So whom to support? As an economist and a concerned citizen, here are four things I’m looking for in a candidate’s platform:
A Return to Freer Trade
Economic isolationism has been a hallmark of the Trump administration. Presidents used to defend free trade. Recall that George H.W. Bush negotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement, and Bill Clinton signed NAFTA into law. I look for a candidate who will restore that tradition.
Yes, the United States has valid complaints about China’s economic policy, especially regarding its treatment of intellectual property. But these problems are best solved working with our allies through the World Trade Organization. Like most economists, I believe that the current trade war is hurting most Americans, especially those with lower incomes.
A Market-Based Approach to Climate Change
The consensus of scientists is that climate change is a serious threat. We need to respond but in a way that avoids rigid government regulation. The solution is a carbon tax, with all revenue rebated as carbon dividends. Putting a price on carbon would give everyone an incentive to reduce their carbon footprint.
Incremental Healthcare Reform
As we consider ways to improve the health care system, we should remember that the system, while imperfect, works well for many people. “Medicare for all” is a radical step. There is no reason to throw millions of Americans off private insurance plans that they like. The risk of unintended consequences is too large. A public option has some potential pitfalls as well, but it has the virtue of being far less disruptive.
Embrace of Our Common Humanity and Shared Goals
President Trump is polarizing, often intentionally, as when he calls his opponents “human scum.” We need a respite from such divisiveness.
But I fear that we may not find it from some of the Democrats, who have been demonizing the wealthy, as if success in a capitalist economy is shameful. Many of the wealthy are, instead, the innovators and entrepreneurs who drive productivity higher, raising living standards across the economy.
At their best, presidents bring people together rather than pushing them apart. They recognize that our problems are shared and that the best solutions are shared as well.