Tom Clyde: The soul-crushing presidential debate
The presidential debate on Tuesday crushed another piece of my soul in a year that has been full of that. I knew better than to expect a high-minded discussion of policy differences. Trump has no policy, and has never been accused of being high-minded. And Biden is Biden. He got the nomination because he was everybody’s third choice. But never in my wildest imagination (which is pretty wild) could I have predicted that performance. CNN’s Dana Bash, on air, described it as a “****show.” That is an insult to all the other “****shows” out there. It was far worse than that.
To the very limited extent there was any actual content there, it was disturbing, with Trump again cozying up to violent racist groups. He urged the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.” It’s not clear what that means, but what would have been good is for him to have said that all the racist groups should go to hell, and try to bridge the divide.
It was mostly noise, like a 2-year-old melting down in the grocery store, screaming and hurling groceries out of the cart. There was no discussion about Trump’s taxes and the allegation that he paid less than the price of an Epic Pass in federal income tax. He claims that story is both entirely wrong — fake news — and that his tax returns make proper use of the allowances and deductions in the tax code. So the completely fake number reported is also completely legitimate. Of course he could eliminate that topic by releasing his tax returns, which he was going to do right after the last election. There’s no doubt that the tax code is corrupt, and writing off $70,000 for his bouffant may be legal. But there is a line between aggressive tax avoidance and criminal tax evasion.
The New York Times reported that he owes $420 million that will come due in the next few years. There doesn’t appear to be cash flow in his money-losing businesses to pay it off. The debate might have cleared the air on that. Who does he owe it to? Do his lenders interact with federal agencies? Is government policy being traded for loan extensions? But there was no discussion of that in all the screaming.
Biden tried to explain some of his policies, in a scrambled sort of way, and in the end, there was nothing of substance coming from him, either. But it would have been difficult to present any concept under those circumstances. Health care is a huge issue, and with the high unemployment rate right now, the number of people left uninsured is growing. Trump is pushing a case in the Supreme Court that would invalidate all of the Affordable Care Act, sending everything into chaos. The return to the situation before the ACA would bring back exclusions for pre-existing conditions. Since the middle of Obama’s first term, the Republicans have said they were going to repeal the law and replace it with something better. They’ve never presented even an outline of a plan, though Trump says it will be terrific. Whatever it is. Might want to know before voting.
There is a debate between the vice presidential candidates scheduled for Tuesday at the University of Utah. Given the ages of the presidential candidates, the vice presidential candidates matter more this year than most. But I can’t think of a time when anybody cared about the vice president, including most vice presidents. Name five. Then there are two more presidential debates scheduled. It’s hard to imagine those happening. There really is no reason to go through that again.
Bleak as the national news is, Park City has news of its own. The city announced it is updating its transportation master plan. The 2011 plan assumed a 34% increase in population by 2040. They are now forecasting double that, or about a 70% increase in population between 2011 and 2040. It’s a real challenge to figure out how to accommodate all that additional traffic. So they will look at roads and traffic patterns. There might be one-way streets, and surely more roundabouts. They will continue with the delusion that we can have infinite density because everybody will happily abandon their cars and ride the bus. Someday the plague will be over and transit might stage a comeback, but nobody is on the bus now. They will talk about other options.
The option they won’t consider is the option of not having the population increase by 70% by 2040. That’s 70% in town. It doesn’t include the rest of Summit County or the tumors growing around the Jordanelle. The geographic spread precludes efficient mass transit. It just can’t be done. Accepting population growth is a choice. There are limits on what fits, and how much of the quality of life we are willing to surrender in the interest of accommodating growth. The essence of “small-town charm” is “small.”
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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“If you want to understand quickly how we got here with democracy being threatened almost simultaneously around the globe,” writes columnist Teri Orr, “you need look no further than the palm of your hand.”