At the First Presidential Debate, Historic Economic Confusion
first published in The Street |  Sep 27, 2016

There is a new phenomena rising in our economic ‎group think. Let’s call it “post-industrial economic confusion.”

Never has this been so on display as in this week’s presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. We reached an all-time low in terms of economic incoherence from both nominees. This is an economic phenomenon in itself.

Partly this may of course reflect the poor quality of candidates we have before us, but it also reflects something more — the rapid change in critical economic issues that these politicians have to grapple with and appear to have very little grasp of.

The most extraordinary element in it all is that while we are going through one of the most significant economic revolutions since the industrial revolution (the technology boom), neither candidate once mentioned the tech world and all it’s benign — and less benign — consequences.

Let’s start with Clinton. She told us the antique democratic cliche that she was going to raise taxes and everyone must be treated fairly. I guess she somewhere picked that up from Roosevelt — perhaps from the 1930s. No clear reason how or even exactly why we raise these taxes, in what format, how the money would be spent or what to do with deficit challenges. ‎She certainly did not distinguish say between the issue of monetary intervention versus fiscal intervention.

She then went on to tell us her experts could ensure us all quite definitively that her economic policies would be materially better than Trumps. She never told us why, or who these economic experts were or the basis of their analysis. In fact, as we all know, there is never consensus among serious academics on most macroeconomic issues.

What about Trump? He seemed to have just picked up the Idiots Guide to Friedmanite economics. So, he said let’s cut taxes and complained about the deficit. Still he never explained how tax cutting would reduce the deficit without massive expenditure cuts (back to Reagan’s voodoo economics). Then he slipped (by accident) into sounding like a Keynsian himself as he said he would spend heavily on infrastructure.