Contradictions in Campaigning

A look at some of the logical contradictions espoused by the presidential candidates.

There are policies that these candidates espouse that seem to contradict each other, mostly revolving around economics and trade and immigration.

Used to be, phone calls were routed by switchboard operators. Then we developed computerized switching. How is automation different than sending jobs overseas? The job losses are the same. The only difference is that in one case the money goes to equipment and other investments, and in the other case it goes to overseas workers and other investments. But to hear a politician tell it, we should have kept people on switchboards.

Or the argument that low-wage immigrants drive down wages for other workers. Yet often the same people argue against raising the minimum wage for precisely opposite reasons.

Or the subsidies arguments, that say we should subsidize education, health care, and prescription drugs far more heavily than we should try to lower costs. Why is that? Wouldn’t lowering costs be a more effective general strategy?

Or gas taxes. When the price of oil is high, it would hurt consumers too much to raise the gas tax. But now that prices are low, it would hurt producers. Apparently, we should just not care what the prices are and raise the tax as needed.

Or climate change. According to Marco Rubio, there are no laws to be passed that could mitigate climate change. But he also holds positions on trade policies. Amazingly, a trade deal can modify trade, but despite that, the changes in trade will have no result for pollution. It’s like they live in a world where nothing makes sense.

The media, for its part, does not seem to notice or care. Strict reporting of what was said is all that matters. Who cares what the words mean?! Sure, there are groups that fact-check the politicians, but why are there no logic checks?

It’s frustrating to watch Democratic supporters eating up trade policy that shares so much in common with folks on the Republican side of the equation. That’s not to say that free trade is perfect (indeed, there are many problems in the treaties), but it is to say that protectionist policies do not seem to reflect a deeper understanding of how to deal with trade dilemmas.

Instead of blocking free trade, the United States ought to be more supportive of its people so that we can work to improve trade (including being more aggressive on fair trade) without having to continuously run the calculus of whose domestic ox gets gored. Instead of subsidizing public college tuition, costs for education need to come down hard and fast (and likely will eventually through digital learning).

Which isn’t to say make-it-cheaper is universal: we can make drugs, healthcare, and education cheaper, but doing so with carbon fuels would be folly. There, we have to use a strategy of making clean fuels cheaper while subsidizing the use of carbon fuels in a way that minimizes their pollution. Tricksy.

No candidate has said much about automation. Big changes are coming to the world, courtesy of technology, and yet the 2016 election might as well be taking place in the 1980s for all the policies that come up.

At this rate, maybe by the election in 2032 they will start to address self-driving cars.


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