Congress expert Norman Ornstein on what the debate over the debt limit says about dysfunction in Congress, and his ideas for how to fix it.
Now that the field of presidential candidates has narrowed to three main contenders, the details of their policy platforms are under intense scrutiny. As Democrats, Clinton and sanders have drastically different stances from Republican Donald Trump. But Clinton and Sanders also differ from each other on gun control, trade, healthcare and education. And Trump breaks from his own party on trade, social security and immigration. Yet details on Trump’s policy prescriptions on many issues – like education – are scarce. Diane and a panel of guests discuss where the candidates stand on key issues.
- Norman Ornstein Resident scholar, American Enterprise Institute; co-author of "It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism"
- Ruth Marcus Columnist and editorial writer, The Washington Post
- Byron York Chief political correspondent, The Washington Examiner
Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton Clash On Gun Control
Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton Clash On Gun Control
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Now that only three major candidates remain in the 2016 presidential race, we turn our attention to details of their policy proposals. Here in the studio to talk about the candidates' stance on key domestic policy issues, Ruth Marcus with The Washington Post, Byron York with the Washington Examiner and joining us from the NPR studios in New York City, Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute.
MS. DIANE REHMI know you'll want to join us. This is something you've been asking us to focus on so here we are. Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Send us an email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. And welcome to all of you.
MR. NORMAN ORNSTEINThank you. Hi, Diane.
MS. RUTH MARCUSDiane, thanks for having me.
MR. BYRON YORKGreat to be with you, Diane.
REHMAnd I'm glad to do this. However, Ruth, it seems to me details have been sketchy and have changed. How do you see details on proposals from the three candidates?
MARCUSWell, I think sketchy and subject to change are kind of very polite ways to frame the debate this election cycle, and as we'll get into, some of them better than others. First of all, let me just express my deep appreciation to you for doing this show because I think that it's not only that the candidates, some of them, in particular, have not been talking enough about issues of substance, but I think we, in the media, have not pressing them hard enough to talk about issues of substance and asking them, and focusing on these issues.
MARCUSSo we do this kind of hand-wringing every four years and saying we're paying too much attention to the horse race and not enough attention to substance. But this time, just to borrow a phrase of Norm's, it really is worse.
REHMAbsolutely. And what do you see, starting with you, Byron? Has Trump laid out clear plans, for example, on trade and immigration?
YORKNo. He has not laid out clear plans, but he has laid out a whole system of preferences. And as we know, we've discussed many times, Donald Trump says, trust me to enact this or that proposal. But I think if you put all the craziness of the Trump campaign aside, he has issued extreme challenges to the Republican party in a number of areas. He's blown up Republican and conservative orthodoxy in the issues of trade, immigration, foreign entanglements.
YORKHe has absolutely changed Republican positions on those. In addition, I was thinking today about a speech a saw him give in the New Hampshire primary and the campaign there in which he railed at the insurance companies, big oil, the pharmaceutical companies. He talked about having the government negotiate the price of drugs, which you never hear from Republicans. He is all over the place. He's going to attack Hillary Clinton from the left on Iraq, the Iraq War.
YORKHe is going to be, by far, the most interesting Republican candidate in a very long time.
REHMAnd Norm, turning to you, let's focus on trade first. Both Trump and Sanders have kind of similar stances. Lay those out for us.
ORNSTEINThey're similar in one important way, Diane. They are both very much protectionist in their orientation and have disdain for previous trade agreements and proposed trade agreements. Sanders has basically said that NAFTA and most of the other proposals that came through in the Clinton administration and even before were job killers, were very bad things for the United States and the Transpacific Trade Agreement, TPP, is an even bigger disaster and he's attacked Hillary Clinton for early support for that concept, even though she now opposes the agreement.
ORNSTEINTrump, basically, says our trade agreements are terrible because we've had idiots who have transacted them and they have bilked the United States repeatedly, that incompetent people have meant that all these other countries make out like bandits while we get screwed in the process and he hasn't suggested that he wouldn't do trade agreements, but in effect, his trade agreements start with the assumption that trade is a one-way street. We're losers, they're winners and we have to impose sanctions on them.
ORNSTEINAnd that's where he differs, to some degree, from Sanders. Sanders is not talking about trade wars with other countries, raising tariffs or telling them if they don't bend to our will, then they're gonna suffer through massive tariff increases. Sanders, basically, is just saying trade agreements are bad, globalization has hurt America.
YORKAnd if you -- I remember Trump campaigning in Michigan. You can't separate the trade from the jobs. And he talks about how, you know, Ford is going to build this plant in Mexico. They wouldn't do it or they'd get a phone call from me, personally, President Trump, if they did. And the whole line was, I'm going to bring these jobs back from Mexico. Of course, he won the Michigan primary and it's been very popular.
YORKAnd this is completely the opposite of sort of the Paul Ryan orthodoxy of the Republican party on trade.
REHMAnd what about Hillary Clinton on trade, Ruth?
MARCUSWell, Hillary Clinton has been perhaps the most fascinating on trade because it's been such a delicate issue for Democratic candidates for some time. It was a delicate issue for her when she ran against Barack Obama in 2008. This time, she famously, described the Transpacific Partnership as the gold standard of trade agreements when she was secretary of state. Suddenly, that gold is pretty tarnished.
MARCUSShe says she doesn't support it, even though it's actually -- on the particular things that she's criticized it for, actually improved from when she called it the gold standard, particularly on how it deals with pharmaceutical drug prices and drug protections and how it deals with currency manipulation. But she says not only does she not support it, but if she is elected, she is opposed to having Congress pass it in a lame duck session, which is probably its best hope for passage at this point.
MARCUSAnd it just goes to the point that Byron was making about the enormous pressure in both political parties from grass roots voters, especially white working class men who feel that globalization -- and understandably feel that globalization has worked to their detriment and not to their benefit.
REHMRuth Marcus of The Washington Post. Byron York of the Washington Examiner and from the NPR studios in New York City, Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute. You can join us. We welcome your calls, 800-433-8850. Let's turn now from trade to taxes. Ruth, you've been highly critical of Trump's tax plan.
MARCUSIndeed. Well, first of all, the question is, what is Trump's tax plan? He put out a tax plan early in the campaign. It would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 trillion.
MARCUSOver ten years. Because, you know, it's really easy to put out a tax plan if you say, okay, I'm going to cut everybody's rates. You get a tax cut, you get a tax cut, Norm gets a tax cut...
REHMAnd that's what he's saying. All right.
MARCUS...in every bracket and that's what he said.
MARCUSHe has also argued that somehow, despite the laws of economics and the analyses of every group, from conservative to liberal groups of tax experts, that this would cost money, it will pay for itself by unleashing, the Trump campaign says, economic growth the likes of which we, literally, have never seen. Not only pay for itself, but generate surpluses in the future. This is 100 percent fantasy. And now, the latest thing that Trump has done is to say, well, you know, don't necessarily take that seriously. That's just my opening gambit.
MARCUSSo I don't know what voters are supposed to think as they try to be serious analysts of his policy proposals.
REHMHe's also said he would reduce the corporate tax rate from 35 to 10 percent, Byron.
YORKYes, he has. And first of all, Ruth's critique of his plan has actually been a basic critique of most Republican tax plans over the years, that it cuts taxes too much, it assumes this mythical revenue that's going to come pouring in and then somehow it'll balance itself when, in fact, it won't. One interesting thing, I think, that we're going to see more of in the general election from Trump on taxes, remember back last summer, he would say more, you know, he would say we're gonna make those hedge fund guys pay more.
YORKI mean, some people are going to have to pay more. Now, increasing taxes on the very highest earners is a very popular proposal. When Trump's tax plan came out, he didn't do that or maybe they hedge fund guys would have to pay a tiny, tiny bit more. I think, as he refines his proposals during the general election, you will probably see more emphasis on actually making the very highest earners, we're talking about billionaires, pay more in taxes, again, against Republican orthodoxy.
REHMSo what Byron is saying, Ruth, is we ain't seen nothing yet, that everything is a work in progress.
MARCUSEverything is a work in progress, but Byron makes an interesting point about Trump's tax plans compared to other candidate's tax plans. It's totally true that Donald Trump's Republican opponents had also proposed massive tax cuts, but his, if you'll pardon the phrase, is huger than theirs, really by orders of magnitude.
REHMAll right. We'll take a short break here. I do invite your questions, comments. Join us, 800-433-8850. We'll get Norm Ornstein's take on Bernie Sanders plan after a break.
REHMWelcome back. You've asked about issues, and we are responding. Thus far we've talked a bit about trade policy, how each of the three major candidates agrees or differs on trade. We're now into taxes, and Norm Ornstein, Bernie Sanders says he's going to raise taxes on Wall Street speculation to pay for his health care and higher education plans. Talk about that.
ORNSTEINBernie Sanders has of course extraordinarily ambitious social plans, moving to a single-payer health care system, free college tuition for all, and that's going to require somewhere around $13 to $16 trillion in revenue. Sanders goes about it first by sharply increasing taxes on the rich, and that includes a much higher top rate, 52 percent. It takes the capital gains and dividends that now have a much lower rate and basically puts them up to the same rate as for ordinary income.
ORNSTEINHe has -- he raises the cap on Social Security taxes. There won't be any cap anymore. He also has a surcharge on incomes over $28,000 of 2.2 percent, which would hit middle class people, as well. And then there are other taxes, and of course like Hillary Clinton, he changes the tax on carried interest, what hedge fund people pay.
ORNSTEINNow he has a separate tax to pay for his education plan, Diane, and that's a financial transactions task -- tax. We have -- of course every financial transaction and by some of these large companies, including some of the ones who do it by computer, there may be millions a day, putting a small tax on those actually raises a very, very substantial sum of money. So he's got plans that, if you cost them out, probably could raise $13 trillion or so, but there are real questions about the impact on economic growth and other economic activity.
ORNSTEINAnd Sanders' suggestion that, just like Trump in a lot of ways, that you would get this enormous economic growth are highly questionable.
REHMNorm, how does Bernie Sanders justify a surcharge on those making just $28,000?
ORNSTEINHe needs the money, and it's basically -- the expectation is, and I should add one other thing that I left out, Diane, which is that on his health care plan, he would take away the tax subsidy that most of us now get for our health insurance. When our employer pays for our health insurance, that's tax-free to us. He would take that away. So there's actually a substantial on middle-class people, and he justifies both of those by saying enormous burdens will be lifted from our shoulders because you're going to have much lower-cost health care overall, and you'll have free tuition for your kids.
MARCUSSo if you look at Bernie Sanders' website, you will see a list of very expensive proposals, and you will see a list that's an impressive list of tax increase plans designed to pay for those proposals. Here's the problem. Outside analysts who have looked at this say that even though he's planning on raising taxes a huge amount, it will not fill that gap. The latest estimate from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget says that he would add $19 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years, primarily because the cost of single-payer health care would be so enormous.
MARCUSThat's a -- that's a big gap between huge new taxes and huge new spending.
REHMWhat about Hillary Clinton's tax plan, Byron?
YORKWell, it's a vastly more moderate version of this. Hillary Clinton I think has been pushed to the left somewhat on college tuition, for example. You know, Bernie says, well, it's going to be free at all public universities, and Hillary Clinton has, I think, been forced to sort of liberalize her proposals on college loans, making them more affordable.
YORKSo, you know, in the sense that Hillary Clinton points back to her husband's time in office, in which taxes were raised and which led to a great, long period of economic growth, I think that she is going to sell herself as the sensible moderate on taxes, and of course she's not proposing to do anything like a single-payer plan, which by the way failed in the state of Vermont. And she's not proposing that sort of stuff.
MARCUSHillary Clinton is a very interesting, as Byron suggest, middle ground between the vast tax cut and the vast tax increase of Bernie Sanders. The same Committee for Responsible Federal Budget has the cost of her proposals over this 10 year period at $1.8 trillion and the taxes she would raise to pay for them at $1.6 trillion so very small. The thing that's actually most striking about Hillary Clinton is that other than some small-ish tax changes, primarily a tax surcharge on the wealthiest Americans, she has not come forward with a big tax reform plan to address the kind of broader question of what she thinks the tax code should look like going forward.
REHMSo as Byron has said, do you think that details will be more forthcoming, or will we go into the convention with sort of fuzzy, hazy...
MARCUSWell, Hillary Clinton's website is fascinating. If you look at it, I counted up, I think it was 31 individual policy proposals.
ORNSTEINI counted that, too.
MARCUSDid I count it right?
ORNSTEINYes, you did.
MARCUSIt started with all...
YORKThat's three of us.
MARCUSIt started with Alzheimer's, and it ended with workforce, and there were a lot of meat in between.
REHMAlphabetically in order.
MARCUSSo I think other than the question of sort of what her kind of grand vision is for taxes, which is a very big question, she's been very good on kind of individual, specific things, sometimes too specific. She's been weak, I think, on translating that into a grand vision. Trump has exactly the opposite problem. We all know what he wants to do, make America great again, you can put it on a hat, but his specific plans for doing that are very, as you started out by saying, very vague at best and totally changeable.
REHMAll right, let's talk about gun control, Byron. The NRA endorsed Trump on Friday, and Secretary Clinton by affirming her gun control positions.
YORKJust to actually details on the website.
YORKSo Bernie Sanders has even more, I think maybe 37, categories, which he lists by importance. Ending inequality is the top, not alphabetically.
REHMAs opposed to alphabetically.
YORKGo to Trump's, you'll find seven little boxes.
YORKThese are some areas in which I have opinions. I think on gun control, if you listen to Trump at every -- at every event, he will say how much he loves the Second Amendment, and there are several issues in which Trump has basically hewn to Republican and conservative orthodoxy, and guns is one of them, where the question for his Republican supporters is not whether they like his positions, his positions are fine, it's whether they believe he will actually enforce those.
YORKAnd for example in the wake of the NRA thing, we've been seeing a lot of -- a Trump tweet from after the Newtown massacre, which is not exactly a million years ago, in which Trump said I stand -- President Obama speaks for me when it comes to these commonsense gun proposals that the president issued after Newtown. So that increases the suspicion among Republicans that Trump actually doesn't really mean this because they suspect, and I think they're right, that on many social issues he basically has New York values. So that's going to be a huge trust question between Trump and the base.
ORNSTEINYou know, one of the interesting things about guns at this point, Diane, is that we wouldn't have been having this conversation four years ago or eight years ago. Democrats shied away completely from the gun issue at a point where it was just assumed that it was a complete loser for them. And remember that Bill Clinton's administration took on guns with an assault weapons ban and other things, and a lot of Democrats believed that that cost them substantial numbers of seats.
ORNSTEINNow it's turned around, and on the Democratic side, during the debates, the gun issue became one of the major levers for Hillary Clinton to show that she was to the left of Bernie Sanders. Sanders coming from a gun state in Vermont had taken positions that were anathema to a lot of Democrats. There is a difference between the two, and in this instance Sanders is the one who has moved, trying to move to get closer to where Hillary Clinton is and where most Democrats are.
ORNSTEINAnd there is a real gulf between the parties on this set of issues, and Trump is -- I think as Byron suggested, very cleverly now trying to take advantage of it by dramatically shifting his own position and winning that NRA endorsement.
REHMBut now Ruth, Sanders and Clinton both support background checks.
MARCUSSo unlike trade, where Hillary Clinton has moved more to the Bernie Sanders position, on guns Bernie Sanders has moved more to the Hillary Clinton position. The thing that's fascinating is not just that this was a wedge issue during the Democratic nomination fight, but it appears it's going to be, for the first time in many years, as Norm points out, an affirmative argument on behalf of Democratic candidates who have been scared to death of the gun issue for years now, that Hillary Clinton -- it's not just that she used guns against Bernie Sanders, she's planning to use the gun issue against Donald Trump.
MARCUSAnd I think it's an illustration of the polarization that Norm has written about so well, that we have two very motivated groups here, ones motivated by stopping -- by stopping any notion of gun control, mostly aligned with the Republican Party, and the other is a sort of sense that in the wake of Newtown and all the terrible tragedies we've seen, maybe guns can turn out to be something of a motivating issue for Democrats.
YORKI was actually very surprised by the intensity, the heatedness of the debate inside the Democratic Party between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton over the issue of guns and Sanders clearly uncomfortable with his past positions, which were popular for a senator in Vermont but not for someone running nationwide. But I do think it's important to say that while Trump has challenged orthodoxy in all these ways I've talked about earlier, you're -- I don't think there's any change at all on the issue of guns from the Republican Party.
REHMAll right, and...
REHMLet's turn now, Norm, to higher education and how Hillary and Bernie Sanders have argued over how to improve that for everyone.
ORNSTEINSo what we have with Bernie Sanders is a flat-out, we're going to make tuition free, public college for everybody, which is -- would cost about $75 billion a year. And he and Hillary Clinton agree that crushing costs of higher education are a terrible, terrible problem in the country. Clinton, on this issue as in so many others, has taken a much more incremental approach, and hers involves sharply reducing tuition costs for community colleges and also making, as Byron said earlier, student loans more affordable for people and trying to make sure that down the road they're capped as a proportion of income.
ORNSTEINIt's more of an incremental approach but moving in a similar direction.
REHMBut what about interest rates on those student loans?
ORNSTEINYeah, and that's -- it would be moving to lower those rates and put caps on them as a share of income.
MARCUSAnd the -- and her best argument, I think, against Bernie Sanders is why should Donald Trump's children be able to go to public college tuition-free. There are a lot of people in America who can afford to pay public college tuition. Why are we taking scarce resources, she argues, and devoting that money to them when there's a lot of other need.
MARCUSI don't think Bernie Sanders, from the extent I'm heard him speak, has actually come up with a very powerful counterargument to that. And the other striking thing is that while this fight has been raging on the Democratic side, almost nothing from Donald Trump on this subject.
REHMAnd you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. He has, that is Trump has, said he's against Common Core standards.
YORKHe has, and here again that's fine with Republican orthodoxy. On the issue of college, though, he's said a couple things that surprised me. This is from a speech that he gave in the -- in the Virginia, in the suburbs of Washington last December. He talked at length about adult Americans struggling under the burden of college loans. And he said, I'm quoting here, just about the only thing the federal government makes money with is student loans. Maybe that's the only thing it shouldn't be making money with.
YORKNow Trump has issued no actual proposals on this, but it does suggest that he would either help people with loans or find a way to actually reduce the cost in some way of college loans.
ORNSTEINThere's one other -- one other point here, Diane, on Bernie Sanders' plan. His plan -- he would raise money for this through a financial transactions tax, the one that I talked about earlier, but he would have the states pay for a third of it. That financial transactions tax would only pay for two-thirds. And whether states would step up and provide the money and how they would raise the money is a very open question, and more than likely you're going to find a whole lot of states that are going to say never mind, we're not putting up cash when we don't have it.
REHMSo we now reach a point where Republicans have proved helpless in terms of the Affordable Care Act. Where do the three stand on health care policy, Byron?
YORKWell, I'll talk about Trump here.
YORKHe has -- this is something that he clearly has thought the least about. If you remember back to a debate, I think it was in Houston, it was the time when Marco Rubio decided to go the full Don Rickles on Donald Trump, a tactic that didn't work, but Rubio made fun of Trump's not being able to discuss health care policy because Trump would always say, well, we have to get rid of the lines between the states.
YORKWhat he meant was he would allow insurance companies -- people to purchase health insurance across state lines. But if you look at his website, if you talk to his people, his plan, other than what I mentioned before about prescription drug prices, is basically the Republican standard -- standard issue plan. It would -- it would allow people to purchase across state lines. It would extent the tax break for buying insurance to people who don't get it through their employer, and it would have a couple of other cost-saving moves, but it would be essentially the plan Republicans have been offering all the time as an alternative to Obamacare but never actually crafted into a single, coherent plan that they passed in Congress.
MARCUSNever crafted into a plan that can do the things they say they want to do, which is for example -- one of the things the Affordable Care Act does is protect people with pre-existing conditions and allows them to purchase insurance at a, you know, reasonably affordable price. Donald Trump says I want to keep the conditions, I want to keep the conditions, but he does not ever explain this.
MARCUSHe put out a revised version of his health care plan after Marco Rubio kind of made him look rather foolish in that debate that didn't answer any of these questions. And in fact I'm going to keep going back to these Committee for a Responsible Financial Budget analyses because they've done a really good job on this. Their analysis of the Trump health care plan says it would cost between $270 billion and $500 billion and double the number of uninsured.
REHMAnd when we come back, we'll hear Norm Ornstein's take on the various plans to improve health care for the American people since many believe the Affordable Care Act has not done it. Stay with us.
REHMWelcome back. I know we have lots of callers, lots of emails. Let's see. Here's a -- but before we go to those, let's hear Norm on Hillary Clinton's healthcare plan. Didn't she, at least, suggest that more and more people might get their healthcare through Medicare?
ORNSTEINShe did more recently. Where Bernie Sanders's plan effectively is Medicare for all, what Hillary Clinton has now suggested is Medicare for everybody over the age of 50. It would be a plan available to them, along with the other menu of plans that are there in the Affordable Care Act. You know, fundamentally, Hillary Clinton's position has been the goal is to get everybody insured. We do it incrementally by building on the Affordable Care Act. And that includes smoothing out some of the problems in the Act.
ORNSTEINHitting drug companies that charge excessive prices, trying to slow the growth of out of pocket costs. And building in additional incentives for insurers to move out and get more people into the plan. It's an incremental way of moving forward, and she's now moved further on the Medicare side. We might add, just with Donald Trump, beyond his healthcare plan, he's also said something that goes completely against Republican orthodoxy, which is I'd leave Medicare alone. It's a great program.
YORKThat's a good point about entitlements, which is Trump has completely taken an opposition on -- oppositional stance toward the Ryan Medicare Plan, plus social security. Now, Ryan has not made a huge deal out of Social Security, wasn't in his original road map. But Republicans absolutely agree on measures to increase the eligibility age. Maybe change how the cost of living, they're calculated, that sort of thing. Trump has just come out and said, I am not going to touch your Social Security.
REHMAnd you, Ruth, have been critical of her call to repeal the so-called Cadillac tax.
MARCUSSo, this goes back to the healthcare plans.
MARCUSThe Cadillac tax is a, basically, a cost control mechanism that's part of the Affordable Care Act. It would impose a surtax on healthcare plans that cost over a specified amount, that are deemed to be too generous. Not coincidentally, these healthcare plans include many plans negotiated by unions who hate it. And one could at least I think reasonably presume, that that might be an element of Hillary Clinton's decision to call for a repeal of the Cadillac tax.
YORKYou know, back in the debate over Obamacare in 2009, I remember -- you know, there were a number of Democrats, more liberal Democrats, who wanted a much more extensive plan, they were upset there wasn't a public option in the plan. And Senator Tom Harkin, a very liberal Democrat at the time, said to them, look, look at this as a starter home. Build this house and we'll add a room later, we'll add another room later, and we'll get where we want to go.
YORKAnd I think Ruth is right about Hillary Clinton just basically wants to add rooms in a Harkin-esque way to this, where Bernie Sanders just wants to move into another house altogether.
REHMDo the whole thing -- yeah. Okay, here's our first email from Craig in Somerville, Massachusetts. Please explain the differences between the candidates on the economy and income inequality. Is Hillary Clinton's pro-growth economic policy more like Republican trickle-down economics or Sanders' progressive economics? And what about Trump? Why don't you start with Hillary, Norm?
ORNSTEINWell, you know, we do have a lot of discussion among all the candidates, but especially with the Democrats about economic inequality, and while we have here, for Hillary Clinton, a plan that would impose more taxes on the rich, that presumably at least would reduce some of that advantage. While providing things like expanding health insurance and reducing cost of tuition. What's striking about the Clinton proposals, and frankly, the proposals of all of the others is, there isn't much of a robust way here of sharply reducing inequality or finding ways to increase the stagnant wages of workers out there.
ORNSTEINWe don't have a whole lot on plans to add high value jobs. The one area where I think you do have that, and where Clinton and Sanders at least agree is a robust infrastructure program. And ways to pay for it, and Clinton, I think, puts more focus on that than other candidates do. And that would, if it were implemented, do more to create good jobs than almost anything else.
YORKI've really gotten the sense that Bernie Sanders' plan is more to punish the wrongdoers in the American economy as a way of decreasing inequality. You can't go -- all the Bernie Sanders speeches I've been to -- it's all just millionaires and billionaires, breaking up the big banks. These people are taking it all for themselves. They're not leaving any for you, and they've got enough already. So, it's a really punitive plan and as Norm was laying it out very well, although the tax increases that would be directed, including the transaction tax, on Wall Street accounts.
YORKSo, it seems to me that's just a huge difference between her -- between him and Hillary Clinton.
REHMAll right. This breaking up the big banks. We've heard that over and over again. I wonder whether Bernie Sanders has been able to at least outline how he would go about doing that, Ruth.
MARCUSWell, he ran into some trouble when he was asked to be specific about what that would look like. And he had an editorial board meeting, I think, with the New York Daily News, where he -- some people thought he stumbled there. Some people thought he answered perfectly reasonably, which is we need to limit the banks to a certain size so they're not too big to fail. And how they break themselves up is really kind of up to them. I think that the more fundamental question is do we have, in the post-crash world, and in the post-Dodd/Frank world, adequate mechanisms in place to repeat -- to avoid a repeat of what happened to the country and the economy.
MARCUSAnd one of the arguments -- there's actually a totally reasonable argument about breaking up the banks, but one of the things that Hillary Clinton has been saying in response to Bernie Sanders is, we need to sort of deal with a lot of the complicated non-bank but incredibly powerful financial institutions and not just focus on this one, not small, but just one part of the larger financial economy.
REHMAll right, let's open the phones. We'll go first to Xavier in Charlotte, North Carolina. You're on the air.
XAVIERI just have a quick question on the candidates. I don't know a lot about their positions of science and technology. I remember a couple of cycles back, there was talk about moon bases and things like that, but I'm really curious, what are their particular stances on NASA, (unintelligible) research, things of that nature. And I'll take my answer off air.
REHMAll right. Thanks.
YORKThat's a great question. I will tell you, I don't know of any Trump positions. I remember the Republican Florida primary campaign back in 2012, where you just kind of had to go to the Cape Canaveral area and give your space speech. And Romney went and gave a space speech, and Gingrich went and gave a much better space speech. And that didn't happen this time around. And to my knowledge, and correct me if I'm wrong, I don't think Trump has said anything about NASA.
MARCUSI'm not sure any of the candidates have said anything.
MARCUSAbout NASA, or if you think about it, stem cell research, which has been a very vibrant issue of debate back in the day. I would say, on science, having sat in The Washington Post editorial board meeting with Trump when he was asked about the -- how he dealt, thought about the importance of dealing with manmade climate change, and he dismissed that as an issue that we should be spending our energy addressing. Pardon the pun on energy.
REHMDid he not call climate change a hoax?
MARCUSI think he did.
ORNSTEINYeah. Yes, he did and, you know, which also fits with Republican orthodoxy. I think Ruth and Byron are right. Some of these issues have not been addressed. Clinton has talked a lot about health research and raising money for the National Institutes of Health. I don't think she and Sanders are far apart on those issues and where science has come up, it has been in the context of climate change. With Clinton and Sanders both scoffing at the notion that we should dismiss scientists. Which is a real difference between the parties at this point.
REHMAll right. And here's an email from Peggy. What are the candidates' immigration plans? Byron.
YORKWell, with Trump, it's probably the issue that has made his candidacy so far. And I think we all know about his plans for the wall. Which I think he, you know, if you go to Trump rallies now, he does call and response with the audience. We're going to build a wall. You know, and they'll say, we're gonna build a wall. And he said, and who's gonna pay for it? And they'll all yell, Mexico. Obviously, there are two bigger issues here, much more difficult issues. One is deportations, which Trump has promised, a mass deportation of everyone who is in the country illegally.
REHMSome 11 million people.
YORKAnd that's, you know, I think that's something you'll see Trump soften on. Maybe he'll change it to people who have been in the country for two years or, excuse me, less than two years. But one thing, in an actual policy sense, and you have to remember that Trump has made Senator Jeff Sessions, who is the top opponent of comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate, one of his key advisors. Now, I think you'll see Trump proposals to actually limit the amount of legal immigration into the country.
YORKThis idea that, yes, we support legal immigration, but there should be less of it now. So, I think once Trump's positions become a little more clearly known, it's going to be the wall, it's going to be modified deportations, and it's going to be a reduction in the amount of legal immigrants.
REHMWhat about Hillary and Bernie?
MARCUSSo, this is another example in the campaign where not only is there a huge difference between Hillary and Bernie on the one hand and Trump on the other, and by the way, on deportations, you know, when he's -- he -- we just have to listen to what he says now. Which is that he's deporting everybody, and then he'll let the good ones back in. But Hillary Clinton has moved significantly to the left of President Obama in terms of deportation policy. Says she does not want to deport children period.
MARCUSAnd so, Bernie Sanders has been very, very critical of some of the roundups the administration has been doing of folks, and I think that has driven, for obvious reasons, both candidates to the left of where the administration is.
REHMAll right, to Laura in Dallas, Texas. You're on the air.
LAURAGood morning, Diane. Thank you for taking my call.
LAURAAnd thank you for -- thank you for bringing the real important topics for people to consider in this election. In going back to the healthcare plan of Sanders, I just called because I think it is important to be fair and there was a couple points that were left out of your analysis, with your panel, and one is the cost of prescriptions and the over-cost of the pharmaceuticals -- pharmaceutical industry that they place in medication and which does not happen in Canada, does not happen in Cuba, doesn't happen in other countries that offer healthcare to everybody.
LAURAAnd that is very important. They need to be under control. That would lower, a lot, the cost of healthcare. And the other point is that we don't really, we need to ask ourselves, why do we really need insurance companies? We don't really need them if everybody has access to healthcare, then we cut costs by just deleting that part of the equation. I think...
REHMAll right, thanks for your call. And you're listening to The Diane Rehm Show. So, Bernie would somehow deal with the pharmaceutical companies and number two, would eliminate the insurance companies.
MARCUSSure. Well, one version of Medicare for all would take out the insurance companies as the administrator of these programs, and arguably, would make that process more efficient. Medicare is a very efficient program. That's a totally legitimate and important argument for single payer healthcare. And whether if you were starting from scratch, you would build that kind of system is a good question. On the question of prescription drugs, it's really interesting, this is another one of the areas where all three candidates have been railing against the very tempting villain of pharmaceutical companies. Because we've all been paying very high prescription drug prices.
REHMAll right. And finally, a Washington Post/ABC poll released yesterday found really, really harsh views of both Clinton and Trump. Norm, I gather you have very serious concerns about the accuracy of some of the polling around this time.
ORNSTEINYeah, Alan Abramowitz, a political scientist at Emory, and I did a piece in the Times a couple of days ago, which they titled, "Stop the Polling Insanity." The obsession with polls, every day, and especially things that do comparisons of the candidates at this point in the cycle, and television networks especially, the cable news networks, seize on every single one of them. The fact is, many of these polls are not very good polls. The whole polling industry is close to crisis right now. Response rates are nine percent or less.
ORNSTEINWe can't often get an accurate sample of cell phones. It becomes more of an art than a science and we take each poll as if it were the Holy Grail. And it's time to step back, not pay so much attention to individual surveys, look at longer term polling averages, but also, we're seeing a lot of these polls that show striking results because they under sample Hispanics. Or they under sample younger voters or other groups of people. And this is not a great way to play out our horse race obsession.
YORKWell, I'm a big fan of the polls, in the sense that I agree with Norm about averaging the polls and I think if you put these polls that we've been seeing in the last few days together with polls that we saw a month and more ago, clearly, the race has changed quite a bit. The polls do not tell you what's going to happen in November. They tell you what's happening right now. And also, there's a lot of other data. I was going to bring up one other thing, as far as immigration is concerned, and Trump.
YORKI left out the Muslim ban. And that's something that -- it's going to be -- it's going to be very interesting to see what he does in a general election campaign, because the exit polls in most of the states asked a question that said, Trump has proposed temporarily banning Muslims who aren't US citizens from entering the US. Do you approve or not approve? Approve among Republican primary voters, New York state, 68 percent. Pennsylvania, 69 percent. Texas, 67, Georgia, 68. Huge, two thirds majorities among Republicans supporting Trump's proposal. That's what got him the primary victory. We'll see what he does in the general election.
MARCUSHe's going to talk about how maybe it's just temporary. And there might be exceptions.
REHMBut what do you think about the polls, Ruth?
MARCUSOn the polls, I think the thing that is most striking about the polls right now is the undeniable unpopularity of both of the leading candidates. And that's something that is just unprecedented in American history.
REHMAll right, and we'll have to leave it at that. I want to promise our listeners, as things change, we will come back and talk more about these positions. Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post, Byron York of the Washington Examiner, Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute. Thank you all.
MARCUSThanks a lot, Diane.
YORKThanks so much, Diane.
REHMAnd thanks, all, for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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