Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The "America Great" Experiment

This post is a continuation of my series in which I've been running government simulations in the game Democracy 3, playing as each (presumptive) candidate in the 2015 US Presidential Election. I previously tried my hand at implementing Jill Stein's Green Party platform and things did not end well.

Most recently, I tried implementing Donald Trump's policy positions, most of which I found on his website. I'm not linking to it, but it was... kind of more detailed than Stein's platform, which made copying it in a simulation easier than Stein's more vague platform.

As a reminder, you get to keep playing if your approval rating at the end of your 4-year term is greater than 50%. The simulation doesn't properly mimic a US political system in which bills are proposed in Congress and signed into law by the President. Instead, you have a set amount of "political capital" to spend each year, which can increase or decrease depending on how pleased members of your Cabinet are with your actions. To simulate Congressional resistance, I didn't handpick members of a Cabinet who would be 100% receptive to Trump's platform (the same approach I used in implementing Stein's).

Here we go.


Some of Trump's big goals are to repeal health reform ("Obamacare"), build the infamous "wall" between the US and Mexico while also deporting more immigrants, and lower most taxes while also simplifying the tax code.

Since there's no "build a wall" option in the game, I used my first large bit of political capital to increase border control to the highest setting (which Trump does want to to do, as well, basically).  I also lowered income taxes, reduced funding for environmental monitoring and regulation (I'm sure companies will just choose to not pollute the environment, right?),  and I set state health care funding to the lowest setting.

Saddle up, buckaroos, because at the end of this year my approval rating skyrocketed from 30% to 59%!  It turns out hypothetical people will tolerate a lot of pollution and deportation as long as they're getting to keep more of their paychecks!

Here are the financials:

  • Annual deficit: $438 billion
  • Credit rating: lowered from A to B (likely due to increasing government border control spending while decreasing tax revenue)

In Year 2, I increased overall militarization by increasing funding for surveillance and intelligence services, although it's not super clear what Trump would do with respect to these issues.  He seems to support military-security government services, but also apparently has lots of great, really great, ideas to make the absolute best types of these services for a lot less money.  Somehow.  Not sure there's really a simulation for that type of claim, so I did my best, okay?!

During this year, we saw immigration and tourism to the US significantly decreased (causing job and revenue loss) and also..... racial tension decreased - perhaps the idea behind the simulation model there is that racial tensions decrease when there are fewer immigrants?

At the end of Year 2, my approval rating had plummeted to 28%. Probably because the country was now in a bit of a financial crisis:
  • Annual deficit: $526 billion
  • Credit rating: B to CCC
  • Debt crisis situation
YEARS 3 and 4

During the final two years, I mostly let the policies I had previously implemented ride. Gun ownership was already legal at baseline, which Trump supports. Abortion was legal only in very limited circumstances, and Trump's position on that is not the most clear although he hits rightwing talking points on that at times.  The death penalty was already legal, as well, which Trump supports.

During this time, perhaps because of the increased surveillance  and intelligence funding, we caught a terrorist (!) and the country became a so-called "crime-free utopia" (LOL).  Air travel, immigration, and tourism were all way down, however.  Public health had also taken a hit, probably due to relying on "the market" to take care of people's healthcare.

So, I do question some of the game's algorithms.  It seems simplistic to think that increases in security funding, without investments in other government services such as education, jobs training, health, and housing would result in something as dramatic as a crime-free society.

At the end of my term, I had a 29% approval rating, not enough to get re-elected.  The annual deficit was $786 billion, inflation was high, and the overall economy was shit.  Crime was low and the Patriot crowd was happy, but also people were unhealthy and, if I could take a magnifiying glass to different neighborhoods, seemed to be living in insular little communities where they didn't have to interact with immigrants or foreign tourists ever.

To end, it struck me that the game doesn't really account for the tangible effects of having a leader who is.... what Donald Trump is. Racial tensions went down in this simulation, but it's not realistic to think they would decrease under a President who is racist/xenophobic and who supports increased militarization, border control, and surveillance.

The game also doesn't have "go to war" or "nuke France because they made fun of my grubby hands" or "make The Handmaid's Tale real" policy options, which probably should be added to future update packages, to be honest, to account for the segment of Americans who view politics as reality show entertainment rather than actual people's lives.

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