WHERE THEY STAND: Clinton, Trump on the issues
Persistent Republican-led efforts to restrict access to abortion and to curb government funding for Planned Parenthood have been hotly debated in Washington and in states. The issue will be shaped in some way by the next president and could be shaped profoundly if the election winner manages to tip the balance of the Supreme Court.
Trump, in the third and final presidential debate, said he would appoint justices open to overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion. Clinton vowed to appoint justices who would uphold that ruling, saying: “We have come too far to have that turned back now.”
CHILD CARE/PAY EQUITY
In much of the U.S., families spend more on child care for two kids than on housing. And if you’re a woman, it’s likely you earn less than your male colleagues. That’s according to the latest research, which suggests that while the U.S. economy has improved, women and their families are still struggling to make the numbers work.
Women comprise about 57 percent of the labor force and many of them have young children. If they aren’t getting paid enough to make ends meet, more families will seek out government aid programs or low-quality, unlicensed day care for their children.
Clinton wants a 12-week government-paid family and medical leave program, guaranteeing workers two-thirds of their wages up to a certain amount. Trump proposes six weeks of leave for new mothers, with the government paying wages equivalent to unemployment benefits.
Both candidates propose tax relief for child care costs. Trump’s plan provides for a new income tax deduction for child care expenses, other tax benefits and a new rebate or tax credit for low-income families. Clinton says no family should spend more than 10 percent of its income on child care. She would double the child tax credit for families with children 4 and younger, to $2,000 per child.
Tensions have been rising over China’s assertive behavior in the seas of Asia. The U.S. also accuses China of unfair trading practices and cyber theft of business secrets.
Trump says that the sheer volume of trade gives the U.S. leverage over China. He accuses China of undervaluing its currency to make its exports artificially cheap and proposes tariffs as high as 45 percent on Chinese imports if Beijing doesn’t change its behavior. Such action could risk a trade war that would make many products in the U.S. more expensive.
Clinton says the U.S. needs to press the rising Asian power to play by international rules, whether on trade or territorial disputes.
While many of China’s neighbors are unnerved by its military build-up, the wider world needs the U.S. and China to get along, to tackle global problems. The U.S. and China are also economically inter-dependent, and punishment by one party could end up hurting the other.
It’s as if Trump and Clinton live on two entirely different Earths: one warming, one not. Clinton says climate change threatens us all, while Trump repeatedly tweets that global warming is a hoax.
Measurements and scientists say Clinton’s Earth is much closer to the warming reality. And it is worsening.
From May 2015 to August 2016, 16 months in a row set records globally for heat, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The world is on pace to break the record for hottest year, a record already broken in 2010, 2014 and 2015. It is about 1.8 degrees warmer than a century ago.
But it’s more than temperatures. Scientists have connected man-made climate change to deadly heat waves, droughts and flood-inducing downpours. Studies say climate change is raising sea levels, melting ice and killing coral. It’s making people sicker with asthma and allergies and may eventually shrink our bank accounts.
Trump calls attempts to remedy global warming “just a very, very expensive form of tax.”
Clinton proposes to spend $60 billion to switch from dirty fossil fuels to cleaner energy. She promises to deliver on President Barack Obama’s pledge that by 2025, the U.S. will be emitting 30 percent less heat-trapping gases than in 2005.
The federal government is borrowing about one out of seven dollars it spends and steadily piling up debt — to the tune of about $14 trillion held by investors. Over the long term, that threatens the economy and people’s pocketbooks.
Most economists say rising debt risks crowding out investment and forcing interest rates up, among other problems. At the same time, rapidly growing spending on federal health care programs like Medicare and the drain on Social Security balances caused by the rising tide of baby boomers could squeeze out other spending, on roads, education, the armed forces and more.
It takes spending cuts, tax increases or both to dent the deficit. Lawmakers instead prefer higher spending and tax cuts.
Neither Clinton nor Trump has focused on the debt.
Trump has promised massive tax cuts that would drive up the debt and he’s shown no interest in curbing expensive benefit programs like Medicare.
Clinton, by contrast, is proposing tax increases on the wealthy. But she wouldn’t use the money to bring down the debt. Instead, she’d turn around and spend it on college tuition subsidies, infrastructure and health care.
The U.S. has some 50 million K-12 students. Teaching them, preparing them for college and careers, costs taxpayers more than $580 billion a year, or about $11,670 per pupil per year. A better education usually translates into higher earnings.
And while high school graduations are up sharply and dropout rates down, the nation has a ways to go to match the educational outcomes elsewhere. American schoolchildren trail their counterparts in Japan, Korea, Germany, France and elsewhere.
Clinton wants to make preschool universal for all 4-year-old children within 10 years by providing new federal dollars to states. Trump proposes to spend $20 billion during his first year in office to help states expand school choice programs. He wants states to divert an additional $110 billion of their own education money to help parents who want their children to go to other schools.
Energy independence has been a goal of every president since Richard Nixon. Clinton and Trump have very different ways to get there. How energy is produced and where it comes from affect jobs, the economy and the environment.
Domestic production of all types of energy except coal has boomed in recent years, spurred by improved drilling techniques such as fracking and discoveries of vast oil supplies in North Dakota and natural gas in states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York and West Virginia.
Clinton vows to continue the boom while ensuring the U.S. generates enough renewable energy to power every home in America within 10 years.
Trump vows to “unleash American energy,” allowing unfettered production of oil, coal, natural gas and other sources to push the U.S. toward energy independence and create jobs.
Both Clinton and Trump support natural gas, a cleaner alternative to coal. Trump calls for rescinding the Clean Power Plan, a key element of President Barack Obama’s strategy to fight climate change. Clinton is committed to Obama’s climate-change goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by up to 30 percent by 2025.
“Your Majesty” isn’t in the American political lexicon. But when a president sets a major policy by edict, skirting Congress, it sets off a debate that traces back to the time of kings and queens — and the Founding Fathers, who rejected the authority of the crown. Lawmakers cry foul when a president, especially of the other party, usurps their authority through executive action. Defenders say it can be the only way to get something done when Congress is gridlocked.
President Barack Obama has used executive authority expansively, most notably on immigration.
Donald Trump says he’d make sure Obama’s “unconstitutional actions” never come back. But some Republicans worry Trump, too, might pursue an “imperial presidency.” Hillary Clinton supported Obama’s unilateral move to curb deportation of millions of immigrants in the U.S. country illegally. The Supreme Court deadlocked in June over the major portion of the immigration executive actions, effectively killing the plan for the rest of Obama’s presidency.
How the U.S. uses its influence as the world’s sole superpower is a central feature of presidential power.
It can mean taking the country to war — to protect the homeland or to defend an ally. Or it can mean using diplomacy to prevent war. It can affect U.S. jobs, too, as choices arise either to expand trade deals or to erect barriers to protect U.S. markets.
In the contest between Clinton and Trump, America’s role in the world is a point of sharp differences. Each says the U.S. must be the predominant power, but they would exercise leadership differently. Trump calls his approach “America first,” meaning alliances and coalitions would not pass muster unless they produced a net benefit to the U.S. Clinton sees international partnerships as essential tools for using U.S. influence and lessening the chances of war.
These divergent views could mean very different approaches to the military fight and ideological struggle against the Islamic State, the future of Afghanistan and Iraq, the contest with China for influence in Asia and the Pacific, and growing nervousness in Europe over Russian aggression.
The right to bear arms is carved into the Constitution and seemingly embedded in the national DNA. But after a seemingly endless stretch of violence, Americans are confronting how far those rights extend.
Do Americans have the right to have AR-style firearms, the long guns with a military look used in the past year in several mass shootings? Should they be able to buy magazines that hold 10 or more bullets? Should every gun buyer have to pass a background check?
Trump casts himself as an ardent protector of gun rights and proclaims that if more “good guys” were armed there would be fewer gun tragedies. He’s made fealty to the Second Amendment a quality he wants in Supreme Court nominees.
Clinton wants to renew an expired ban on assault-type weapons instituted when her husband was president. She’s also called for measures to ensure background checks are completed before a gun sale goes forward, mandating such checks for gun-show sales and repealing a law that shields gun manufacturers from liability.
About 9 in 10 Americans now have health insurance, more than at any time in history. But progress is incomplete, and the future far from certain. Rising costs could bedevil the next occupant of the White House.
Millions of people previously shut out have been covered by President Barack Obama’s health care law. No one can be denied coverage anymore because of a pre-existing condition. But “Obamacare” remains divisive, and premiums for next year are rising sharply in many communities. As well, some major insurers are leaving the program.
Whether Americans would be better off trading for a GOP plan is another question. Recent studies found Trump’s proposal would make 18 million to 20 million people uninsured. GOP congressional leaders have a more comprehensive approach, but key details are still missing.
Overall health care spending is trending higher again, and prices for prescription drugs — new and old — are a major worry.
Medicare’s insolvency date has moved up by two years — to 2028.
Clinton would stay the course, adjusting as needed. Republicans are united on repealing Obama’s law, but it’s unclear how they would replace it.
Radical Islamic militancy has inspired a series of deadly attacks on U.S. soil, shaking the American psyche and leaving the presidential contenders at odds over how to respond.
The culprits typically have no ties to foreign terrorist organizations, no explicit directions from overseas and no formal training.
Instead, they’ve blended into American society and skated beneath the radar of federal investigators grappling with a frenetic threat landscape and hundreds of investigations across the country.
The bombing in Manhattan in September that injured more than two dozen people crystallized concerns: A journal found with the Afghan-born U.S. citizen accused in the explosion praised terrorists like Osama bin Laden, prosecutors say.
Trump has proposed various means of choking off a terrorist influx, though that would do little to stop self-radicalized Americans.
Clinton says Muslim-Americans help the struggle against homegrown extremism because they can prevent young people from joining jihadis and notify authorities when they suspect radicalization. She’d prohibit people on terrorist watch lists from being able to purchase weapons.
The future of millions of people living in the U.S. illegally could well be shaped by the presidential election. The stakes are high, too, for those who employ them, help them fit into neighborhoods, or want them gone.
Trump at first pledged to deport the estimated 11 million immigrants in the country illegally. Not only that, he’d build a wall all along the Mexican border. But his position has evolved. He’s sticking to his vow to build the wall and make Mexico pay. But he’s no longer proposing to deport people who have not committed crimes beyond their immigration offenses. Still, he’s not proposing a way for people living in the country illegally to gain legal status.
Clinton, in contrast, would overhaul immigration laws to include a path to citizenship, not just legal status.
Illegal immigration has been at nearly 40-year lows for several years. It even appears that Mexican migration trends have reversed, with more Mexicans leaving the U.S. than arriving. Billions of dollars have been spent in recent years to build fencing, improve border technology and expand the Border Patrol.
Nonetheless the Mexican border remains a focal point for those who argue that the country is not secure.
Income inequality has surged near levels last seen before the Great Depression. The average income for the top 1 percent of households climbed 7.7 percent last year to $1.36 million, according to tax data. That privileged sliver of the population saw pay climb at almost twice the rate of income growth for the other 99 percent, whose pay averaged a humble $48,768.
Dogged on the issue during the primaries by Bernie Sanders, Clinton has highlighted inequality in multiple speeches. She hopes to redirect more money to the middle class and impoverished. Clinton would raise taxes on the wealthy, increase the federal minimum wage, boost infrastructure spending, provide universal pre-kindergarten and offer the prospect of tuition-free college.
Trump offers a blunter message about a system “rigged” against average Americans. To bring back jobs, Trump has promised new trade deals with better terms, greater infrastructure spending than Clinton foresees and tax cuts that he says would propel stronger growth (though independent analysts say his budget plans would raise deficits).
The nation’s infrastructure is in need of repair and improvement. On that, politicians generally agree. Harder to answer: How to pay for it and which projects should take priority?
A reliable infrastructure system is important for the nation’s economy, safety and quality of life.
Public health can be put at risk by poor infrastructure, such as the lead-tainted pipes that contaminated the water supply of Flint, Michigan.
Poorly maintained highways and congested traffic also can raise the cost of shipping goods and the price consumers pay.
A recent report by the American Society of Civil Engineers projects the U.S. will face a $1.4 trillion funding gap for its infrastructure by 2025.
Clinton wants to spend $250 billion over the next five years on public infrastructure and direct an additional $25 billion to a new infrastructure bank to help finance local projects. Trump has said he wants to spend at least double that amount on infrastructure, financed with bonds. Whoever becomes president, it’s a staggering amount of money for the federal treasury to put out — if Congress goes along.
Last year’s nuclear deal with Tehran has significantly reduced for now the threat of a U.S.-Iranian military confrontation. But the deal rests on shaky ground.
The accord curtailed Iran’s nuclear program, pulling it back from atomic weapons capability in exchange for the end of many economic sanctions.
But the next president could have his or her hands full, dealing with Iran in general and the agreement in particular. Various restrictions on Iran start ending in about seven years.
As secretary of state, Clinton helped lay the groundwork for the pact. She supports it, while taking a generally tougher tone on Iran than President Barack Obama.
Trump hates the deal. But he contends that he can renegotiate its terms.
Both are prepared to use force to prevent Tehran from acquiring the bomb. If the deal collapses or expires without sufficient safeguards, that possibility is back in play.
The Internal Revenue Service touches everyone, not just taxpayers but anyone who receives a government check, drives on roads made possible by tax revenue or sends a child to a school helped by Washington. It’s a touch that can come with a heavy hand, in the eyes of critics who believe the agency’s far-reaching powers are abused and need to be tamed.
Trump’s most explicit views about the agency have been on the personal level — he says he’s been under a continuing multi-year IRS audit and that’s why he won’t release his tax returns, as other presidential candidates have done. He’s also boasted that his use of business losses to zero out his tax liability shows he’s smart. Trump’s tax plan reduces the number of tax brackets but does not envisage dismantling the IRS, as its fiercest critics want.
Clinton has said little about the powers of the IRS except to suggest Trump would use them to go after his opponents. She’s sure to fight attempts by congressional Republicans to cut the agency’s budget.
The Islamic State group seized swaths of land in Iraq and expanded its territory in Syria in a dramatic blitz in 2014. The militant group slaughtered civilians in its march to try to establish a radical caliphate, and has spawned a string of deadly attacks across Europe, the Middle East and the United States.
Now, as the militants suffer setbacks in Iraq and Syria, they are becoming more intent on inspiring lone-wolf attacks, already seen in the U.S. and Europe.
The group has either claimed responsibility or been linked as a possible inspiration for the November attacks in Paris; the mass shootings in San Bernardino, California; the subway and airport bombings in Brussels; the Orlando, Florida, nightclub shootings; and the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice, France.
Clinton’s plan to deal with the IS threat abroad and at home mostly embraces what President Barack Obama is doing. Trump has vowed relentless bombing and expressed support for enhanced interrogation techniques.
Support for Israel has been a mainstay of American foreign policy since the Jewish state’s creation in 1948. Despite occasionally strong and even pointed differences, successive U.S. administrations of both parties have steadily increased financial, military and diplomatic assistance to Israel over the past six decades.
The U.S. now provides Israel with roughly $3 billion every year, making it the largest single recipient of American foreign aid, and the Obama administration boosted that amount to $3.8 billion with a new memorandum of understanding on defense.
Debate over Washington’s pro-Israel position has intensified in recent years — notably over the Iran nuclear deal that Israel opposes, failed efforts to forge an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal and Israel’s continued construction in territory claimed by the Palestinians. But the Democratic and Republican parties and their presidential candidates have never wavered from that stance and strong congressional backing for Israel makes any significant change in policy unlikely.
Tepid income growth and a smaller share of the population at work have kept many Americans anxious about jobs and the economy, seven years after the Great Recession ended.
And most jobs that pay decent wages require more education than in the past, leaving many workers feeling left behind.
Trump says he would cut regulations and taxes to spur more hiring, and renegotiate or withdraw from trade agreements to bring jobs back to the U.S.
Clinton says she would spend more on roads, tunnels, and other infrastructure and make state colleges and universities tuition free to most students.
Even though hiring has been healthy for the past six years, incomes have lagged. A typical household didn’t see its income recover to pre-recession levels until just this past July. And the proportion of Americans working or looking for work remains below pre-recession levels, as some of the unemployed have given up searching for jobs.
Same-sex marriage is now the law of the land, but there are other battlegrounds related to civil rights and nondiscrimination protections for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people. Two polarizing questions: What sort of access should transgender people have to public bathrooms? And are the advances for LGBT rights infringing on the religious freedom of some Americans?
Whoever wins the presidency will be somewhat limited in his or her ability to influence national LGBT-rights policies. A pending LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination bill is unlikely to advance through a Republican-controlled House. And the nationwide legality of same-sex marriage is unlikely to be threatened.
However, the election outcome could determine how aggressively federal agencies work to expand LGBT rights. Clinton would probably press efforts to bolster transgender rights.
Thus far, federal judges have generally been unsympathetic to arguments that certain types of anti-LGBT discrimination are permissible if in accordance with a person’s religious beliefs. Trump has told conservatives he’d place a high priority on religious liberty.
Modest income gains, strikes by fast-food workers, the rapid growth of low-paying jobs while middle-income work shrinks. These factors have combined to make the minimum wage a top economic issue for the 2016 campaign.
Millions would benefit from higher pay, of course. But an increase in the minimum wage would also boost costs for employers and may slow hiring.
Clinton supports raising the minimum wage at least to $12 an hour, even higher at state and local levels. Trump has said he supports an increase to $10, but thinks states should “really call the shots.” It’s $7.25 now.
Why the momentum for higher minimums? The typical household’s income has fallen 2.4 percent since 1999. Low-paying industries, such as retail, fast food and home health care aides, are among the largest and fastest-growing. And many low-wage workers are older, have families and are probably more willing to demand higher pay.
MONEY IN POLITICS
Voters are disgusted with the way political races are paid for — disproportionately by big-money donors, including those who stand to gain or lose from government decisions. The rules even allow donors to hide their identities by giving to politically active nonprofit groups that don’t file detailed public paperwork about their finances.
The system leaves everyday Americans fearing that their voices are being drowned out by these moneyed interests.
So far, donors have pumped more than $1.7 billion into the presidential race, according to an Associated Press tally.
Both presidential candidates talk a good game when it comes to money in politics, but both fail to back their words with action.
Clinton and Trump denounce big money in politics, but they are both largely funded with big money. Trump also has no proposals addressing campaign finance, while Clinton’s are vague and difficult to execute.
Pariah state North Korea could soon be capable of targeting America with nuclear weapons. What can the U.S. do to stop it?
Diplomacy and economic sanctions have not worked so far. North Korea’s isolation is deepening, but it has continued to conduct nuclear test explosions and make advances in its missile technology.
Trump says the U.S. can put more pressure on China to rein in its North Korean ally. He says he is willing to meet the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un.
Clinton wants the world to intensify sanctions as the Obama administration did with Iran, a course that eventually opened the way for a deal to contain its nuclear program.
But it will be tough to force North Korea back to negotiations that aim at its disarmament in exchange for aid. Kim views atomic weapons as a security guarantee for his oppressive regime.
More than 28,000 Americans died from overdosing on opioids in 2014, a record high for the nation.
That’s 78 people per day, a number that doesn’t include the millions of family members, first responders and even taxpayers who feel the ripple of drug addiction in their daily lives.
A rise in prescription painkillers is partially to blame: The sale of these drugs has quadrupled since 1999, and so has the number of Americans dying from an addiction to them. When prescriptions run out, people find themselves turning to the cheaper alternative heroin and, increasingly, the even more deadly drug fentanyl.
Recovering addicts and their family members are increasingly speaking out, putting a face on drug addiction and lessening the stigma surrounding it. But dollars for prevention, treatment and recovery services are still hard to come by, leaving many people waiting weeks or months to find the treatment they’re seeking. Meantime, family members empty bank accounts in search of help, while law enforcement officers and emergency rooms serve as a first line of defense.
Trump says the wall he wants to build along the southern border is essential to stopping the flow of illegal drugs into the country. Clinton pledges to spend $10 billion to increase access to prevention, treatment and recovery services, among other things.
RACE and POLICING
The continued deaths of unarmed African-Americans at the hands of police are turning into one of the most consequential civil rights issues of the new millennium. Since the death in 2014 of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the sharing of video-recorded deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement has sparked unrest in many cities around the country, and prompted calls for additional training and more monitoring of police forces.
Clinton has offered specific proposals, including legislation that would help end racial profiling, providing federal matching funds for more police body cameras and overhauling mandatory minimum sentencing.
Trump has described himself as the “law and order” candidate, and has not specifically addressed plans on race and policing. He endorsed a former New York City police policy called “stop and frisk” after unrest in Charlotte, North Carolina, over the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott.
With millions of Syrians displaced by a years-long war and hundreds of thousands of people fleeing to Europe, countries around the world are being pressed to help resettle people seeking refuge.
The United States pledged to accept 10,000 such refugees by the end of the budget year in September and did so, a month early.
Republicans have balked at the idea of allowing people from Syria into the United States and Trump has called for a halt on refugee resettlement for them. He says vetting of these refugees is inadequate.
Clinton has pledged to expand the Syrian refugee program and allow as many as 65,000 such refugees into the United States.
The fate of the program almost certainly hinges on the outcome of the November election.
ROLE OF GOVERNMENT
It’s the Goldilocks conundrum of American politics: Is the government too big, too small or just right? Every four years, the presidential election offers a referendum on whether Washington should do more or less.
Trump favors cutting regulation and has promised massive tax cuts, but his plans are expected to add trillions to the national debt. Unlike most conservatives, he supports eminent domain and has spoken positively about government-run health care. And don’t forget that massive border wall. Clinton has vowed new spending on education and infrastructure that could grow government, too. She strongly supports “Obamacare,” which most small-government proponents see as overreach.
At its heart, the debate about government’s reach pits the desire to know your basic needs will be cared for against the desire to be left alone. For the last few decades, polls have found Americans generally feel frustrated by the federal government and think it’s wasteful. A smaller government sounds good to a lot of people until they’re asked what specific services or benefits they are willing to do without.
Russia is reasserting itself, posing vexing questions for the U.S. and presidential candidates split on Vladimir Putin. It’s also apparently poking its nose into the election — blamed by the U.S. for hacking Democratic Party emails.
After briefly looking inward during much of President Barack Obama’s first term, Russia has returned to the international stage with force under Putin. Russia is militarily involved in Syria and supports separatists in eastern Ukraine and areas of Georgia.
At the same time, the U.S. has been forced to accept that working with Russia is probably the only way to achieve results on many complicated international issues. Thus, Russia was central in the Iran nuclear negotiations and is a player as well as negotiator in the Syria truce effort.
Trump advocates improved relations with Russia and has been strikingly complimentary of Putin’s authoritarian leadership style.
Clinton has had direct negotiating experience with Putin and his aides and that has left her wary of cooperating with Moscow. She promises to stand up to Putin and deter Russian aggression in Europe.
Big changes are coming to Social Security, sooner or later.
If left to later, those changes promise to be wrenching.
The trustees who oversee the program say it has enough money to pay full benefits until 2034. But at that point, Social Security will collect only enough taxes to pay 79 percent of benefits. Unless Congress acts, millions of people on fixed incomes would get an automatic 21 percent cut in benefits.
Social Security’s financial problems might seem far off. But the longer Congress waits to act, the harder it will be to save Social Security without dramatic tax increases, big benefit cuts or some combination.
Clinton has proposed expanding Social Security benefits for widows and family caregivers. She says she would preserve Social Security by requiring “the wealthiest” to pay Social Security taxes on more of their income. Trump has promised not to cut Social Security. He’s suggested he’d revisit the program after his tax-cut plan boosts economic growth.
More Americans are getting buried by student debt — causing delays in home ownership, limiting how much people can save and leaving taxpayers at risk as many loans go unpaid.
Student debt now totals around $1.26 trillion. This amounts to a stunning 350 percent increase since 2005, according to the New York Federal Reserve.
More than 60 percent of the class of 2014 graduated with debt that averaged nearly $27,000, according to the College Board. Not all that taxpayer-backed debt is getting repaid. Out of the 43 million Americans with student debt, roughly 16 percent are in long-term default — a potential hit in excess of $100 billion that taxpayers would absorb.
Clinton proposes no tuition for students from families making less than $85,000 who go to an in-state, public college. That threshold would rise to $125,000 by 2021. Trump promises to cap payments at 12.5 percent of a borrower’s income, with loan forgiveness if they make payments for 15 years.
The ideological direction of the Supreme Court is going to tip one way or the other after the election. The outcome could sway decisions on issues that profoundly affect Americans: immigration, gun control, climate change and more.
The court has been operating with eight justices since Antonin Scalia died in February. His successor appears unlikely to be confirmed until after the election, at the earliest. The court is split between four Democratic-appointed, liberal justices and four conservatives who were appointed by Republicans — although Justice Anthony Kennedy has sided with the liberals on abortion, same-sex marriage and affirmative action in the past two years.
The ninth justice will push the court left or right, depending on whether Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump becomes president. President Barack Obama has nominated Merrick Garland to take Scalia’s seat, but the Republican Senate has refused to consider Garland’s nomination, in an effort to prevent a liberal court majority.
Presidents like to try reshaping the tax code to make substantive changes in fiscal policy and to show voters their priorities.
Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have made clear that that’s just what they want to do. There’s an enormous difference between their approaches and goals.
Trump, the Republican, is intent on cutting taxes. He’d collapse the current seven income tax brackets, which peak at 39.6 percent, into just three tiers with a top rate of 33 percent, slice the corporate income tax and eliminate the estate tax. Analysts say the wealthy would benefit disproportionately.
Clinton, the Democrat, is proposing tax increases on the rich, including a minimum 30 percent tax on incomes over $1 million and higher taxes on big inheritances. Most taxpayers would see little or no impact on their tax bill, but the government might look different. She’d use the added revenue to expand domestic programs.
In this angry election year, many American voters are skeptical about free trade — or hostile to it.
The backlash threatens a pillar of U.S. policy: The United States has long sought global trade.
Economists say imports cut prices for consumers and make the U.S. more efficient.
But unease has simmered, especially as American workers faced competition from low-wage Chinese labor. Last year, the U.S. ran a $334 billion trade deficit with China — $500 billion with the entire world.
The Democratic and Republican presidential candidates are both playing to public suspicions about trade deals. Hillary Clinton broke with President Barrack Obama by opposing an Asia-Pacific trade agreement that she had supported as secretary of state.
Donald Trump vows to tear up existing trade deals and to slap huge tariffs on Chinese imports.
But trade deals have far less impact on jobs than forces such as automation and wage differences between countries. Trump’s plans to impose tariffs could start a trade war and raise prices.
Clinton has pledged to ensure veterans have access to timely and high-quality health care and vows to block efforts to privatize the Veterans Health Administration, the VA’s health-care arm. Clinton also wants to bolster veterans’ benefits, including education and housing aid included in the GI bill. She would ensure that military sexual trauma is acknowledged as a disability under VA rules.
Trump says he will expand programs that allow veterans to choose their doctor — regardless of whether they’re affiliated with the VA — and still receive government-paid medical care. Trump says that’s not privatized care but, he told The Associated Press, “a way of not allowing people to die waiting for doctors.”
Trump also pledged to fire or discipline VA employees who fail veterans or breach the public trust. He also would increase mental health professionals and create a “White House hotline” dedicated to veterans. If a valid complaint is not addressed, “I will pick up the phone and fix it myself if I have to,” Trump said.
Voting rights in America are in flux. Republican-controlled legislatures are tightening voter laws, placing limits on early voting and same-day registration, and imposing new requirements for IDs at polling places. In 2013, the Supreme Court invalidated a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. That provision had required states with a history of racial discrimination to get federal preclearance to change election laws.
The issue has become highly partisan with the rapid growth of minority populations, which in recent presidential elections have tilted heavily Democratic. And it has become overlaid with Trump’s statements that the election is rigged against him and that he might not accept defeat at the polls.
The Obama Justice Department has challenged voter ID and other laws, saying they could restrict access for minorities and young people. Federal court rulings softened some of the toughest restrictions, but litigation remains knotted up with Supreme Court appeals underway. Bills in Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act are stalled.
Trump opposes same-day voter registration. Clinton wants Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act and seeks a national standard of at least 20 days of early in-person voting.
WALL STREET REGULATION
The debate over rules governing banks and the markets comes down to this: how to prevent another economic catastrophe like the Great Recession ignited by the financial crisis in 2008. The worst upheaval since the 1930s Depression wiped out $11 trillion in U.S. household wealth and about 8 million jobs. More than 5 million families lost their homes to foreclosure.
The economic recovery over eight years has been halting and slow.
The goal behind the most radical overhaul of financial rules since the 1930s was to rein in high-risk practices on Wall Street and prevent another multibillion-dollar taxpayer bailout of banks. In the package of rules Congress enacted in 2010, regulators gained new tools to shut banks without resorting to bailouts. Risky lending was restricted and a new federal agency was charged with protecting consumers from deceptive marketing of financial products.
Republicans and many in the business community say the restrictions have raised costs for banks, especially smaller ones. They want the overhaul law repealed. Trump calls it a “disaster,” saying he would dismantle most of it.
Clinton says the financial rules should be preserved and strengthened.