Clinton, Trump, and the two-America problem

The first head-to-head presidential debate highlighted the stark divide in ideas between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, a former economic advisor to Vice President Joe Biden told CNBC on Tuesday.

“I do think that this kind of two-America theme of pervasive inequality is a real one and an important one,” Jared Bernstein said on “Squawk Box.

On the one side, Bernstein said, Clinton provided a polished account of an economy growing jobs and steadily improving. On the other side, Trump warned of a nation burdened with a trade deficit that will only benefit from an economic overhaul.

In the same interview, Republican Betsy McCaughey, former lieutenant governor for New York, said she viewed the debate as “a battle between the blabber and the builder,” respectively referring to Clinton and Trump.

McCaughey said the wealthy would not benefit from Trump’s plan as much as lower- and middle-income families.

“The fact is a middle-class couple earning 60 to 70,000 dollars with two little kids will pay no federal income tax under Donald Trump’s plan. A single man earning $60,000 will save $2,700 under Donald Trump’s plan,” which means more money in the wallets of mid-tier Americans, she said.

But Bernstein was wary of Trump’s promises. He said the candidate’s suggested tax plan, which the GOP candidate says will lead to 3 to 4 percent economic growth for the country, would not only cut taxes for the richest Americans, but would increase the country’s debt by $5 trillion over the next 10 years.

“To me, it’s very discordant to hear him complaining about the debt on one hand, and proffering a plan that would make it so much worse,” he said.

According to Bernstein, the plan leaves out 8 million lower- and middle-income families whose taxes will go up because it gets rid of a personal exemption component that ends up hurting the very people this election is focused on: the masses of middle-class Americans who, post-recession, are trying to decide on which side they’ve landed.

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