Ballot Is Expected to Offer Stark Choice on Economy - New York Times

Photo Hillary Clinton at a campaign event in Pittsburgh this month. She emphasizes that most of her economic initiatives are paid for. Credit Eric Thayer for The New York Times The contempt that Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump express for each other will continue to play out in vitriolic sound bites. But their profound differences on what to do about the economy and the struggling middle class are far more important.

This election will be won by whichever candidate convinces middle-class voters they are better for their jobs and future prospects, said Stephen Moore, an economist at the Heritage Foundation and an adviser to Mr. Trump.

Gene B. Sperling, a leading economic official under President Bill Clinton and President Obama, and an adviser to Mrs. Clinton, said, This is about whether economic forces hollow out the middle class or whether those forces strengthen the middle class, creating jobs and higher wages.

As the economy has recovered from the 2008 crisis, the unemployment rate has shrunk to less than half of what it was eight years ago and wages have started to rise. But median average family income, in real dollars, is less than it was 10 years ago.

On the issue voters say is their top concern, the two presumptive nominees offer radically different remedies. Mrs. Clinton goes out of her way to show that most of her initiatives are paid for.

Continue reading the main storyMr. Trump, in defiance of Republican orthodoxy, seems unfazed by debt. He proudly says that borrowing fueled his business ventures and has even suggested that as president, he might try to negotiate down American debt obligations.

Mrs. Clintons agenda includes calls for a higher minimum wage, 12 weeks paid leave for chronically ill workers and parents with a newborn, more funds for job training and education, especially higher education, and a $275 billion infrastructure plan.

She would raise taxes by $1.1 trillion over the next decade, the Tax Policy Center estimates. These raises are mainly aimed at wealthier Americans and include higher capital gains taxes on assets held for longer periods, a larger estate tax for wealthy heirs, and closing some corporate loopholes and advantages enjoyed by hedge fund and private equity executives.

These increases will be offset, however, by a subsequent middle-class tax cut.

Mr. Trump, by contrast, has offered huge tax cuts, which policy experts estimate will cost $9 trillion to $11 trillion over a decade. He also vows to end or soften many federal regulations, which he calls job killers. Look for him to focus on a pro-growth energy policy that his camp calculates would split two of Mrs. Clintons important constituencies: labor and environmentalists.

But the core of Mr. Trumps proposals for job creation involves getting tough on trade by renegotiating previous treaties and imposing heavy duties on imports, particularly from China or Mexico. Although international laws and the need for congressional approval could inhibit such actions, a president does have flexibility to impose some trade sanctions.

In the coming months, each candidate will be pressed to provide more specifics; Mr. Trump has been especially vague.

He has delegated two advocates of supply-side tax cuts to revise his plan to make it less costly. One of them, Mr. Moore of the Heritage Foundation, says the objective is to cut the projected deficit by at least two-thirds, to around $3 trillion over a decade. This, he says, would be achieved primarily by limiting deductions for upper-income taxpayers.

Mr. Sperling suggests that a middle-class tax cut, higher education and a larger infrastructure plan are candidates for expansion by Mrs. Clinton.

Until more specifics are forthcoming, it is difficult to gauge the economic impact of either candidates plans. Several economic analyses, including those by Moodys Analytics and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have estimated that Mr. Trumps plans, primarily because they rely on protectionism, deportation of undocumented workers and debt, would throw the economy into a recession. Mr. Trump rejects that contention and says that he would create growth of 6 percent a year, a level last achieved in 1983.

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