency. By another count, he was wildly successful: so many of his policy proposals - like social security and women voting - were adopted. I think that Sanders will have a similar influence over future policies. GOP supporters are very old and Sanders supporters are very young. Many of his policy proposals do seem inevitable. But for now, the fact that Sanders tax plan would raise taxes on median household income by a startling amount (as in, I'm sure the average household would be startled by the fact that their taxes would go up by roughly $500 a month) is enough to doom his campaign.

And Trump's policies are simply incoherent. I've wondered if he's stupid or just hopes that 51% of the American people are but it seems increasingly clear that his mind is a dangerous waste. Unlike Cruz, Clinton, or Sanders, he hasn't really put forward any coherent policies that could be seriously analyzed. For this reason alone, he ought not to be seriously considered.

Hillary Clinton is easily the most sophisticated thinker in the bunch. She's the only candidate who seems able to include "if, then" considerations that include everything from nuanced policy considerations to the personalities of various world leaders. Her model of reality is as complex and rich with nuance as Cruz's model is simplistic and barren of details. Putting aside the fact that she's a centrist similar in many ways to her husband and Obama, one simple fact that is too rarely mentioned is that none of the candidates could begin to compare with her on an understanding of the latest research and policy options on issues as varied as climate change, child development, poverty, terrorism, Russia's geopolitics or China's economy.

For a host of reasons I support Hillary Clinton. I know the sophisticated thing to say is that I do so with reluctance but I do so happily. I think that, like Obama, Hillary is a wonderfully qualified and good person who we are lucky to have competing for our top office. Within the S and P 500, average CEO pay was $13.8 million in 2014.  We pay our presidents $400,000. About what a high-level corporate director can make. We are lucky to get someone of her caliber. Her model of the world is at least twice as sophisticated as that of her opponents. (It's worth remembering that the original IQ tests were developed to cut the population in half at 100. For every person with an IQ of 130, there is one with an IQ of 70. Half of all people are below average. Her intelligence is a definite plus for policy. It's not obviously a plus for politics. I suspect that quite a few people hear "blah, blah, blah" when she talks about the middle east or income inequality.)  Even if Hillary were only as good as the 17 men she has run against in this election, though, I would vote for her. Why? Even if all else were equal, it is time for a woman president. And of course Hillary Clinton is more than their equal.

What if she lived in a world where a girl
 could grow up to become president?
Who knew that about the 1950s?
Maybe the next time we elect a woman it could be someone just as smart - rather than twice as smart - as the men she is running against. It would be nice for girls growing up to think that they don't have to be twice as good to compete.

Finally, the big reason to do something dramatic - like vote for candidates who represent a huge departure from the status quo - is because things are terrible. After a record 66 months of uninterrupted job creation that has halved the unemployment rate and a tripling of the S and P 500 since March of Obama's first year, it's hard to make the argument that we're on the wrong path. Wages are rising now, as happens once the labor market tightens. We're on the right track even though we had to dig ourselves out of a huge hole left by the Great Recession. After the great economy we'd enjoyed under Bill Clinton, voters thought it was time for a real change in direction. Maybe this time it's worth staying with the policies that made things better, not worse. Progress moves more slowly than disaster but it's got a happier destination.

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