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Surprise! A presidential debate on the issues

Trump's  Clinton's top money men argue for your vote

Serious discussion. Policy issues. Cordial debate. In 2016. It finally happened, America.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s advisers debated about the U.S. economy on Thursday in front of a well behaved, non-booing audience.

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They have very different visions — and promises — for the U.S. economy.

Stephen Moore, Trump’s economic adviser, sees an America with 4% economic growth — even though growth has averaged 2% the last seven years.

He predicts lower corporate and income taxes, more coal mining, more spending on roads and bridges, no Obamacare and U.S. companies spending lots of money that they’ve stashed away for decades.

“We feel the economy has way underperformed,” under Obama, Moore says. “Donald Trump knows how to create jobs.”

Gene Sperling, Clinton’s economic adviser, forecasts a higher federal minimum wage, more spending on roads and bridges, and comprehensive immigration reform — what he argues will be a major factor for economic growth.

Sperling doesn’t see Clinton spending more on coal, repealing Obamacare or giving corporations a major tax cut.

Clinton’s first economic priority as president would be “a jobs plan that is focused on doing the things that are good for long-term productivity,” Sperling said.

Sperling and Moore had a few heated moments during the debate in Washington, moderated by CNN’s Christine Romans. Neither threatened the other with jail time. But they sparred over some issues.

1. Corporate taxes

Sperling and Moore agree that America’s corporate tax system is broken. But fixing it is where they differ.

American companies pay a 35% tax — the highest rate among advanced economies. It’s a big reason why lots of companies, such as Apple, stash money overseas in tax havens like Ireland.

Moore says Trump will lower the corporate tax rate to 15%, which he argues would give companies an incentive to bring home cash, then use that money to create more jobs and spend on new projects.

“Our corporate income tax is so anti-American, it’s almost unpatriotic,” says Moore.

Sperling said Clinton wouldn’t do that — but didn’t really say what she would do.

“She hasn’t shown her hand at exactly where she would go as president [on corporate tax reform], but she has laid out principles,” Sperling said. Closing tax loopholes is one principle he noted.

2. Mexico Immigration

Moore doesn’t agree with his boss, Trump, on NAFTA, the free trade deal between Mexico, Canada and the United States.

But he did reiterate one Trump promise — with a twist.

“We’re going to build that wall, but we’re going to have big gates,” Moore said, illustrating a slightly warmer immigration policy than Trump has pitched.

Sperling said Clinton plans to create a path to citizenship, a plan that many economists believe would help boost jobs, wages and overall growth. Sperling also criticized Trump’s threats to raise tariffs on Mexico — an issue Moore backed away from.

3. The Federal Reserve

Clinton has made no comment on the Fed this year while Trump says Fed Chair Janet Yellen should be “ashamed of herself” for creating a “false economy” with super low interest rates.

Moore says Trump would like to see the Fed adopt a mathematical rule when deciding to raise interest rates. Right now, it’s up to 12 people at the Fed whether rates go up, down or stay the same.

“Wouldn’t it be better if people just knew what she was going to do?” Moore asked rhetorically.

Sperling defended Yellen and reiterated what many Democrats say: The Fed is independent of poilitics.

“The attacks on Janet Yellen for being political or for lacking independence are absurd,” Sperling argued.

When the debate ended, Sperling and Moore shook hands and smiled.

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