Washington: President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, both promise sweeping progress over the next four years – via starkly different paths.
Trump, like many fellow Republicans, holds out tax reductions and regulatory cuts as economic cure-alls and frames himself as a conservative champion in seemingly endless culture wars. But the president, still trying to fashion himself as an outsider, offers little detail about how he’d pull the levers of government in a second term.
Biden, for his part, sounds every bit the Democratic standard-bearer as he frames the federal government as the collective force to combat the coronavirus, rebuild the economy and address centuries of institutional racism and systemic inequalities. A veteran of national politics, Biden also loves framing his deal-making past as proof he can do it again from the Oval Office.
It leaves Americans with an unambiguous choice. A look at where the rivals stand on key issues:
ECONOMY, TAXES: Decades-low unemployment and a soaring stock market were Trump’s calling cards before the pandemic. While the stock market has clawed much of its way back after cratering in the early weeks of the crisis, unemployment stood at 11.1 per cent in June, higher than the nadir of the Great Recession. There were still about 14.7 million fewer jobs last month than there were prior to the pandemic in February.
Trump has predicted that the US economy will rebound in the third and fourth quarters of this year and is set to take off like a rocket ship in the new year, a prediction that bakes in the assumption that a coronavirus vaccine or effective therapeutics have hit the market that allow life to get back to normal.
He’s still advocating for a payroll tax cut, though such a measure faces stiff bipartisan opposition. Winning a second term and a mandate from voters might be his best hope at getting it through.
Biden pitches sweeping federal action as necessary to avoid an extended recession or depression and to address long-standing wealth inequality that disproportionately affects nonwhite Americans. His biggest-ticket plans: a USD 2 trillion, four-year push intended to eliminate carbon pollution in the U.S. energy grid by 2035 and a new government health insurance plan open to all working-age Americans (with generous subsidies).
He proposes new spending on education, infrastructure and small businesses, along with raising the national minimum wage to USD 15 an hour.
Biden would cover some but not all of the new costs by rolling back much of the 2017 GOP tax overhaul. He wants a corporate income tax rate of 28 per cent (lower than before but higher than now) and broad income and payroll tax hikes for individuals with more than USD 400,000 of annual taxable income.
All that would generate an estimated USD 4 trillion or more over 10 years. Biden frames immigration as an economic matter, as well. He wants to expand legal immigration slots and offer a citizenship path for about 11 million residents who are in the country illegally but who, Biden notes, are already economic contributors as workers and consumers.
EDUCATION: Trump has used his push for schools to fully reopen this fall amid the pandemic as an opportunity to spotlight his support for charter schools and school choice.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a longtime proponent of charter schools and school voucher programs, has suggested that families be allowed to take federal money allotted to school districts that don’t open and spend it in private schools that do open.
For most of Trump’s first term, his administration has sought major increases to federal charter school grant aid. But Congress has responded with relatively small increases.
With higher education, Trump has repeatedly complained that campuses are beset by radical left indoctrination. He recently threatened to defund universities, saying that he was having the Treasury Department reexamine tax-exempt status and federal funding of unspecified schools.
Biden wants the federal government to partner with states to make public higher education tuition-free for any student in a household earning up to USD 125,000 annually. The assistance would extend to everyone attending two-year schools, regardless of income. He also proposes sharply increasing aid for historically Black colleges.
His overall education plans carry a 10-year price tag of about USD 850 billion.
He calls for universal access to prekindergarten programs for 3- and 4-year-olds; tripling Title I spending for schools with higher concentrations of students from low-income households; more support for non-classroom positions like on-campus social workers; federal infrastructure spending for public school buildings; and covering schools’ costs to comply with federal disability laws.
Biden also opposes taxpayer money being routed to for-profit charter school businesses, and he’s pledged that his secretary of education will have classroom teaching experience.
HEALTH CARE: As a candidate for the White House, Trump promised that he would immediately replace President Barack Obama’s health care law with a plan of his own that would provide insurance for everybody.
Biden wants a Medicare-like public option to compete alongside private insurance markets for working-age Americans, while increasing premium subsidies that many working-class and middle-class workers use already under the Affordable Care Act.