A man watches a TV screen showing the live broadcast of the US presidential debate.
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Ding ding! Trump and Clinton take the gloves off in second presidential debate

Well, that escalated quickly. I tried to find the economics in what's got to be one of the most surreal and personal debates in American history

Last night, I turned on the TV ready to dig through the second US presidential debate and find me some economics. Instead, I got what might just have been one of the craziest ever events in American political history.

Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr
The no. 1 craziest US political event surely still goes to the time the Vice President shot and killed the former Secretary of the Treasury

The word ‘economy’ was only used once the entire night, when Clinton said she’d “get the economy to work for everyone”. Compare this to first debate where the candidates said ‘economy’ 16 times. All the political fireworks just didn’t leave much room for jobs, trade or taxes.

And by fireworks, I mean the exploding fireworks factory of American democracy

Trump did have a weird moment where he said he would “give economics to people”. But in context it was pretty clear he just wanted to make the economy good for people, not make the subject of economics more understandable.

One flickering light of substance was a clash over a fairly obscure part of the tax code called the ‘carried interest loophole’. Trump said he wanted to get rid of it, but never really explained how it worked. It's all about how we tax people who manage other people’s money (like investment bankers or hedge fund managers). At the moment, we tax the money they make the same amount as we tax investments, at around 20%. But some say we could tax it like income at close to 40%. Most of the people who benefit from the loophole are pretty rich, so eliminating this is seen as a good way to make sure the wealthy ‘pay their fair share’.

Both candidates (and President Obama) actually agree that we should eliminate the loophole. So last night Trump was just questioning why Clinton hadn’t already managed to do it when she was in Congress. Carried interest came up in the first debate as well, so it’s probably something to keep an eye on after the election.

The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was the other semi-economics-y thing that came up. The 2010 healthcare reform is usually a big talking point for Republicans, but they didn't discuss it in the first debate. This time a member of the audience asked about it, saying it was unaffordable and asking how the candidates would keep costs down.

Despite years of attempted repeal, Obamacare is still very much alive

The price of healthcare is going up,  even if you take , or the change in the value of money itself, into account. But on the other hand, it's going up at a much slower rate than it did pre-2008. It’s hard to be certain about these things, but it looks like Obamacare could be behind keeping costs of insurance and healthcare from increasing even faster than they are now.

Near the very end there was a question about balancing economic and environmental concerns, but by that point the show had already been stolen by the heated discussions about sex, scandal and foreign policy.

Still, if I were a betting man (which I am) I would expect the economy to come back into focus in the last debate. See you then!

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