Friday, October 23, 2020

Debate Night in America - The Final Debate


Last evening's meeting was very different from the brawl which was loosely called the first presidential debate. There was a nearly orderly progression from question to question sprinkled with allegations, counter-allegations and the usual steady diet of false and misleading statements from the mouth of the president which sought to distort and remanufacture the reality that we are facing. 

The fact checkers were very busy during the debate and I was trying to keep up with them as the false and misleading statements flew from the president's lips almost as fast as he could speak. I came away convinced that the president has no grasp of truth.

During the segment on the economy it was clear that the president believes that the only important economic measure is stock market performance and that every American has a 401K. This view continues to show that the president is out of touch with his base, except for the wealthy who derive their net worth from the ups and downs of the market. The stock market view of the economy conveniently overlooks the loss of jobs and businesses across the country as a result of the failed COVID-19 response. 

Reuters characterized the debate as follows:

Trump, a Republican, adopted a more restrained tone than he did during a chaotic first debate in September, when he repeatedly interrupted Biden. But Thursday’s clash still featured plenty of personal attacks between two men who evince little respect for each other, and Trump kept fact-checkers busy by leveling unfounded corruption accusations at Biden and his family.

The New York Times published the following about the debate:

  • In their final debate, President Trump unleashed an unrelenting series of false, misleading and exaggerated statements as he sought to distort former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s record and positions and boost his own re-election hopes. The president once again relied heavily on well-worn talking points that have long been shown to be false.

  • The president appeared determined to reinvent the reality of the last four years — and the history of the pandemic in 2020 — as he faces judgment on his actions in just 12 days. He once again falsely dismissed the Russia investigations as a “phony witch hunt.” He insisted that aside from Abraham Lincoln, “nobody has done more for the Black community,” an assertion that people in both parties find laughable. And he tried again to wish away the pandemic, saying “we are rounding the turn” even as daily cases of the virus this week topped 70,000 in the United States for the first time since July.

As part of the economic discussions, I was appalled that the president continues to think that the Chinese are paying tariffs and somehow that they are paying subsidies to the farmers. That we need to pay $28 billion in subsidies to the farmers is evidence of a failed trade policy and then believing that the Chinese and not the US taxpayers are ultimately paying the tariffs shows that the president is ignorant of how economics really works. Perhaps this is why he has filed for bankruptcy so many times.

The New York Times reports this fact as follows:

“China is paying. They are paying billions and billions of dollars.”

— Mr. Trump.

The United States has taken in more than $60 billion in revenue from the tariffs that Mr. Trump imposed on $360 billion worth of Chinese goods. 

But Mr. Trump’s frequent claim that the tariffs are paid for solely by China, not by Americans is wrong. 

Whether a Chinese manufacturer, American importer or another company ultimately pays the cost of any particular U.S. tariff varies from product to product, depending on the ability of each party to negotiate. 

But overall, economic research suggests that the burden of the tariffs has fallen heavily on American firms, and that domestic manufacturers and consumers have ended up paying a substantial portion of the tariffs.

So who won the debate?

Biden won the first half of the debate scoring body blows about COVID-19 policy and family issues, but could have been stronger on the economy and foreign policy. Biden clearly missed the opportunity to explain his climate policy and allowed Trump distract him from the issue by getting dragged into a discussion of oil and fracking. Biden also missed opportunities to make Trump take responsibility for the immigrant children being held along the border and to admit that he is a politician--and a bad one at that, much like he is a bad business man.

I call it a draw with a slight advantage to the president for a strong finish.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

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