A Creative’s Guide to the 2016 Presidential Election
Growing up, I was taught that it was rude to talk about who you were voting for. Right between bringing up religion or asking someone when they were expecting, it was one of the rudest things you could say.
Perhaps it’s old-fashioned, or stereotypically Midwestern, but the idea was simple; everyone should be treated equally regardless of whether they were ticking off a D or an R on the next ballot.
“Just because you don’t take an interest in politics, doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.”
Then the Internet was born, and it became the goddamn Wild West out here. Not only do people embrace their right to be vocal on every social platform (along with t-shirts, hats, pins, etc.) but they’re happy to tell everyone else how to vote as well.
“If you vote for him you are a fascist.” “If you vote for her you are voting for lies.” “You have to vote for her, you’re a woman.” “You’re throwing your vote away anytime you vote for a third party.”
As if our ideological differences weren’t enough, Democrats are now “liars, Communists, and champagne socialists” while Republicans are “ignorant, uneducated white men.” Don’t even get me started on what people say when I tell them I’m registered as Independent.
Many creative professionals are saddled with student debt, or dream of running their own businesses. Together, we’re employees of a unique industry that not only reflects but shapes public opinion on all matters of American life. As such, here’s a crash course on where the presidential candidates stand on issues that matter most to creative professionals.
The Wage Gap
Let’s start with one of the big ticket items: the gender-based wage gap. ICYMI: despite equal education, talent, and ambition, women are still only making 80 cents on the dollar compared to men. The advertising world has repeatedly been accused of advancing pay disparities based on gender, most notably by the popular 3 Percent Conference, named after the fact that only 3% of the world’s creative directors are women.
While Trump loves to regale us with tales of his love for women (some intentional, some not) when it comes down to brass tax and fair salaries, Trump seems to be happy with the status quo, quipping, “You’re going to make the same if you do a good job.” No relevant policy proposals have come forward at this time.
In Clinton’s first 100 days in the office, she plans to promote pay transparency across the economy with her bill, the Paycheck Fairness Act. This act stipulates that not only will you have the ability to ask about and see your coworker’s paychecks, but your company may be penalized if they are found guilty of gender-based pay disparities. Haters clap back that this could incentivize corporations to not promote women in the first place.
Minimum Wage & Overtime
Speaking of wages, you may soon see a significant change to your paychecks. Currently, the federally mandated minimum wage is $7.25 and overtime pay is set at over 40 hours a week for hourly employees. Blame it on rent increases, price increases, or the fact that it is no longer 1968; people are fighting from coast to coast for a minimum wage increase and an overhaul on overtime pay. Supporters state that is time to give workers a livable wage, meaning that if your annual paycheck resides around or below the $46k mark, all those late nights at the agency could add more $$ to your checks. Opponents argue that this will cause a huge inflation in prices and that millions will lose their jobs as smaller businesses and agencies are forced to fire employees, advancing a shift to fewer workers and longer hours.
Trump‘s opinion has been hard to pin down but seems to be that the federal mandate should be removed altogether, and we should instead rely on decisions made at the state level to determine a livable minimum wage. His stance on overtime is a strong NO. “We have to address the issues of over-taxation and overregulation and the lack of access to credit markets to get our small business owners thriving again,” Trump said. “Rolling back the overtime regulation is just one example of the many regulations that need to be addressed to do that.”
Clinton stands strong on a minimum wage of $12, though she will “Fight for $15” in certain cities including LA and New York City. A big supporter of Obama’s new Department of Labor Overtime Rules, Clinton’s overtime stance is strong, “Within the first year these rules are in effect, millions more workers will be eligible for overtime, finally getting paid in full for the hours they are putting in on the job.”
If you attended college in the last decade, it’s a safe bet that a significant lump of your paycheck is going towards paying student loans. The next class of creative young professionals is even worse off, as the cost of college education continues to skyrocket. Americans currently have over $1.2 trillion in student loan debt, and 70% of bachelor degree recipients are graduating in the red. For many creatives crippled with debt, major life milestones like wedding bells, home-owning and entrepreneurial ventures have taken a back seat to paying off those years at portfolio school. For once, both candidates agree that this is a big problem that affects millions of Americans, though just how they are tackling it varies.
Trump has clearly posited that the government shouldn’t be in the business of profiting off of student debt. “I see so many young people and they work really hard for four years. They borrowed money. Their parents don’t have much. They work all together and they mortgage their future.” While no clear plan has been drawn up, his policy advisor discussed privatizing the loans or allowing institutions to tailor loans to student’s career perspectives. While this could significantly lower interest rates on future student loans it could also jeopardize the number of kids who major in Theater, Poetry, and Liberal Arts, and go on to helm our creative agencies.
Clinton’s bill, The New College Compact, is a $350 billion proposal that drastically reduces interest rates on loans, expands income-based repayment plans, shortens the repayment plans to 20 years, and enables aspiring entrepreneurs to defer their loans with no interest for up to three years. Your dream of starting your own agency might be more feasible than you think! The plan also would incentivize, with tax breaks, companies who help employees laden with student loans. Opponents clap back that the only way this is possible would be to cut major tax deductions for the wealthy.
Paid Family & Medical Leave
The agency world is notorious for a certain type of culture: great work, but long hours. This may be fine when you are young, but daunting when you have a young family or are looking to start one. Digiday’s 2016 survey found 50% of agencies only gave the minimum two weeks beyond accrued vacation days and federally mandated disability. Only 40% gave any type of paid paternity leave. Many agencies have transition policies to allow new parents to ease back into work but in a culture known for being ruthless and talent hungry, many fear that getting pregnant will end of their career. In a historic move, BOTH candidates have called for major reforms to paid family and medical leave.
Trump’s New Child Care Plan includes six weeks of paid maternity leave by amending the existing mandatory unemployment insurance. He plays to pay for this by offsetting reductions in the program, to prevent new taxes from being raised.
Clinton’s plan calls for employees to take up to 12 weeks of paid maternity leave and the ability to receive at least 2/3 of their wages. The historic part? The plan not only covers women after childbirth but both men and women equally through pregnancy, surrogacy, and adoption.
Creative professionals were among the most affected when President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law. More than 53 million Americans are members of the “freelance economy” and a majority of them are writers, designers, animators, editors, producers and the like. Nearly every creative agency depends on a steady stream of freelancers and contractors to make up their workforce, and Obamacare ensured that these workers would finally have access to the “luxury” of healthcare. Two years in, and Obamacare’s still being met with mixed feelings. Critics claim that the act is not so affordable after all, and some successful freelancers who aren’t eligible for tax credits are facing significantly higher premiums.
Trump’s plan includes a complete repeal of the Affordable Care Act. In a nationwide effort to lower healthcare for Americans, his plan includes instilling a free-enterprise system with healthcare providers to increase competition across state lines, require price transparency from all healthcare providers, and allow individuals to invest in tax-free Health Savings Accounts which would remove much of the pressure on Social Security and public pension accounts. Trump says his plan would significantly reduce healthcare costs across the board.
Clinton’s plan is to expand and defend the Affordable Care Act. While she has recognized some of its pitfalls, she’s pledged to decrease out-of-pocket costs and the price of prescription drugs, and expand Medicaid. While these initiatives will continue to help struggling freelancers, they don’t do much to address costs for those who aren’t eligible for tax credits (i.e. people over 35 and above the poverty line).
The industry may be changing but you can shape its direction. At the end of the day, it’s only you going into that voting booth. Not the media, not your friends, not your parents. YOU. Voting is more than picking a figurehead to represent your country or taking a selfie with your “I Voted” sticker. Voting is the very mechanism that protects your interests, your values, your career, and your dreams.
Not interested in what these candidates have to offer? Check out the platforms of the other candidates that are on the ballot or eligible for write-ins. (Sorry Bernie-or-Busters, Bernie Sanders is NOT eligible as a write-in).
Evan McMullin: Write-in. The CIA-operative-turned-investment banker who is trying to take advantage of Trump’s campaign struggles.
Page Jensen-Slattengren is a copywriter and content creator for Austin based advertising agency, Emergent Order. When she’s not fighting the good fight for non-profits and think-tanks you can find her penning feminist literature, rescuing animals, and writing about herself in the 3rd person.
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