The Answers We Might Have Hoped For
QUESTION: Thank you, and good evening. The last debate could have been rated as MA, mature audiences, per TV parental guidelines. Knowing that educators assign viewing the presidential debates as students' homework, do you feel you're modeling appropriate and positive behavior for todayʼs youth?
“Appropriate and positive" are relative terms. What I might consider appropriate another might consider unspeakably offensive. Further, while our youth are the backbone of the next generation and I welcome them to watch this debate, Iʼm more concerned with appealing to the mature voters whose voices will be heard this year. I think itʼs more important that my words and actions paint an honest picture of me and my values, than that they adhere to some external definition of "appropriate." I thus leave it to the better judgement of our parents and educators to determine if what I say is "appropriate" for their children and students. With that in mind, I'll do my best to be a positive role model.
QUESTION: Thank you. Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, it is not affordable. Premiums have gone up. Deductibles have gone up. Copays have gone up. Prescriptions have gone up. And the coverage has gone down. What will you do to bring the cost down and make coverage better?
Let me start from a philosophical stance on this one. I'll begin with a potentially unpopular opinion: "health care is not a right." Human rights can exist so long as they do not violate natural law; and to assert that a hypothetical child born with a terminal condition has the right to survive is simply not true. Nature dealt the child a tragic hand but it has no natural born right to survive. If the resources are available to treat the child, we may feel morally compelled to do so, but as of this point in time – the resources and societal infrastructure simply are not available to "treat every child." Death is a part of nature – if we are born with any rights, we are born with the right to die.
Sometimes we have to hear the bitter truth. The truth of Obamacare is that itʼs doomed. Though its objectives are admirable, the unfortunate reality is that capitalism and "impartial" health insurance are not compatible. Insurance, at its core, is sustainable in a capitalist society based on careful balancing of statistics, probability and insurance rates – not unlike a casino. Letʼs take auto insurance as a simpler example. When you buy auto insurance, you're essentially placing a bet. You're betting a relatively small sum that you will get into an accident. If you do get in an accident, you win the bet and the house replaces your car. If you donʼt get in an accident, you lose the bet and the house keeps your money. The house needs to turn a profit, so they charge more for drivers more likely to get in accidents – youthfully reckless males, drivers with many moving violations, etc. They have to charge this way to ensure consistently favorable odds. Because most people lose the bet (donʼt get into accidents), the insurance provider turns a profit and thrives under capitalism.
Health insurance is no different, except you're placing a bet that you will get sick. But if you arrive at the casino with cancer, or some other pre-existing condition, the house must raise its rates accordingly. If it failed to account for genetics, pre-existing conditions, or whatever else when setting its rates, itʼd lose its bets and profits, ultimately going out of business. Thus, it cannot guarantee "low rates for everyone" in a capitalist system without pumping taxpayer dollars into the system. That may be something we should aspire to do, but not something we can currently afford to do. I mean, Iʼd like to think that if I were running in eight years, the infrastructure and economic foundation to support our high risk piers might be in place, but today it is not. In order to do so reliably weʼd have to radically rethink our tax code, national budget, and indeed the very foundations of capitalism. Unfortunately the ill-fated patchwork attempt that is Obamacare simply does not suffice to fix the systemic problems with health care in todayʼs society. In fact, it probably does more harm than good. I would repeal it without replacing it, allowing the free market insurance business to continue unhindered. Meanwhile Iʼd set into action more longevous steps to address the systemic problems with healthcare in a capitalist society.
QUESTION: Hi. There are 3.3 million Muslims in the United States, and Iʼm one of them. You've mentioned working with Muslim nations, but with Islamophobia on the rise, how will you help people like me deal with the consequences of being labeled as a threat to the country after the election is over?
I think it helps to take a step back here and ask "why does the problem exist?" In this case, the problem being Islamophobia. Itʼs a complicated answer but it comes down to the way our minds categorize things and how we apply the label of "danger," which ultimately results in "fear."
Consider a politically more tepid phobia – arachnophobia. Many of us are afraid of spiders. As it turns out, the overwhelming majority of spiders are completely harmless. But a few are lethal. Thus we have evolved to be wary of all spiders, whether or not we are afraid of them, because they might be dangerous. Though the spider crawling around in your basement is probably harmless, you likely squash it anyways because it exists in the "potentially dangerous" category of your defensive mind and itʼs better to err towards safety. Colloquially, "a bad apple spoils the bunch."
I donʼt think itʼs fair to ask people not to be afraid of spiders, as they have good reason to be – especially if they know someone who was bitten by a black widow. Islamophobia is quite similar. Though most Muslims are completely harmless, there are some who are, quite frankly, the worst people on the planet. Thus, itʼs only natural to apply our fear of these "bad apples" to the entire category. So, adhering to the metaphor, Iʼd suggest a two-fold approach. To those who fear spiders, consider a bit of tolerance because the spider you just flushed down the toilet was innocent and posed you no threat. To the spiders, itʼs frankly your responsibility to reverse the judgement being passed on you. Maybe convince the black widows not to bite, maybe do something to convince arachnophobic that you are a friend. In case it was not clear, Iʼm not comparing Muslims to spiders. Iʼm comparing Islamophobia to arachnophobia – illustrating how categorical fears arise as a result of our very instinct to survive.
At the end of the day, while your situation is regrettable, itʼs your responsibility as a Muslim to reverse the opinion of your non-Muslim piers. The radicals are working very hard to make people fear your religion – you may need to work just as hard to make them respect it.
QUESTION: Good evening. My question is, what specific tax provisions will you change to ensure the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share in taxes?
We need to have a careful look at "carried interest" taxes. Basically, if I compensate you for your work with equity instead of regular paycheck, you'll be taxed at the capital gains rate – around half the normal income tax rate. Thatʼs probably the most overt loophole the wealthy employ, but there is a lot of weirdness when it comes to taxing equity holdings. Congress has made multiple passes at carried interests, but was strong armed by lobbyists at each attempt.
Imagine you owned 100 million dollars of some company, company X. If Xʼs value doubles in a year, then theoretically you made 100 million dollars that year. You werenʼt paid 100 million in income, but your assets, against which you can borrow a whole lot of cash, did jump 100 million dollars in value. How much are you taxed on that gain? $0, because you didnʼt buy or sell anything. Even if you did sell some of that, youʼd be taxed at a lower rate than your ordinary paycheck collector. The idea is that by taxing capital gains at a lower rate, you're stimulating the economy by promoting investments. This is partially true, but results in ridiculously unfair tax rates on exorbitant capital gains. Further, it exacerbates the influence of "dumb luck" in our economy.
Some adjustments need to be made to capital gains and carried interests, certainly, but I think it needs to be taken a step further eventually. We need to seriously re-evaluate how equity value is taxed and how we tax loans backed by equity assets. As it stands today, the system is rife with speculation, leverage, absurdly low interest rates, and all sorts of economic tricks that obfuscate the real liquid value of assets. If I had 30 years in office, Iʼd work to develop a new system. Not capitalist, not socialist, not communist, new.
QUESTION: My question is, do you believe you can be a devoted president to all the people in the United States?
If the people of the United States want to act like whiny victims, not giving a fuck or thinking critically, then probably not. But if we are the nation of people I believe we are – willing to walk in other shoes, make concessions, and take responsibility for ourselves, then absolutely.
QUESTION: Good evening. Perhaps the most important aspect of this election is the Supreme Court justice. What would you prioritize as the most important aspect of selecting a Supreme Court justice?
There are many character traits I would look for in a Supreme Court justice – temperate temperament, utmost respect for the Constitution, a broad philosophical pedigree, a love of man and country, an internally consistent moral compass, etc. etc. But I suppose the most important would be modesty. The Greeks believed hubris to be the primordial sin. In the spirit of that tradition, the greatest error a justice could make is to contend he/she stands on some sort of inalienable moral high ground – that his/her position represents a kind of unilateral supremacy. A justice must realize he is but "a boy (or girl) grown tall." He must be ready to interpret the law with respect to the Constitution, but realize his interpretations are just that, interpretations. He must realize that these interpretations are but those of one man in time and are not, despite his office, "Supreme."
QUESTION: What steps will your energy policy take to meet our energy needs, while at the same time remaining environmentally friendly and minimizing job loss for fossil power plant workers?
Letʼs start by comparing fossil fuels to renewable sources, the most important of which is solar. Ultimately, all energy on Earth comes from the sun. As Tim Urban of Wait But Why points out, oil is basically just "bottled sunlight" stored underground in ancient plant matter. When we burn it, we release that energy back into the ecosystem and by releasing "bottled sunlight" alongside natural sunlight, we risk overheating our planet. Further, we must acknowledge that there is more than enough natural solar energy, by many orders of magnitude, to provide for the entirety of humanityʼs energy demands. As Elon Musk put it, "it just so happens thereʼs this giant fusion reactor in the sky called the sun." The difficulty lies in the fact that collecting, storing, and accessing the energy from that reactor is technologically more difficult and expensive than using bottled sunlight. Thus, we use fossil fuels as a capitalistic crutch for our technological inadequacy.
I believe that technological advancement is an evolutionary imperative of our species. Murphyʼs Law states, "what can happen will happen." If we can build better technology, we will build better technology. Thus we must anticipate the inevitability of technological advancement, and the job loss that comes with it (a loss not restricted to the energy sector, mind you). But itʼs not so much "job loss" as it is "job reallocation.” In summary, my policy would be two-fold: technological investments in cheaper, more advanced forms of clean energy production and storage, and educational investments in re-training fossil fuel workers to contribute in a new era of energy production. In the short-term, burning fossil fuels is a cheap, appetizing proposition. But in the long-term, clean energy will become cheaper than fossil fuels, and have the side effect of being more elegant, more advanced, and much less environmentally abrasive.
QUESTION: Good evening. My question to both of you is, regardless of the current rhetoric, would either of you name one positive thing that you respect in one another?
Well, I despise you both. But for Clinton itʼs drive and commitment, for Trump, candor and defiance.
BONUS: Z, who will you vote for in 2016?
Gary Johnson, I canʼt stand these imbeciles and I am a Libertarian at heart.