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The Candidates 2016

The Candidates 2016 and Domestic Policy

This week, we're going to be covering four very hot issues in 2016: education, healthcare, drug policy, and immigration. This is not the entirety of the domestic policy spectrum, but rest assured we will get to things like economics, civil rights, and energy in future posts.



Education

kids using mindful meditation in school
This is one of them hippy schools, isn't it?
My take on education is simple; I'm pro-choice. A child's education should be dictated not by the state but by his or her parents, and when schools are forced to compete with one another over who can provide what parents want, everybody wins in the end. I'm not averse to public school in reality--I did just fine in public school and my kid is doing fantastic as well--but I do feel like I've been lucky in my experience and that poor public schools greatly outweigh quality ones, with the disparity between rich and poor greater than ever, even though public school is supposed to be free. Since it is unlikely in the extreme that we'll ever do away with free public school--voters don't tend to vote away free stuff--I think the solution lies in giving parents more choice. If they are unhappy with their public school, they should be able to go to a private school (or charter school) and pay for it with the same tax dollars being spent at the public level. That way, private schools can economically compete with public ones (fight each other for the best teachers--which would increase their salaries to what they actually deserve--cut out bloated administrative budgets, invest in better supplies and technologies, etc.), and educational innovation will flourish. Whether this is done in the form of tax credits, school vouchers, or something else, we need a monumental change in structure if we're going to continue competing with the rest of the world. Our current method of throwing increasingly ludicrous amounts of money at a bureaucratic Department of Education and hoping things will get better is just not working, so I will vote for anyone willing to try something new that exploits the inestimable power of the free market instead of relying on the prudence, wisdom, and efficiency of the state.

A quick perusal of the education policies on her website makes it clear Hillary Clinton wants to spend much more federal money on education than is currently being spent. She wants to launch a "national campaign" designed to inform the public about the need to pay teachers more; give money to schools who make computer science a priority; double subsidies for failing public schools; and paying schools not to rely on punitive disciplinary policies. Though she has denounced the idea of for-profit charter schools ("We will never stand for that; that is not acceptable"), she has discussed the need for more cooperation between public schools and charter schools.

Gary Johnson's education platform calls for an immediate elimination of the federal Department of Education and an emphasis on giving both state and local governments more control. He opposes Common Core and "other attempts to impose national standards," calling them "costly" and "overly bureaucratic." Historically, as governor of New Mexico, he pushed for a robust voucher system and improved school testing.

On the other end of the spectrum, Jill Stein wants to completely abolish school privatization, end all subsidies for charter schools, cancel all student loan debt for higher education, and make all colleges and universities free and public, while declaring that free education for life is a basic human right. She opposes Common Core, not because it's a federal power grab, but because she believes any kind of means testing is inherently destructive, benefitting only "corporate contractors" and not students.

Donald Trump has called for "school choice," eliminating Common Core, mandating merit pay for teachers, ending tenure policies, and cutting spending for the Department of Education (if not altogether doing away with it--he's unclear in his statements).

Clinton clearly has a long history of work on education--it's one of her signature issues--and her heart is in the right place, but I don't see how she expects more money to be the solution, when the evidence simply doesn't back up that assumption. She also falls into the trap of rewarding failure by prioritizing funding to poor schools while refusing to even consider the value of profit motive (unless, of course, it's the motive of getting extra tax money to do what the federal government wants). Similarly, Jill Stein wants to eliminate the profit motive altogether, trusting that all schools could be run fairly by the government, something I find absolutely laughable and abhorrent. What's worse is her desire to drag our exceptional higher education down into the muck-filled quagmire of public schooling, which would ruin the only thing keeping our education afloat in an increasingly competitive world. If I could give her a negative point, I would (alas, I agreed to my own rules before I began, and negative points wasn't part of the deal). On the other hand, both Trump and Johnson appear to be on the same page as me, arguing for improved school choice and less federal control. Although I trust Johnson's specificity and coherence more than Trump's vagueness on the topic, both get a point on this one.



Healthcare

Pajama Boy
His favorite subject to annoy you with on the holidays
It doesn't take a brain surgeon to know that our entire healthcare apparatus is a broken mess. People are being charged ludicrous amounts of money just to pay for the insurance that covers the even more ludicrous amounts of money being charged by the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. We have some of the greatest healthcare tools in the world, and yet the vast majority of people struggle just to pay for a yearly doctor's visit. Surely, there's got to be a better way to handle this, and I'm open to any suggestions, regardless of what political ideology they originate from. The Affordable Care Act hasn't completely destroyed the economy the way its staunchest opposers suggested it would, but it hasn't fixed anything either; at the end of the day, the whole thing is still a mess, only now there's a law that says you must buy healthcare and that the government will even subsidize the price-gouging insurance companies to make sure of it. That is not a solution to anything. In my humble opinion, we need fewer government controls, less stringent regulations, a lot more price transparency, top-to-bottom tort reform, and free trade across lines both state and international to bring costs down everywhere, break down FDA-mandated pharmaceutical monopolies, reduce the cost of insurance, and make America healthier. As with education, I think it comes down to competition; the more healthcare providers are forced to compete for profit, the better and cheaper their services will become. I'll vote for anyone who believes that, and if they want to repeal Obamacare too, so much the better.

Hillary Clinton wants to "build on the progress" made by the Affordable Care Act, for which she is an enthusiastic and unabashed supporter. She is calling for universal healthcare paid entirely by tax-payers and available to everyone. She wants to give the Department of Health and Human Services power to block cost increases from insurance and pharmaceutical companies, expand Medicare, and double funding for women's health clinics, all while reaffirming her demand for a public option in the healthcare marketplace.

Though he doesn't devote any space to it on his official website, Gary Johnson hasn't been shy in talking about healthcare. He believes "government-managed healthcare is insanity"; wants to cut Medicare/Medicaid funding; would repeal both Obamacare and President Bush's Medicare prescription subsidies; and favors tort reform as a means to help bring costs down.

Calling for "Medicare for All," Jill Stein wants to declare healthcare an inalienable constitutional right like education. She believes in a single-payer public health insurance program and does not support Obamacare, because she believes it continues the trend of "privitization" of healthcare. She doesn't support tort reform per se, believing that, if healthcare is a right, then the need to settle disputes in court will become unnecessary.

Whenever Donald Trump talks about healthcare, he usually begins with a promise to immediately repeal Obamacare. He believes not only that the Affordable Care Act needs to go, he also wants to allow insurance to be purchased across state lines; grant 100% tax deductions for insurance premiums; promote Health Saving Accounts; require price transparency for all health care providers, both big and small; block-grant Medicaid to the states without any strings attached; and "remove barriers to entry into free markets."

I'm going to start with Jill Stein, because I think she has the absolute worst approach to healthcare of the four candidates. Declaring something a right doesn't make it so, nor will it reduce costs, and trying to turn the entire healthcare industry into a government-run affair is the worst thing we could possibly do to the quality of care this country provides. I mean, just look at how the state handles the Veterans Administration. Hillary Clinton, for whom healthcare is another signature issue, isn't that much better, still clinging to the foolish notion that the right combination of new laws, regulatory structures, centrally-planned price controls, and increased funding will solve all of our problems. If you like Obamacare, just wait until you see how much she expands on it! As with education, though, both Trump and Johnson take a more hands-off, free market approach. Trump is surprisingly detailed in his plans, and I appreciate the call for increased price transparency and open trade, whereas Johnson is more ideologically rigid, which I also appreciate in this particular instance. Therefore, again, Trump and Johnson get a point while Clinton and Stein do not, because we need to get government out of the way, not hand it more control.

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