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Platform Check: Trump, Clinton Deliver Competing Economic Policy Speeches

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The presidential race is a story of stump speeches, polls and accusations. It is also a story about policy.

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HILLARY CLINTON: We'll build a path to citizenship for millions of immigrants...

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DONALD TRUMP: We are going to build a great border wall.

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CLINTON: Wall Street, corporations and the super-rich are going to start paying their fair share of...

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TRUMP: On the economy, I will outline reforms to add millions of new jobs and trillions in new wealth.

CORNISH: This is Platform Check where we examine what the candidates will do if they become president. Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton stumped in Michigan this week where they outlined their economic plans. We're going to compare those plans now with economist Diane Swonk. Welcome to the program.

DIANE SWONK: Good to be here.

CORNISH: I want to start with taxes because both of them gave a lot of detail there. What's the key difference between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in terms of what they're offering and who stands to benefit?

SWONK: One is, of course, the complexity of the programs. The Clinton program has more complexity to it - taxing the rich more and trying to get redistributive programs in there. On the Trump program, what you have is a simplification of the tax code, a lot of free riders for wealthier individuals, not as much of the child tax credit as many people would like on the lower end of the income spectrum.

The term program is really kind of a reheated Reagan-esque Bush tax cut while the Clinton program is sort of going back to more traditional left side of the aisle. Let's try to get more progressive taxes out there.

CORNISH: The issue of trade has really been at the forefront of this election cycle. Here's a little sound of the candidates.

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CLINTON: I will stop any trade deal that kills jobs or holds down wages, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

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TRUMP: Instead of being taken advantage of, we are going to benefit and our workers are going to benefit or we're not going to make those deals.

CORNISH: We have both candidates talking about not just being skeptical of trade but trying to stop, in this case, the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal that's under way. What would be the impact if the candidates' pledges on trade became a reality?

SWONK: It's a real quagmire out there because it's a scapegoat. Trade is an easy catchall, and there are problems with trade. We failed to educate for over four decades people to fill the kind of jobs we're going to generate in an economy that's globalized. That is a huge short-falling on our part. And what we need to do going forward is think about trade in that context, but not just throw out the baby with the bathwater. And the concern is that anything that we do to sort of rip up these agreements will disrupt trade and disrupt our economies, even further costing us jobs instead of really curing what the real problem is.

CORNISH: Is there a concern about anti-trade backlash as an economist when you hear this kind of talk?

SWONK: The first thing you get is anti-trade backlash, and you get it. If we raise a tariff, another country raises a tariff on our goods. That means our goods don't get out. Their goods are going to get in, and everybody else shrinks. That means fewer jobs for everybody out there.

CORNISH: I think voters care most about jobs. Can you explain what each candidate is promising to do to help workers?

SWONK: Well, what we are seeing is the move on infrastructure, and this is really important. Both candidates have said that they would put a lot of money towards infrastructure. Hillary Clinton says a quarter of a trillion. And then Donald Trump says, of course, he'll double that. The infrastructure need in the United States is huge, and we do need to see more infrastructure investment. The important issue is that these are all outlines and outlines are very vague. Filling in the colors is where really the tire hits the road. And I think we're really far away from that.

CORNISH: I was going to ask about that. Donald Trump - moving a little way from his party in this respect, I mean, he wants to double the amount of spending that Hillary Clinton has pledged on the infrastructure spending.

SWONK: He does. And, you know, it is interesting. His proposals will cause more deficits as well. Deficit has been the one word - the D-word, the one word that's completely missing from the political dialogue these days. We are talking about under both candidates much larger deficits. The Trump proposals are much, much larger deficits, and that's something that, you know, at a low-interest rate if you're investing in the future, we can handle. It is something we have to be careful about what we prioritize and how we get that money into the economy at this stage of the game.

CORNISH: It's one thing to make a pledge on the campaign trail. It's another to have to deal as president with Congress. Can you give us a sense of the things that have been discussed which Congress would agree with or, you know, really stop in its tracks?

SWONK: I think we're not going to close down trade. I think that Trump will be surprised by that, although his executive powers would have an enormous impact on that. But the pushback by Congress will be there. Another really important issue and difference between the two candidates is the independence of the Federal Reserve. Donald Trump has threatened to just fire Chair Yellen from her job and many other people to diminish the independence and the checks and balances within our economy. I think that's something we have to think very carefully about. Congress has not been very good at doing fiscal policy. Can you imagine them making a split-second decision on monetary policy?

CORNISH: Economist Diane Swonk is CEO of D.S. Economics. Thanks so much for speaking with us.

SWONK: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.