Pence squared off last night against Hillary Clinton runningmate, Tim Kaine in the first and only vice presidential debate of the campaign.
Kaine did an adequate job laying out Clinton’s plans for America, which the candidate has clearly articulated on her own on the campaign trail.
But aside from paper-thin slogans, Trump’s policy statements have been muddled and, at times, contradictory. Pence did his best to fill in the blanks, but couldn’t escape the broader implications of a Trump presidency.
In an eye-opening series of statements, Pence outlined a vision of the future under a President Trump built on military confrontation abroad and disenfranchising and criminalizing millions of residents at home.
Underpinning it all is an economic plan based on pie-in-the-sky policies that simply don’t add up.
In perhaps his most unnerving comment of the night, Pence said Trump favored military confrontation with Russia over Syria and the Russian-backed Assad regime.
The statement not only showed a naivete about foreign policy but is directly counter to United States policy through both Republican and Democratic administrations since World War II.
That policy is anchored by diplomacy and strong international alliances to deal with global challenges, not military confrontation between super powers.
Every time the nation has deviated from that policy, in Vietnam and Iraq, the result has been disaster.
Yet, Pence clearly stated that Trump wants to rebuild the armed forces to confront Russia militarily in both Syria and the Ukraine and China in the South China Sea.
President Obama has chosen the far wiser course both in the Middle East and in dealing with Russian aggression.
He’s used steady diplomatic pressure and tough economic sanctions to counter Russia. Clinton would continue to follow that course.
In the Middle East he’s using special forces to train and guide Iraqi forces, which are doing the bulk of the fighting. In Syria, he’s backing the Kurds and moderate rebel groups with air support, without putting U.S. troops in harm’s way in large numbers.
It’s unknown exactly what Trump would do. He’s yet to venture beyond jingoistic slogans.
His business conflicts in Russia, China and other adversarial nations are troubling and unknown wild cards.
His only comment so far on the Middle East is to express regret that we failed to “take” Iraq’s oil following the Bush administration’s 2003 invasion.
There has to be more to his foreign policy than making the region safe for Exxon-Mobil. But he has yet to articulate it.
Instead he’s vowed to send up to 30,000 troops into the quagmire of religious strife, kill the families of terrorists, ramp up torture and “bomb the hell out” of ISIS.
Pence assured viewers that Trump would “rebuild” our so-called “degraded military” without acknowledging that the nation’s armed forces are larger than the next 10 nations combined, including Russia, not to mention the most advanced.
The nation already spends 57 percent of the federal budget on defense. But the real fallacy of Trump’s bombast is his desire to build a military geared to fight the last war–not the next war.
He wants more military hardware and boots on the ground.
It’s a defense contractor’s pipe dream come true, at a time when the nation’s biggest threat is from asymmetrical warfare at home, abroad and in cyber-space against terrorists like ISIS.
What the military really needs is a major investment in special forces, intelligence and cyber capability, not planes, tanks and ships.
Where Trump’s vision really goes off the tracks is his how he plans to pay for everything.
So far, Trump has promised higher military spending, a generous family leave policy, a new health plan, eradication of illegal immigrants and major infrastructure investment without cuts in Social Security or Medicare.
On top of that, he’s proposing a multi-trillion dollar tax cut, that largely benefits corporations and the wealthy.
No matter how you slice it, the numbers just don’t add up. It’s pie in the sky–a Brooklyn Bridge of false promises.
Even under the best circumstances, the deficit will soar by trillions of dollars, leading to a recession, according to economists.
Trump, however, insists his plan will work because it will spur the economy.
He envisions a four percent average annual growth rate. The problem is, the economy hasn’t grown that fast since the post-World War II economic boom in the 1950s.
His economic plan is nothing more than the same trickle-down economics proposed by Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.
Both presidents premised large tax cuts on higher economic growth that failed to materialize.
As a result, deficits soared, leading to recessions. In the case of Bush, the downturn was the deepest since the Great Depression.
Trump’s promise to return manufacturing jobs to the United State is more pie-in-the-sky.
In today’s global economy, the cost of labor largely determines the ebb and flow of manufacturing jobs.
The fact is, the average manufacturing wage in Mexico is $2.60 an hour, compared with $22 an hour in the United States. And the gap is even larger with China and Southeast Asian economies.
That is the single biggest factor driving companies like Ford and other manufacturers to move production overseas. They must cut costs to complete globally.
Tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs are also being lost to automation.
No tariff or trade deal, no matter how favorable, can reverse that trend, despite Trump’s promises. Instead, his real plan is to drive down hourly wages in the United States by repealing the federal minimum wage.
The move would shift the power to set wages to the states. The upshot would be a devastating race to the bottom as states compete to attract businesses.
That will crush hourly workers while boosting the bottom line of major corporations, including Trump’s.
To save money, the GOP candidate has proposed cutting regulations and abolishing whole agencies like the Commerce Department, the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency.
But the savings won’t come close to off-setting the higher costs of his blue-sky proposals, according to economists–not to mention the cost to the economy in higher pollution and unsafe food and drugs.
Pence said Trump’s plan to allow unlimited production of domestic fossil fuels would also spur the economy. But it fails to take into account that oil and other fuels are global commodities.
Prices are determined by global demand and can easily be undercut by OPEC, the oil-producing cartel, as it’s done this year, curbing production of higher cost sources like tar sands and fracking.
Pence was also able to bring clarity to Trump’s domestic policies.
Under his administration, they would criminalize more than 16 million men, women and children who may or may not be in this country legally.
More than three million Muslim citizens, regardless of their view on ISIS or threat to the nation, would become criminal suspects.
His plan to deport every illegal resident and their families would cost more than $500 billion, without any guarantee home countries would take them back.
His proposal to build a wall on the Mexican border has been called “ridiculous” by the states that would supposedly benefit most from it.
Only a fraction of illegal immigrants come into the country across the border. Most simply overstay their visas.
His plan to overturn Roe v. Wade will turn women who seek abortions and doctors who perform them into a new class of criminals not seen since the 1950s.
His plan to impose racial profiling and stop-and-search policing to curb inner city crime will turn neighborhoods into virtual prison camps.
The policy has already been declared unconstitutional in New York City, where it had no effect on crime, according to the New York City Bar Association.
It cast a cloud of suspicion overwhelmingly on minorities, who made up 85 percent of the stops by the NYPD, the Bar found.
Pence may have been the more eloquent of the two candidates but beyond the pleasantries and homespun homilies, he painted a vision of Trump America and the world that would be far darker and more dangerous than today.
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