Beyond all of the bluster in this campaign, a clash of ideas is also at work, with consequences for nearly all Americans and plenty of people around the world. Here is a look at the numerous policy differences between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, in alphabetical order.
WASHINGTON — This is a presidential campaign about trust, temperament, honesty, judgment, character and personality.
It has been marked by Donald Trump’s ballistic-missile tweets in the middle of the night. It’s enlivened by the spectacle of Hillary Clinton’s campaign innards spilling day after day into public view, quite a WikiMess.
But beyond all of the bluster in this campaign, a clash of ideas is also at work, with consequences for nearly all Americans and plenty of people around the world.
Who’s really going to bust the budget — Trump with his big tax cuts or Clinton with her big spending?
Which is safer for Americans — Trump’s iron-border, restrictive refugee policy or Clinton’s more open stance, centered on enlisting more Muslim Americans in the defense against extremism in their communities?
Who will spur energy independence and how — Clinton with her faith in renewable sources and measured support for fracking or Trump with his roaring conviction that coal country can rise again?
Trump’s conservative credentials are suspect to many supporters, and his behavior in the campaign troubling. But the near certainty that he would put forward more conservative Supreme Court nominees than Clinton is enough to keep them on board, because the high court could well have more impact on abortion rights, gun rights and immigration than any president could. Trump foresees the end of the constitutional right to abortion if he wins and gets to seat several justices; Clinton likewise makes clear she would try to shape the court to reflect her support for abortion rights and more.
Clinton proposes steps to pay for at least some of her spending, but that depends on a Congress willing to slam the rich with higher taxes, an iffy proposition. Trump talks as if the constitutional division of powers doesn’t exist, ignoring not only Congress but at times the courts — not to mention international norms — in vowing to restore the illegal interrogation practice of waterboarding, rip up trade agreements and more.
Neither candidate is easy to pigeonhole on policy, apart from the fact that Clinton is clearly more liberal.
Trump departs from Republican tenets in his vow to protect entitlement programs such as Social Security, shrink from foreign entanglements and open spending spigots in other areas, like child care and college costs, where conservatives think austerity should be exercised.
He’s not a tidy conservative by any means, nor even consistent with himself, having reshaped central planks of his platform during the campaign. The multiple variations of his proposed restrictions on Muslim entry into the United States have left obscured what he truly intends to do.
Clinton has a Senate voting record and a deep stack of policy papers. But the hacked campaign emails made public by WikiLeaks reinforce what has long been thought about her — that how she leads might be driven more by political calculation than conviction. She had a friendly message to Wall Street in handsomely paid, private speeches that she refused to release on her own, and a harsher one tailored for campaign consumption.
Trump’s supporters may agree with him that this is not the time to sweat the details, but as president he would owe the country truly secure borders. He owes the country an influx of jobs to replace those that left the country. He, like Clinton, would be judged on whether he makes good on starting up super-expensive promises to repair roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
Among Clinton’s IOUs: Government-paid in-state tuition at public colleges and universities for students from families earning less than $125,000 a year. A commitment for the United States to generate enough renewable energy to power every home within 10 years. A national minimum wage of $12 or more, up from $7.25. Twelve weeks of government-paid family and medical leave, guaranteeing workers two-thirds of their wages up to a certain amount.
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Here is a quick, alphabetical look at the numerous policy differences between Clinton and Trump:
Trump, in the third and final presidential debate, said he would appoint justices open to overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a nationwide right to abortion. Clinton vowed to appoint justices who would uphold that ruling, saying, “We have come too far to have that turned back now.”
CHILD CARE/PAY EQUITY
Clinton wants a 12-week government-paid family- and medical-leave program, guaranteeing workers two-thirds of their wages up to a certain amount. Trump proposes six weeks of leave for new mothers, with the government paying wages equivalent to unemployment benefits.
Both candidates propose tax relief for child-care costs. Trump’s plan provides for a new income-tax deduction for child-care expenses, other tax benefits and a new rebate or tax credit for low-income families. Clinton says no family should spend more than 10 percent of its income on child care. She would double the child tax credit for families with children 4 and younger, to $2,000 per child.
Tensions have been rising over China’s assertive behavior in the seas of Asia. The United States also accuses China of unfair trading practices and cyber theft of business secrets.
Trump says that the sheer volume of trade gives the United States leverage over China. He accuses China of undervaluing its currency to make its exports artificially cheap and proposes tariffs as high as 45 percent on Chinese imports if Beijing doesn’t change its behavior. Such action could risk a trade war that would make many products in the United States more expensive.
Clinton says Washington needs to press the rising Asian power to play by international rules, whether on trade or territorial disputes.
While many of China’s neighbors are unnerved by its military buildup, the wider world needs the United States and China to get along, to tackle global problems. The United States and China are also economically interdependent, and punishment by one party could end up hurting the other.
Clinton says climate change threatens us all, while Trump repeatedly tweets that global warming is a hoax.
From May 2015 to August 2016, 16 months in a row set records globally for heat, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Scientists have connected man-made climate change to deadly heat waves, droughts and flood-inducing downpours. Studies say climate change is raising sea levels, melting ice and killing coral. It’s making people sicker with asthma and allergies and may eventually shrink our bank accounts.
Trump calls attempts to remedy global warming “just a very, very expensive form of tax.”
Clinton proposes to spend $60 billion to switch from dirty fossil fuels to cleaner energy. She promises to deliver on President Obama’s pledge that by 2025, the United States will be emitting 30 percent less heat-trapping gases than in 2005.
The federal government is borrowing about one out of seven dollars it spends and steadily piling up debt — to the tune of about $14 trillion held by investors.
Most economists say rising debt risks crowding out investment and forcing interest rates up, among other problems. At the same time, rapidly growing spending on federal health-care programs like Medicare and the drain on Social Security balances caused by the rising tide of baby boomers could squeeze out other spending, on roads, education, the armed forces and more.
It takes spending cuts, tax increases or both to dent the deficit. Lawmakers, instead, prefer higher spending and tax cuts.
Neither Clinton nor Trump has focused on the debt.
Trump has promised massive tax cuts that would drive up the debt and he’s shown no interest in curbing expensive benefit programs like Medicare.
Clinton, by contrast, is proposing tax increases on the wealthy. But she wouldn’t use the money to bring down the debt. Instead, she’d turn around and spend it on college-tuition subsidies, infrastructure and health care.
Clinton wants to make preschool universal for all 4-year-old children within 10 years by providing new federal dollars to states. Trump proposes to spend $20 billion during his first year in office to help states expand school-choice programs. He wants states to divert an additional $110 billion of their own education money to help parents who want their children to go to other schools.
Domestic production of all types of energy except coal has boomed in recent years, spurred by improved drilling techniques such as fracking and discoveries of vast oil supplies in North Dakota and natural gas in states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York and West Virginia.
Clinton vows to continue the boom while ensuring the United States generates enough renewable energy to power every home in America within 10 years.
Trump vows to “unleash American energy,” allowing unfettered production of oil, coal, natural gas and other sources to push the United States toward energy independence and create jobs.
Both Clinton and Trump support natural gas, a cleaner alternative to coal. Trump calls for rescinding the Clean Power Plan, a key element of Obama’s strategy to fight climate change. Clinton is committed to Obama’s climate-change goal of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by up to 30 percent by 2025.
Do Americans have the right to have AR-style firearms, the long guns with a military look used in the past year in several mass shootings? Should they be able to buy magazines that hold 10 or more bullets? Should every gun buyer have to pass a background check?
Trump casts himself as an ardent protector of gun rights and proclaims that if more “good guys” were armed there would be fewer gun tragedies. He’s made fealty to the Second Amendment a quality he wants in Supreme Court nominees.
Clinton wants to renew an expired ban on assault-type weapons instituted when her husband was president. She’s also called for measures to ensure background checks are completed before a gun sale goes forward, mandating such checks for gun-show sales and repealing a law that shields gun manufacturers from liability.
Millions of people previously shut out have been covered by Obama’s health-care law. No one can be denied coverage anymore because of a pre-existing condition. But “Obamacare” remains divisive, and premiums for next year are rising sharply in many communities. As well, some major insurers are leaving the program.
Whether Americans would be better off trading for a GOP plan is another question. Recent studies found Trump’s proposal would make 18 million to 20 million people uninsured. GOP congressional leaders have a more comprehensive approach, but key details are still missing.
Overall health-care spending is trending higher again, and prices for prescription drugs — new and old — are a major worry.
Medicare’s insolvency date has moved up by two years — to 2028.
Clinton would stay the course, adjusting as needed. Republicans are united on repealing Obama’s law, but it’s unclear how they would replace it.
Radical Islamic extremism has inspired a series of deadly attacks on U.S. soil, shaking the American psyche and leaving the presidential contenders at odds over how to respond.
Trump has proposed various means of choking off a terrorist influx, though that would do little to stop self-radicalized Americans.
Clinton says that Muslim Americans help the struggle against homegrown extremism because they can prevent young people from joining jihadis and notify authorities when they suspect radicalization.
She’d prohibit people on terrorist watch lists from being able to buy weapons.
Trump at first pledged to deport the estimated 11 million immigrants in the country illegally. Not only that, he’d build a wall along the Mexican border. But his position has evolved. He’s sticking to his vow to build the wall and make Mexico pay. But he’s no longer proposing to deport people who have not committed crimes beyond their immigration offenses. Still, he’s not proposing a way for people living in the country illegally to gain legal status.
Clinton, in contrast, would overhaul immigration laws to include a path to citizenship, not just legal status.
Illegal immigration has been at nearly 40-year lows for several years. It even appears that Mexican migration trends have reversed, with more Mexicans leaving the United States than arriving. Billions of dollars have been spent in recent years to build fencing, improve border technology and expand the Border Patrol.
Income inequality has surged near levels last seen before the Great Depression. The average income for the top 1 percent of households climbed 7.7 percent last year to $1.36 million, according to tax data. That privileged sliver of the population saw pay climb at almost twice the rate of income growth for the other 99 percent, whose pay averaged a humble $48,768.
Clinton has highlighted inequality in multiple speeches. She hopes to redirect more money to the middle class and impoverished. Clinton would raise taxes on the wealthy, increase the federal minimum wage, boost infrastructure spending, provide universal prekindergarten and offer the prospect of tuition-free college.
Trump offers a blunter message about a system “rigged” against average Americans. To bring back jobs, Trump has promised new trade deals with better terms, greater infrastructure spending than Clinton foresees and tax cuts that he says would propel stronger growth (though independent analysts say his budget plans would raise deficits).
A recent report by the American Society of Civil Engineers projects the United States will face a $1.4 trillion funding gap for its infrastructure by 2025.
Clinton wants to spend $250 billion over the next five years on public infrastructure and direct an additional $25 billion to a new infrastructure bank to help finance local projects. Trump has said he wants to spend at least double that amount on infrastructure, financed with bonds. Whoever becomes president, it’s a staggering amount of money for the federal treasury to put out — if Congress goes along.
Last year’s nuclear deal with Tehran has significantly reduced for now the threat of a U.S.-Iranian military confrontation. The accord curtailed Iran’s nuclear program, pulling it back from atomic-weapons capability in exchange for the end of many economic sanctions.
As secretary of state, Clinton helped lay the groundwork for the pact. She supports it, while taking a generally tougher tone on Iran than Obama.
Trump contends that he can renegotiate its terms.
Both are prepared to use force to prevent Tehran from acquiring the bomb. If the deal collapses or expires without sufficient safeguards, that possibility is back in play.
ISLAMIC STATE GROUP
The Islamic State group (ISIS) seized swaths of land in Iraq and expanded its territory in Syria in a dramatic blitz in 2014.
Clinton’s plan to deal with the ISIS threat abroad and at home mostly embraces what Obama is doing. Trump has vowed relentless bombing and expressed support for enhanced interrogation techniques.
Tepid income growth and a smaller share of the population at work have kept many Americans anxious about jobs and the economy, seven years after the Great Recession ended.
And most jobs that pay decent wages require more education than in the past, leaving many workers feeling left behind.
Trump says he would cut regulations and taxes to spur more hiring, and renegotiate or withdraw from trade agreements to bring jobs back to the United States.
Clinton says she would spend more on roads, tunnels and other infrastructure and make state colleges and universities tuition free to most students.
Same-sex marriage is now the law of the land, but there are other battlegrounds related to civil rights and nondiscrimination protections for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people. Two polarizing questions: What sort of access should transgender people have to public bathrooms? And are the advances for LGBT rights infringing on the religious freedom of some Americans?
Clinton would probably press efforts to bolster transgender rights.
Thus far, federal judges have generally been unsympathetic to arguments that certain types of anti-LGBT discrimination are permissible if in accordance with a person’s religious beliefs. Trump has told conservatives he’d place a high priority on religious liberty.
Clinton supports raising the minimum wage at least to $12 an hour, even higher at state and local levels. Trump has said he supports an increase to $10 but thinks states should “really call the shots.” It’s $7.25 now.
The typical household’s income has fallen 2.4 percent since 1999. Low-paying industries, such as retail, fast food and home health-care aides, are among the largest and fastest-growing. And many low-wage workers are older, have families and are probably more willing to demand higher pay.
Trump says the United States can put more pressure on China to rein in its North Korean ally. He says he is willing to meet the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un.
Clinton wants the world to intensify sanctions against North Korea, as the Obama administration did with Iran, a course that eventually opened the way for a deal to contain its nuclear program.
More than 28,000 Americans died from overdosing on opioids in 2014, a record high for the nation.
A rise in prescription painkillers is partially to blame: The sale of these drugs has quadrupled since 1999, and so has the number of Americans dying from an addiction to them. When prescriptions run out, people find themselves turning to the cheaper alternative, heroin, and, increasingly, the even more deadly drug, fentanyl.
Trump says the wall he wants to build along the southern border is essential to stopping the flow of illegal drugs into the country. Clinton pledges to spend $10 billion to increase access to prevention, treatment and recovery services, among other things.
RACE AND POLICING
Since the death in 2014 of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., the sharing of video-recorded deaths of African Americans at the hands of law enforcement has sparked unrest in many cities around the country and prompted calls for additional training and more monitoring of police forces.
Clinton has offered specific proposals, including legislation that would help end racial profiling, providing federal matching funds for more police body cameras and overhauling mandatory minimum sentencing.
Trump has described himself as the “law and order” candidate and has not specifically addressed plans on race and policing. He endorsed a former New York City police policy called “stop and frisk” after unrest in Charlotte, N.C., over the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott.
With millions of Syrians displaced by a yearslong war and hundreds of thousands of people fleeing to Europe, countries around the world are being pressed to help resettle people seeking refuge.
The United States pledged to accept 10,000 such refugees by the end of the budget year in September and did so, a month early.
Republicans have balked at the idea of allowing people from Syria into the United States, and Trump has called for a halt on refugee resettlement for them. He says vetting of these refugees is inadequate.
Clinton has pledged to expand the Syrian refugee program and allow as many as 65,000 such refugees into the United States.
ROLE OF GOVERNMENT
Trump favors cutting regulation and has promised massive tax cuts, but his plans are expected to add trillions to the national debt. Unlike most conservatives, he supports eminent domain and has spoken positively about government-run health care. Clinton has vowed new spending on education and infrastructure that could grow government, and strongly supports “Obamacare.”
Polls have found Americans generally feel frustrated by the federal government and think it’s wasteful. A smaller government sounds good to a lot of people until they’re asked what specific services or benefits they are willing to do without.
Russia is reasserting itself, posing vexing questions for the U.S. and presidential candidates split on Vladimir Putin. It’s also apparently poking its nose into the election — blamed by the United States for hacking Democratic Party emails.
Russia is militarily involved in Syria and supports separatists in eastern Ukraine and areas of Georgia. At the same time, the United States has been forced to accept that working with Russia is probably the only way to achieve results on many complicated international issues. Thus, Russia was central in the Iran nuclear negotiations and is a player as well as negotiator in the Syria truce effort.
Trump advocates improved relations with Russia and has been strikingly complimentary of Putin’s authoritarian leadership style.
Clinton has had direct negotiating experience with Putin and his aides and that has left her wary of cooperating with Moscow. She promises to stand up to Putin and deter Russian aggression in Europe.
The trustees who oversee the program say it has enough money to pay full benefits until 2034. But at that point, Social Security will collect only enough taxes to pay 79 percent of benefits. Unless Congress acts, millions of people on fixed incomes would get an automatic 21 percent cut in benefits.
Clinton has proposed expanding Social Security benefits for widows and family caregivers. She says she would preserve Social Security by requiring “the wealthiest” to pay Social Security taxes on more of their income. Trump has promised not to cut Social Security. He’s suggested he’d revisit the program after his tax-cut plan boosts economic growth.
Student debt now totals around $1.26 trillion. Out of the 43 million Americans with student debt, roughly 16 percent are in long-term default — a potential hit in excess of $100 billion that taxpayers would absorb.
Clinton proposes no tuition for students from families making less than $85,000 who go to an in-state, public college. That threshold would rise to $125,000 by 2021. Trump promises to cap payments at 12.5 percent of a borrower’s income, with loan forgiveness if they make payments for 15 years.
The court has been operating with eight justices since Antonin Scalia died in February. The court is split between four Democratic-appointed, liberal justices and four conservatives who were appointed by Republicans — although Justice Anthony Kennedy has sided with the liberals on abortion, same-sex marriage and affirmative action in the past two years.
The ninth justice will push the court left or right, depending on whether Clinton or Trump becomes president. Obama has nominated Merrick Garland to take Scalia’s seat, but the Republican Senate has refused to consider Garland’s nomination, in an effort to prevent a liberal court majority.
Trump is intent on cutting taxes. He’d collapse the current seven income-tax brackets, which peak at 39.6 percent, into just three tiers with a top rate of 33 percent, slice the corporate income tax and eliminate the estate tax. Analysts say the wealthy would benefit disproportionately.
Clinton is proposing tax increases on the rich, including a minimum 30 percent tax on incomes over $1 million and higher taxes on big inheritances. Most taxpayers would see little or no impact on their tax bill, but the government might look different. She’d use the added revenue to expand domestic programs.
Many American voters are skeptical about free trade — or hostile to it. The backlash threatens a pillar of U.S. policy: The United States has long sought global trade. Economists say imports cut prices for consumers and make the United States more efficient. But unease has simmered, especially as American workers faced competition from low-wage Chinese labor. Last year, the United States ran a $334 billion trade deficit with China — $500 billion with the entire world.
Clinton broke with Obama by opposing an Asia-Pacific trade agreement that she had supported as secretary of state.
Trump vows to tear up existing trade deals and to slap huge tariffs on Chinese imports.
But trade deals have far less impact on jobs than forces such as automation and wage differences between countries. Trump’s plans to impose tariffs could start a trade war and raise prices.
Clinton has pledged to ensure veterans have access to timely and high-quality health care and vows to block efforts to privatize the Veterans Health Administration, the VA’s health-care arm. Clinton also wants to bolster veterans’ benefits, including education and housing aid included in the GI bill. She would ensure that military sexual trauma is acknowledged as a disability under VA rules.
Trump says he will expand programs that allow veterans to choose their doctor — regardless of whether they’re affiliated with the VA — and still receive government-paid medical care. Trump says that’s not privatized care but, he told The Associated Press, “a way of not allowing people to die waiting for doctors.”
Trump also pledged to fire or discipline VA employees who fail veterans or breach the public trust. He also would increase mental-health professionals and create a “White House hotline” dedicated to veterans. If a valid complaint is not addressed, “I will pick up the phone and fix it myself if I have to,” Trump said.
Republican-controlled legislatures are tightening voter laws, placing limits on early voting and same-day registration, and imposing new requirements for IDs at polling places. In 2013, the Supreme Court invalidated a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. That provision had required states with a history of racial discrimination to get federal pre-clearance to change election laws.
The issue has become highly partisan with the rapid growth of minority populations, which in recent presidential elections have tilted heavily Democratic. And it has become overlaid with Trump’s statements that the election is rigged against him and that he might not accept defeat at the polls.
The Obama Justice Department has challenged voter ID and other laws, saying they could restrict access for minorities and young people. Federal court rulings softened some of the toughest restrictions, but litigation remains knotted up with Supreme Court appeals under way. Bills in Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act are stalled.
Trump opposes same-day voter registration. Clinton wants Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act and seeks a national standard of at least 20 days of early in-person voting.
WALL STREET REGULATION
The debate over rules governing banks and the markets comes down to this: how to prevent another economic catastrophe like the Great Recession ignited by the financial crisis in 2008. The worst upheaval since the 1930s Depression wiped out $11 trillion in U.S. household wealth and about 8 million jobs. More than 5 million families lost their homes to foreclosure.
The economic recovery over eight years has been halting and slow.
The goal behind the most radical overhaul of financial rules since the 1930s was to rein in high-risk practices on Wall Street and prevent another multibillion-dollar taxpayer bailout of banks. In the package of rules Congress enacted in 2010, regulators gained new tools to shut banks without resorting to bailouts. Risky lending was restricted, and a new federal agency was charged with protecting consumers from deceptive marketing of financial products.
Republicans and many in the business community say the restrictions have raised costs for banks, especially smaller ones. They want the overhaul law repealed. Trump calls it a “disaster,” saying he would dismantle most of it.
Clinton says the financial rules should be preserved and strengthened.