The first of three scheduled televised debates for the 2016 presidential election is set for next week, when the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, debates the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, at 8 p.m. (Central) Sept. 26 (Monday) at Hofstra University in Hempstad, N.Y.
Michael Carroll, director of the University of North Texas Economics Research Group, says the debates can be an opportunity for the candidates to address the election topic consistently rated by voters as their No. 1 concern: the economy. He is available to provide insight into the subject. Reach him at Michael.Carroll@unt.edu, 940-565-4049 (office) or 419-308-9580 (cell).
"Given the current candidates, I don’t expect a detailed policy discussion," he says. "I expect the campaign to continue with the 'he said, she said' rhetoric that will make a playground argument sound scholarly. Apparently nobody has mastered the art of discussing policy in a 140 character Twitter feed."
That lack of economic discussion could be a missed opportunity to hash out the topics on the mind of voters, Carroll says.
"The national economy is stable, but stagnant, and labor growth has been sluggish. I expect that to continue through 2017," he says, noting that voters want to hear the candidate's positions on the economy. "Employment is the key issue now. We have seen a slight increase in employment in recent months, but it may not be an increase in high-wage, high-productivity jobs. We need to see increases in employment in high-productivity sectors to produce increases in GDP."
Locally, and for the state, Carroll predicts that economic outlooks are not going to change much before November – a factor that could prevent last-minute changes from voters about for whom to cast their ballots. With the exception of the depressed energy sector and flat agricultural prices, Carroll notes the Texas economy is strong.
"The Dallas Fed reports a slight increase in economic activity in the past six weeks. Auto sales are up, real estate is up in D-FW and service sector jobs are being created. Construction demand is also strong. The Fed expects yields for cotton, corn and soybean to increase by double digits," he says.
Carroll continues, however, that a few factors could compel voters to reconsider which candidate will get their vote.
"One, the stock market may adjust given the uncertainty surrounding the candidates. Two, there might be a slight rise in the interest rates from the Federal Reserve. They have delayed rising rates because of the Brexit vote. Now that that has occurred, they will likely raise the rate a quarter percent sometime before the end of the year," he says.
Still, the most interesting thing related to the economy may happen after votes are cast, says Carroll, underscoring the need for a strong economic policy discussion.
"The Wall Street Journal recently cited a study by Hassett and Sullivan documenting that 'the U.S. enters recessions about twice as frequently in the year after a presidential election compared with all other years,'" he says. "Of the last 11 recessions, five have occurred in that one-year period. There is no real economic theory for this; however, it does serve as proxy for uncertainty and economic activity does not like uncertainty."