Tomorrow will see the 58th quadrennial United States presidential election, and unless you have been residing somewhere without internet connectivity for the last two years, by now you must know that support for Hilary Clinton (Democrat) and Donald Trump (Republican) is on the blade of a knife. The polls have never been this close and figures on who is in the lead, and predictions of who will win change on a minute by minute basis. Never has popular opinion been so divided, as well as the gulf between opposing sides policies, so vast. This election is being fought mainly on personality, on dishing dirt and dirty tricks as opposed to solid, enforceable policies. So, with the eyes of the world on America for the next 72 hours, what is the difference between the two political behemoths key policies?
Donald Trump has gone on record to say that he believes climate change is an elaborate Chinese hoax which has been designed to thwart American businesses, whereas Hilary has stated that climate change is a very real threat and she intends to focus on creating large numbers of jobs in the renewable-energy sector. Mr Trump favours oil and gas production on federal land, a top-down review of all anti-coal regulations, and fracking. Ms Clinton would prefer to make the US a “clean energy superpower”, install half a billion solar panels and by 2027 have a third of all electricity come from renewable sources.
Donald Trump has pledged to raise economic spending to 4%, up from an average of 2.1% and has pledged extra spending for inter alia infrastructure, education, child care, veterans and defence. He is however, rather elusive when it comes to figures but it is estimated that just his expansion of the military, would cost an additional $450 billion dollars over the next 10 years. He has also promised to create 25 million new jobs although it is unclear just who would fill the vacancies as the figures just no not add up. Most economists see Mr Trumps plans as only plausible over a decade, rather than a term and that the tax plan alone would cost more than $2.6 trillion to implement as well as sending national debt soaring to 105% of the country’s GDP by 2026. Hilary’s policies on the other hand, are a little more realistic on paper. She has pledged spending of $1.7 trillion over the next decade including spending $250 billion on infrastructure, $25 billion to capitalise a federal infrastructure bank that would in turn lend $250 billion to projects that can offer a return. She has also committed to guaranteeing that by 2021, any household earning less than $125,000 would pay no fees at in-state public universities. These changes are expected to be paid for by a proposed increase on the rich- e.g. an additional 4% tax on incomes over $5 million and taxes on business such as big banks. Her ideas have received criticism that the welfare and tax system in the US needs simplification rather than additional taxes, and deductions and that her complex policies should be revised.
Healthcare is one of the key fighting grounds of this election and one that is incredibly important to American Citizens. Trump wants to totally scrap the controversial Obamacare and instead, let insurance be sold across state lines and make premiums tax deductible. Hilary wants to build on the already established Obamacare by offering 3 sick visits free before deductible, tax credits for premiums and expand Medicaid via 100% fund matching across all states for three years.
Hilary supports the DREAM Act and a path to legalisation for all illegal immigrants. This policy includes teaching them English and paying fines. She also aims to toughen penalties for hiring illegal immigrants and previously voted in support of building a fence along the Mexican border to increase security. Mr Trump however, wishes to build a wall along the Mexican border and make the Mexican government pay for it. He also wishes to deport all illegal immigrants, end birth right citizenship, increase wage criteria for various visas and deport any Muslims, whilst not allowing anyone following the Islamic religion to enter the country.
Mr Trump states he will declare China a currency manipulator, bomb ISIS controlled territory, maintain troop strength at 5,000 in Afghanistan and renegotiate the Iran nuclear deal. Hilary promises to push for withdrawal of troops in Iraq, support the no-fly zone in Syria as well as train Syrian rebels and put more boots on the ground, is in favour of the Iran agreement and maintain troops in Afghanistan as necessary. Both sides plans for foreign policy are matters of concern for commentators- some describing Hilary as a ‘warmonger’ and others stating that Trump’s policies are dangerous and unobtainable in practice.
Hilary believes that marijuana should become less restricted but still regulated, that the death penalty is appropriate in several cases, is pro-choice, and that gun rights should be tightened up including background checks and more legislation for gun safety. On the other hand, Donald believes in legalising cannabis, defending the rights of law-abiding gun owners, keeping the death penalty and making abortion illegal except in the case of rape, incest or life of the mother.
These are just some of the key issues that American citizens will be deciding upon when they take to the polling booths tomorrow but the full extent of what will be implemented will only truly become apparent over the next few years. Malta has always enjoyed a strong bilateral relationship with the USA and at present there are over 35,200 Maltese Americans residing in the country. Malta is also on the list of the Visa Waiver Program of the US, meaning that anyone holding a Maltese biometric passport does not require a visa for entry into the United States. It is hoped that whichever way the vote goes, that this strong relationship will continue for years to come.
Whilst no-one can predict the outcome of tomorrows vote, one thing is sure, that this election will go down in history as being one of the highest profile, controversial and close elections ever seen.