With the 2020 U.S. presidential race entering its final weeks, the October 22 debate gives voters a chance to compare the candidates and their policies. Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger and former Vice President Joe Biden stand on opposite sides of many key issues facing the nation.
Trump and Biden have different approaches to tackling taxes, health care, climate change, education, the economy, and more. Learn more about the two candidates and their economic policies so you can make an educated vote.
- The U.S. presidential campaign heads into its final weeks as the last debate airs October 22.
- The candidates, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, have staked out opposing positions on nearly every issue of significance.
- The response to the COVID-19 crisis is front and center, but the candidates have offered competing visions of the U.S. post-pandemic.
Who Are the 2020 Vice Presidential Candidates?
Trump’s running mate is current Vice President Mike Pence. As governor of Indiana, Pence lowered taxes and increased school funding. He was a U.S. Representative for Indiana before that.
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. Deadlines to register to vote or request a mail-in ballot are quickly approaching, if not already passed. Check with your state for specific details.
Biden chose Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) as his vice presidential running mate. As California’s attorney general, Harris won a $25 billion settlement for homeowners hit by the foreclosure crisis. She also defended climate change laws and prosecuted drug cartels.
Policies: Trump vs. Biden
|COVID-19||Supported $2.5 trillion in stimulus payments during the pandemic||Would restore national leadership to COVID-19 response and provide free testing and treatment|
|Climate||Withdrew from the Paris climate agreement||Plans major investment in green energy|
|Education||Increased funds for charter schools||Would increase funds for public K-12 education|
|Health Care||Eliminated the ACA individual tax mandate||Would expand Obamacare, Medicare, and Medicaid|
|Housing||Reduced affordable housing||Plans to increase affordable housing|
|Immigration||Reduced immigration||Would provide a road map to citizenship for undocumented immigrants|
|Infrastructure||Proposed $1 trillion for roads, bridges, waterways, and 5G wireless||Proposes $2 trillion in infrastructure investment focused on clean energy|
|Jobs||Lost 4.7 million jobs during his term through September 2020||Says his “Buy American” plan would add 5 million jobs|
|Racial Justice||Increased funding to historically Black colleges||Would increase funding for community redevelopment and education|
|Tax Policy||Tax Cuts and Jobs Act cut individual and corporate taxes||Promises to raise taxes on incomes above $400,000|
|Trade||Started a trade war with China||Would work with allies on China trade disputes|
COVID-19 Pandemic Response
President Trump signed four laws that distributed $2.5 trillion to families, businesses, and agencies to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The largest, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), provided $2 trillion to families and businesses.
- The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Health Care Enhancement Act allocated $483.4 billion for small businesses, hospitals, and COVID-19 testing.
- The other two laws provided funds to federal health agencies, paid sick leave, Medicaid, and unemployment benefits.
Trump launched Operation Warp Speed to develop and distribute safe vaccines and treatments in record time. He used the Defense Product Act to produce 100,000 ventilators.
Trump signed an executive order that allowed states to use previously authorized funds to pay people collecting unemployment benefits an additional $400 per week, of which $300 was federally funded. Another order urged federal agencies to do what they could to halt evictions, and a third allowed employers to defer payroll tax contributions until Dec. 31, 2020. He also waived interest on all student loans until Dec. 31, 2020.
Two-thirds (67%) of Americans said that the administration’s response was too slow, according to a Sept. 13, 2020 poll by ABC/Ipsos. More than 186,000 Americans had died by the time the poll was launched.
The New England Journal of Medicine said the United States didn’t adequately test or provide health care workers and the general public with enough protective equipment. The administration delegated disease control to the states instead of launching a national strategy, and states don’t possess the same tools as the federal government. As a result, social distancing directives were inconsistent and not uniformly enforced.
Biden plans to restore leadership for the COVID-19 response to the federal government. He would use the Defense Production Act to produce more personal protective equipment (PPE).
He promises guaranteed paid leave for anyone affected by COVID-19, allowing sick employees to stay home. He plans to expand unemployment insurance, including even those who can't look for work because of the pandemic. He would also expand the SNAP food assistance program during the crisis.
Biden’s plan would require all health insurance and public health programs to cover COVID-19 testing and treatment with no deductibles or co-payments.
Biden hopes to create a state and local emergency fund to make sure governors and mayors have the federal dollars needed to boost health care resources.
On June 1, 2017, Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, the international global climate effort. The formal withdrawal won’t occur until Nov. 4, 2020, making it an issue in the presidential election. Trump has taken steps to weaken Obama-era limits on carbon emissions at U.S. power plants.
Biden plans to recommit to the Paris Agreement, restore Obama-era environmental regulations, and support key aspects of the Green New Deal. He has refused donations from fossil fuel companies. Biden’s “Clean Energy Revolution” would invest $1.7 trillion and create 10 million jobs. Specifically, it would:
- Declare climate change a national security priority
- Achieve net-zero emissions by 2050
- End subsidies for fossil fuels
- Spend $400 billion on clean energy research
- Double offshore wind production by 2030
- Ban offshore drilling in the Arctic and new fossil fuel permits on public lands
- Set 54.5 miles per gallon fuel economy standards
- Add 500,000 public charging stations by 2030
- Restore the EV tax credit
The Paris Agreement’s 1.5 degrees Celsius goal is only achievable if the world stopped emitting all carbon by 2030. Neither plan meets that target.
Biden plans to increase federal funding for public K-12 education. He wants to triple Title I funding for low-income families to raise teachers’ pay. He would double the number of health workers in schools. He promises universal pre-kindergarten and says that all community health centers would have early childhood development experts. Biden promises to make community colleges and public universities free for qualifying students. He would spend $8 billion on community college facilities, plus another $50 billion on workforce training.
Trump has focused on providing additional federal funds to charter and private schools. However, in a July 2020 tweet, he threatened to cut funding from school districts that didn’t reopen in person in fall 2020.
President Trump’s health care policies have focused on weakening the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act repealed the Obamacare tax on those who don’t get health insurance. That removed the incentive for healthy people to get coverage. As healthy people drop coverage, health insurance companies may only enroll the sickest and costliest to treat, which could increase costs for everyone.
In 2018, Trump allowed less expensive association plans and extended short-term plans to 12 months. These plans cost less but are exempt from state regulations. They aren’t required to offer the ACA’s 10 essential benefits. Many purchasers may not realize they aren’t fully covered.
The Trump administration has also allowed states to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients unless they had a job, were caregivers, or were in school. This has weakened the ACA provision that extended Medicaid to single childless adults.
Through participation in enhanced Medicare Part D plans, a month’s supply of insulin is available for a $35 co-pay.
In September 2020, the president announced the America First health care plan. As part of it, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced actions that would allow states to permit the importation and reimportation of pharmaceuticals (thereby reducing costs). It would require health centers to pass any discounts on insulin and epinephrine to their patents. As of 2020, average monthly basic Medicare Part D premiums were at their lowest levels since 2013.
Biden would expand Obamacare subsidies so that no one would pay more than 8.5% of their income for health insurance.
Under Biden’s plan, qualified residents of the states that didn’t expand Medicaid could sign up for a free universal health plan. Universal health care lowers costs by paying for preventive care to treat chronic health conditions. That reduces the need for expensive emergency room visits later on.
Biden also plans to lower drug prices by allowing Medicare to negotiate lower prices with drug corporations. He hopes to also allow Americans to import prescription drugs from other countries.
Biden would spend $640 billion on affordable housing, including $100 billion for construction and renovation. He wants to add $10 billion to community development block grants and $5 billion in annual tax credits for low-income renters. He also promises to fully fund Section 8 rental assistance.
Biden would spend $13 billion to tackle homelessness by building 400,000 units to house those without a home.
Subsidized housing allows residents to focus on improving their job skills and education. It also provides stability during bouts of unemployment so children can remain in school.
Trump’s budgets reduced funds for affordable housing. The Department of Housing and Urban Development has demolished public housing units. Instead, the funds are used for vouchers.
Trump’s “America First” program promised to protect American workers from immigrants. He restricted legal immigration and reduced the number of H-1B visas granted. Trump restricted travel and visas from certain countries and reduced the number of asylum seekers and refugees. He tried to overturn the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Trump focused on immigration from Mexico, including completing the border wall. He separated families at the border and sent them to Mexico while they underwent an asylum application review.
Biden’s proposals would undo most of Trump’s immigration policies. Biden hopes to raise annual refugee admissions to 125,000 from 18,000 in 2020. Biden would also provide a road map to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who pay taxes and pass a background check.
Biden wants to address the root cause of immigration at the Mexican border. He would provide a $4 billion aid package to Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, which are plagued by narcotics trafficking and violence.
Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan would invest $2 trillion to rebuild infrastructure, focusing on clean energy. That means more funding for public transit in any town with 100,000 or more residents. He would expand the nation’s rail system, invest in high-speed rail, and help Amtrak become fully electric. Biden would provide universal broadband, including 5G wireless. The plan would improve battery technology for electric vehicles and add charging stations.
In 2017, Trump proposed a $1 trillion “Rebuild America’s Infrastructure” plan. He included $200 billion to leverage another $800 billion in private-sector funds. Another $100 billion would go to local governments. He also promised to lower the average permit time from 10 years to two years. Unfortunately, this plan was never implemented.
As of the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (September 2020), President Trump has lost 4.6 million jobs during his term. That’s a result of the coronavirus pandemic and 2020 recession. Prior to the recession, he had created 6.6 million jobs. That’s a 4.3% increase over the 152.2 million people working at the end of Obama’s term.
Biden’s “Buy American” plan would create 5 million new jobs. The government would spend $400 billion to buy U.S. products and services. Another $300 billion would fund research and development, including half for clean energy. Biden would more than double the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. Raising the minimum wage would boost growth by giving workers more to spend, increasing both demand and business revenue. It would take 900,000 families out of poverty but cost 500,000 workers their jobs.
Racial Justice and Achievement and the Wealth Gap
Biden would provide $100 billion in low-interest loans by strengthening community development financial institutions targeted to underserved neighborhoods. He would expand the Community Reinvestment Act to include mortgages and insurance companies so minority neighborhoods aren’t excluded by redlining. Biden would increase funds for colleges that serve Black, Hispanic, and Native American students. He would provide free tuition at public colleges for families making less than $125,000 a year.
Trump signed the FUTURE Act, which permanently authorized $255 million in annual funding for minority-serving colleges. It also increased funding for Pell Grants. The Department of Education canceled repayment of $300 million in disaster loans to historically Black colleges and universities.
Education is seen as one of the best ways to close the racial wealth gap and the minority achievement gap. For example, one study found that if Black and Hispanic students had the same educational performance as white students, they would have added between $310 billion and $525 billion to the economy in 2008.
In 2017, Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. It cut the top individual tax rate from 39.6% to 37% and eliminated many itemized deductions until 2025. It permanently cut the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%.
Biden plans to raise federal revenue by $3.8 trillion over 10 years. He would add a 12.4% Social Security payroll tax for those making more than $400,000 a year. He would repeal the Trump tax cuts for high-income filers and increase the corporate tax rate to 28%. Biden would make the tax code more progressive, meaning high-income households pay a larger share of their incomes in taxes than lower-income taxpayers.
Unlike past Republicans, Trump doesn’t support free trade agreements. He withdrew from further negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and renegotiated six components of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.
Trump started a trade war in 2017 by raising tariffs on imports from China to lower the trade deficit with China. In January 2020, the two powers agreed to the Phase One Trade Agreement. China agreed to increase imports of U.S. goods by $200 billion annually, while the United States agreed to cut tariffs on some imports by half.
Biden would invest $300 billion over four years to secure America’s leadership in critical technologies. Key areas include clean energy, artificial intelligence, and electric vehicle battery technology. To confront China’s trade barriers, Biden would work with U.S. allies to present a united front in trade disputes.