Clinton, Trump and promises of change

ClintonTrump4
Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

BOTH MAJOR-PARTY presidential candidates push change.

No surprise, since 70 percent of us see the country headed in the wrong direction.

So Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump each seek, in the lingo of the day, to be your "change agent."

Which can deliver?

It's an important question whether you believe the race already is over, what with Clinton surging ahead of Trump's missteps, or you believe it tightens near the end, as presidential contests tend to do.

So let's lift the curtain and see what we can see. How would Trump "Make American Great Again"? How would Clinton make us "Stronger Together"?

I'm not talking about every-four-year promises of more jobs, better infrastructure, fewer taxes, safer world, racial peace and harmony.

These are promises ever present, never resolved.

I'm talking about specific change as key components of each campaign.

Clinton, for example, says she'll clean up politics, put people first by overturning Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court ruling allowing those with power - billionaires, corporations, unions - to essentially buy elections.

She'd do so with one or more new Supreme Court justices or, "If necessary, we'll pass a constitutional amendment."

Sounds great, no? Lessen the grip of the powerful on the process. Give politics and government back to the people. Make us "stronger together."

But presidents have no role in amending the Constitution. It takes a two-thirds vote in each chamber of Congress and ratification by three-fourths of the states.

Last time that happened was a quarter-century ago, to limit when Congress can grab pay hikes. And that amendment had been around since 1789.

So, can Clinton bring change by changing the constitution? Uh, no.

What about with a new court appointee or two committed to reversing Citizens United, assuming Clinton wins and can get anybody confirmed to anything?

Well, the original ruling was 5-4 so one vote could do it. There's no guarantee but the court's reversed its decisions before. So maybe. But iffy. But conceivable.

And Trump?

Two pillars of his plan for greatness are a promise of a southern border wall and deportation of 11 million undocumented immigrants.

Both are unfeasible.

The American Action Forum, a D.C. think tank called center-right-leaning, puts deportation costs - for huge expansions of immigration-enforcement agencies and courts - at a minimum of $400 billion.

And a 1,000-mile wall, 40- to 50-feet high would take years to build, involve years of litigation from property owners on the Texas side and cost far more than Trump claims. His most recent estimate is $10 billion.

But consider: Magal Security Systems, the Israeli firm that fenced in Gaza, is bidding to build a wall in Kenya and interested, according to Bloomberg News, in bidding to build Trump's wall. The estimated cost of the Kenya wall, which is 425 miles long or less than half as long as Trump's, is $15.2 billion. You do the math.

So the wall and deportation approaches half-a-trillion in costs, which, coupled with Trump's pledge to erase our $19 trillion debt, calls for high reliance on suspension of disbelief.

Clinton has a better shot at her change item; ironic since her campaign's fueled by funds that Citizens United (a case that grew out of an issue involving her) allows.

Trump probably stands a better chance at working with Congress, assuming the House remains Republican; ironic since Trump is Trump.

Yet given Congress' track record, reflected in a 13 percent approval rating, given partisanship and polarization no matter who is president, most change seems illusive - apart from what you might find behind the cushions of your sofa.

baerj@phillynews.com