Americans' grave responsibility on November 3

Following a vice presidential debate replete with burning political issues, headlines weren't dominated by the specter of increased taxes on the middle class or the threat of China in the east.  Instead, a housefly that briefly landed on V.P. Pence's head took the news cycle and Twitter by storm, with many users creating parody accounts and conjuring ill omens on behalf of the insect.

Likewise, in the wake of the first presidential debate, Americans appeared to be consumed by a bizarre, media-generated lie that President Trump had blatantly refused to condemn white supremacy, despite a documented record of the president doing so numerous times.  These antics would be amusing if they were not so clearly designed to distract voters from the important policy issues that will shape their lives and the United States for the next four years and beyond.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has proposed radical changes to various sectors of American public policy.  Biden has already pledged to repeal the Trump tax cuts on his first day in office and to boost individual income tax rates on households with taxable income over $400,000.  However, less known is Biden's all-out assault on inherited wealth and real estate.

Currently, when an individual owns an asset that has appreciated over the years and transfers it to a beneficiary upon death, the asset is subject to little to no capital gains tax.  Imagine that a relative owns a house that has risen from a cost basis of $100,000 thirty years ago to a present value of $1,000,000, and wills the home to his child upon death.  Under current law, the home would have a new cost-basis for capital gains tax purposes of $1,000,000 upon transfer.  However, candidate Biden wants to do away with this provision entirely, calling it a "loophole."

Under Biden's plan, the home's cost basis would remain $100,000 upon transfer, forcing the beneficiary to pay tax on $900,000 in appreciation, likely forcing the beneficiary to sell the home immediately under this crushing tax burden.  Not only would these measures severely impact the generational transfer of wealth, but they would crush the real estate market along with other Biden proposals like 1031 exchange reform.

In contrast, President Trump has repeatedly fostered a policy of lower taxes and more freedom for the American people.  He has specifically emphasized deregulatory economic policies to spur the growth of the national GDP and lower unemployment.  Trump's tax cuts, which Biden frequently promises to repeal, lowered the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent, bringing in a flood of corporations long exiled from the domestic market.

Furthermore, the president has fostered deregulation across large swathes of the United States economy, including the agricultural, energy, finance, health, and infrastructure sectors.

On the issue of national defense, President Trump has repeatedly pushed a national defense policy that includes drawing down foreign entanglements and protecting the homeland.  He issued an updated missile defense plan in 2019, which is particularly important in the wake of proposals to upgrade the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense System (GMD) that defends the continental U.S., Hawaii, and U.S. territories from an intercontinental ballistic missile attack.

This program serves the important purpose of defending American citizens from emerging threats from rogue nations like North Korea and established adversaries like Russia and China.  This is one of those programs were the military, working with American contractors, has created a defensive system deserving of both candidates for president's attention in a debate or speech.

Additionally, President Trump has frequently clashed with global competitors like China and Russia, proposing enormous defense budget increases in his first two years in office.  He has also campaigned to largely remove U.S. forces from Afghanistan and end foreign wars.

Likewise, under candidate Biden, the Democrat platform has pledged to end "the forever wars" by repealing "decades-old authorizations for the use of military force" and replacing them with "a narrow and specific framework that will ensure we can protect Americans from terrorist threats while ending the forever wars."

Democrats pledge to overturn policies barring transgender individuals from military service, as well as policies that allegedly discriminate against people on the basis of diseases like HIV and AIDS and race.  The party also vows to accelerate the promotion of non-white people in the officer corps and prevent military family members from being deported.

These policy issues are oftentimes infinitely complex and difficult to follow in the twisted corridors of Washington, D.C., and they represent small fractions of the American public interest in only two issues, the economy and national defense.  Other issues on the ballot in 2020 include freedom of speech, the right to assemble under the First Amendment, the right to bear arms, and who will appoint Supreme Court justices for a lifetime for current and future vacancies.

It is vitally important that Americans do the difficult work of keeping themselves educated and informed on not just the 24-hour news cycle, but the critical issues of the day that will shape our nation.  Regardless of their position on the political spectrum, if Americans allow themselves to be manipulated by blatant distractions ginned up by the media, the consequences will haunt them for years to come.

Image: Tom Arthur via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0.

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