U.S. Presidential Election: What Clinton and Trump Say About Science and Technology

We’re now a week past Labor Day, which means that quadrennial national pissing contest generously labeled a “presidential campaign” by the mainstream media is, officially, well underway.

Though many Americans remain wistful for yet another summer past, it’s time to turn our attention to the civic duty of choosing the next leader of the free world.

Theoretically, rather than distractions such as email servers, Putin praise, Weiner’s wiener, rump real estate “universities,” Hillary’s health, The Donald’s narcissism, etc., ad nauseam, we’ll now be treated to an open, honest, utilitarian debate on matters of serious policy.

That would no doubt include ideas on taxation; regulation; economic opportunity; foreign affairs and overseas entanglements; border security; issues of gender, race, and equality; domestic improvements such as infrastructure; and perhaps even science and innovation.

That’s one way to go about identifying a leader. Another, from a modern candidate’s perspective, is to make sure your opponent’s negatives appear worse than your own. That’s a game the mainstream media — particularly its political subset — love to cover.

So a-pissing Hill and Don will go.

And yet, amid the “horse race” coverage and the focus on “who won the day?” the candidates have actually said plenty to reveal their views on a host of substantial matters.

Thus, it’s worth taking a look at what Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have said, amid the muck and mire, about five topics related to science, innovation, and other subjects we’ve covered here.

Climate Change

Although the 97% consensus on global warming figure has been disputed by conservative writers, the most recent paper to address the topic of scientific consensus and anthropogenic climate change concluded:

The number of papers rejecting AGW [anthropogenic, or human-caused, global warming] is a miniscule proportion of the published research, with the percentage slightly decreasing over time. Among papers expressing a position on AGW, an overwhelming percentage (97.2% based on self-ratings, 97.1% based on abstract ratings) endorses the scientific consensus on AGW.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign website identifies climate change as “an urgent threat and a defining challenge of our time.”

Her policy approach implicitly accepts the scientific consensus by emphasizing steps that homes, schools, offices, hospitals, and manufacturers can take to reduce energy waste, by prioritizing renewable energy, and advocating reduction of oil consumption.

On November 6, 2012, Donald Trump tweeted, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

He later said he was joking.

In an August 11, 2016, interview with The Miami Herald, he said: “I’m not a big believer in man-made climate change. There could be some impact, but I don’t believe it’s a devastating impact.”

The 2016 Republican Platform includes a proposal to “forbid” regulation of carbon pollution by the EPA and “rejects” efforts to combat climate change.

And Trump would “rescind” President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and “cancel” the Paris climate agreement.

But Trump has emphasized the “real environmental problems in our communities, like the need for clean and safe drinking water,” noting that “President Obama actually tried to cut the funding for our drinking water infrastructure.”

Energy Policy

At the center of Clinton’s energy policy is the Clean Power Plan, which would “defend, implement, and extend” what she labels “smart” regulations on emissions, and a $60 billion Clean Energy Challenge that would help states, cities, and rural communities build out renewable power capabilities.

She also intends to eliminate tax subsidies for oil and gas producers.

Trump’s approach would encourage increased domestic oil and gas output by opening federal lands to new exploration and production. He’s also said he’ll encourage TransCanada Corp. (TRP) to re-apply for permission to build the Keystone XL pipeline.

Trump would also “save the coal industry.”

Research Funding

Clinton’s lengthy policy paper on technology and innovation stresses the fact that “federal funding for R&D as a share of GDP is lower than before Sputnik,” the satellite launched by the Soviet Union in 1957.

She would boost funding for the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Clinton would also likely follow through on the Obama administration’s “Cancer Moonshot” initiative, which, according to an advisory panel, should emphasize tumor profiling and immunotherapy.

She’s also offered a six-point plan, including $2 billion a year in funding, to find a cure for Alzheimer’s by 2025.

In stark contrast, Trump has offered very little in the way of specifics on R&D.

He has called Alzheimer’s a “total top priority.” But he’s also said, “I hear so much about the NIH, and it’s terrible.”


As is the case with climate change, these are all litmus tests of the candidates’ respect for science, scientists, the scientific method, and scientific integrity.

During her “front-runner” phase back in the 2008 presidential cycle, Clinton told The New York Times: “I believe in evolution, and I’m shocked at some of the things that people in public life have been saying. I believe that our Founders had faith in reason and they also had faith in God, and one of our gifts from God is the ability to reason.”

Trump has never specifically discussed evolution, but in a speech at Liberty University on January 18, 2016, he did say his book, The Art of the Deal, was second only to the Bible in his all-time ranking of great books.

Vaccines do not cause autism, yet Trump tweets, “I am being proven right about massive vaccinations – the doctors lied. Save our children & their future.”

And he said during a September 2015 primary campaign debate: “I’ve seen it… You take this little beautiful baby, and you pump — it looks just like it’s meant for a horse, not for a child. We’ve had so many instances… a beautiful child went to have the vaccine and… got very, very sick, and now is autistic.”

On February 2, 2015, Clinton tweeted, “The science is clear: The Earth is round, the sky is blue, and #vaccineswork. Let’s protect all our kids. #GrandmothersKnowBest.”

So she supports mandatory vaccination… now. But back in 2008, according to Mother Jones, in reply to a question from an autism advocacy group, Clinton wrote:

I’m committed to make investments to find the causes of autism, including possible environmental causes like vaccines… We don’t know what, if any, kind of link there is between vaccines and autism – but we should find out.

Was she following the science or the politics?

During the primary season, Trump seemed to lash out against Iowa voters (who, at the time, put Ben Carson ahead of him in polls), retweeting a comment that questioned whether “Too much #Monsanto in the #corn creates issues in the brain?”

He retracted the tweet and blamed it on an intern.

During a speech to the Biotechnology Industry Organization in June 2014, Clinton said: “I stand in favor of using seeds and products that have a proven track record.”

She also noted that biotech professionals need to continue to try to make the case for GMO-skeptics.

“There’s a big gap between what the facts are, and what the perceptions are.”

Research says GMOs are safe.

NASA and Space Exploration

Clinton “really, really” does “support the space program,” including NASA, as well as the burgeoning commercial space program.

Back in 2008, she committed to “pursuing an ambitious 21st-century space exploration program” and to boosting NASA’s budget after decades of declines.

On one hand, says Trump: “It’s very sad to see what @BarackObama has done with NASA. He has gutted the program and made us dependent on the Russians.”

On the other: “You know, in the old days, it was great,” Trump told a young boy at a November 2015 New Hampshire townhall who said he wanted to know Trump’s opinion about space.

“Right now, we have bigger problems – you understand that? We’ve got to fix our potholes. You know, we don’t exactly have a lot of money.”

Upticks, Downticks

UptickThe Russell 2000 hit another new 52-week high on Thursday and closed the week at 1219.21. It’s now up 7.4% in 2016, versus 4.1% for the S&P 500.

Downtick On September 7, the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announced that the economy actually sustained 150,000 fewer jobs than originally estimated in March 2016, equal to 0.1% of total nonfarm employment. The final benchmark revision will be issued on February 3, 2017.

Uptick The BLS also reported last week that the number of job openings increased by 228,000 from June 30–July 31, to a new record high of 5.87 million. The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) indicates strong demand from potential employers.

Downtick That JOLTS report also suggests a potential shortage on the supply side. As The Reformed Broker notes, “Employers are struggling to find skilled people for their openings.”

Uptick The Dow Jones Industrial Average (+0.78%), S&P 500 (+0.80%), Nasdaq Composite (+1.07%), and Russell 2000 (+1.20%) were positive over the first three trading sessions of September 2016. But, as Eddy Elfenbien of Crossing Wall Street points out, “September 6… has historically been the worst time of the year to invest.” Based on 120 years of data, from September 6 through October 29, the Dow has lost 2.31%.

Downtick According to The Economist, “[S]preadsheet snafus are not unique to economics. A recent study in the journal Genome Biology looked at papers published between 2005 and 2015, and found spreadsheet-related errors in fully one-fifth of articles on genomics that provided supplementary data alongside their text. Although the papers themselves weren’t necessarily affected, such bugs can create complications for other scientists trying to replicate or build on previous work.”

Uptick Wall Street Daily is a division of Agora Financial, which recently provided team members with AF-branded t-shirts in order to build camaraderie, as well as, perhaps more importantly, a sense of purpose.

The one I received includes a definition for a pithy neologism. It’s printed like this:

vu ja dē
(n.) /voo ZHädā/ reinvent the ordinary; look
at familiar things in a brand new light

I dig the t-shirt almost as much as I do the late comedian/rhetorician credited by many, including the Harvard Business Review, with coining the operative word.

The world will always need George Carlin, as I’m ever reminded when I wear my Agora Financial shirt, and as the good folks at Boing Boing reminded us last week.

(Take the 12½ minutes to enjoy the video. And be sure to stick around long enough to learn George’s definition of “punch-up time.”)

Smart Investing,

David Dittman
Editorial Director, Wall Street Daily

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We’re now a week past Labor Day, which means that quadrennial national pissing contest generously labeled a “presidential campaign” by the mainstream media is, officially, well underway. Though many Americans remain wistful for yet another summer past, it’s time to turn our attention to the civic duty of choosing the next leader of the free...

David Dittman

, Contributing Writer

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