What Did Voters Learn From a Week of Economic Promises?

Trump and Clinton’s speeches were light on policy details and heavy on insults.

Chris Keane / Reuters

This week, the two major parties’ presidential candidates each made speeches that were meant to show all the good they could do for the country’s economy. But despite the hours Trump and Clinton spent speaking—and making clever criticisms of each other— in the end, there wasn’t all that much clarity on how, exactly, the myriad parts of each candidate’s economic plans would work together, and if they’d help, or hurt, the American economy in the long run.

On Thursday, Hillary Clinton used her visit to Michigan to promote her economic platform and to criticize Trump’s plans for the economy as an updated version of trickle-down economics. In general, rather than providing new details, Clinton emphasized her existing policy plans, which include an additional tax surcharge to be levied on wealthy households, setting aside $10 billion for strengthening the manufacturing sector, and more than $200 billion of infrastructure spending.

Perhaps the most interesting part of her speech was her strong and certain affirmation that she would reject the Trans Pacific Partnership deal if elected—a stance opposite the one she took while serving as secretary of state. “I will stop any trade deal that kills jobs or holds down wages, including the TPP,” she said during her speech. “I oppose it now, I’ll oppose it as president.”And Clinton acknowledged that her rebuke of the deal sounds pretty similar to Trump’s position—he opposes TPP, along with most modern trade deals, including NAFTA. But she said that her rejection of TPP, or any other deal that she deems not up to her standards, is rooted in the belief that America should remain competitive in the global marketplace, while insisting that Trump’s stance borders on isolationism and is rooted in a fear that the U.S. can no longer compete with foreign producers.

She also decried Trump’s tax plan, claiming that many of his tax cuts would benefit wealthy people and businesses much more than middle-class Americans, and leave the country with a budget shortfall. She labeled one portion of his plan that would allow the wealthiest Americans to pay significantly less on pass-through income—income of business owners that is counted on individual returns—the “Trump Loophole.” A report from the non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that a reduction in taxation for pass-through income, would primarily benefit a few very wealthy business owners, a point that Clinton took the opportunity to criticize, along with Trump’s planned repeal of the estate tax, which she has in the past said she would not only maintain but require of more American estates by lowering the estate-tax threshold from over $5 million to less than $4 million.

Of late, Clinton and Trump’s economic comments have largely revolved around a battle over jobs, with each saying that they will usher in vast growth, particularly for those in declining industries and those lacking college degrees. Clinton cited research from the research and credit-rating agency Moody’s that found that her plan would create more than 10 million jobs, while Trump’s would cause a loss of over 3 million.

By and large, Clinton didn’t introduce any new policy points on Thursday, and didn’t respond to some of the criticisms levied at her own economic policy plan, including that her tax plan could make the existing tax framework more complex and could slow economic growth. She also didn’t have much to say about how her policies would diverge from the problematic trade deals that she has supported in the past.