2020 Presidential Candidates: Biden vs. Trump and Their Policies

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With the 2020 presidential race in its final months, voters must look at how the top two candidates compare. Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden are polar opposites on many key issues facing the nation.

President Trump and Biden have different approaches to tackling taxes, health care, climate change, education, and more. Learn about the two candidates and their economic policies so you can make an educated vote.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. Deadlines to register to vote or request a mail-in ballot are quickly approaching. Check with your state for specific details.

Who Are the 2020 Vice President 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.

Former vice president 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

Trump Biden
Supported $2 trillion in stimulus payments during the pandemic Increase PPE, contact tracing, and testing to slow COVID transmission
Withdrew from the Paris climate agreement Plans a Clean Energy Revolution
Increased funds for charter schools Increase funds for public K-12 education
Repealed health insurance mandate Expand Obamacare, Medicare, and Medicaid
Reduced affordable housing Increase affordable housing
Reduced immigration Provide a road map to citizenship for undocumented immigrants
Lost 4.9 million jobs during his term, as of August 2020 Create 5 million new jobs with Buy American plan
Expanded funds to minority schools Expand funds to minority neighborhoods and schools
Tax Cuts and Jobs Act cut individual and corporate taxes Raise taxes on incomes above $400,000
Started a trade war with China Work with allies on China trade disputes

COVID-19 Pandemic Response

President Trump signed four laws that addressed 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, and to paid sick leave, Medicaid, and unemployment benefits.

On Aug. 8, 2020, Trump signed an executive order that authorized 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.

Biden wants to use the Defense Production Act to produce more personal protective equipment (PPE). He hopes to boost testing and contact tracing and require health insurance plans to cover COVID-19 testing and vaccines. He promises guaranteed paid leave for anyone affected by COVID-19, allowing sick employees to stay home. Biden plans to control coronavirus transmission by following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations.

Climate Change

On June 1, 2017, Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. The formal withdrawal won't occur until Nov. 4, 2020, making it an issue in the 2020 presidential election. Trump has taken steps to weaken Obama-era limits on carbon emissions at U.S. power plants.

Biden wants to recommit to the Paris Agreement, restore Obama-era environmental regulations, and support 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.

Some other goals Biden's plan aims to achieve include:

  • Declaring climate change a national security priority
  • Achieving net-zero emissions by 2050
  • Ending subsidies for fossil fuels
  • Spending $400 billion on clean energy research
  • Doubling offshore wind production by 2030
  • Banning offshore drilling in the Arctic and new fossil fuel permits on public lands
  • Setting fuel economy standards to support electric vehicles
  • Adding 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. Biden’s plan doesn’t meet that target. 

Education

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, too. He promises universal pre-kindergarten and says that all community health centers would have early childhood development experts. Biden plans to make community colleges and public universities free for qualifying students and would spend $8 billion on community college facilities, plus another $50 billion on workforce training.

Trump is 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.

Health Care

Trump repealed the Obamacare individual mandate. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) had required everyone to have health insurance or pay a tax. Without it, insurance companies no longer had the healthier patients but still had to take those with pre-existing conditions. This increased not only their costs but health care costs for everyone.

Biden would expand Obamacare subsidies so that no one would pay more than 8.5% of their income for health insurance.

Biden hopes to allow qualified residents of the states that didn’t expand Medicaid to sign up for a universal health plan for free. Universal health care could create a healthier workforce since preventive care may reduce the need for expensive emergency room visits later on.

Housing

Biden wants to 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.

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.

Immigration

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 also 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 narco-trafficking and violence. 

Infrastructure Rebuilding

Biden wants to rebuild infrastructure, targeting funding to low-income neighborhoods, training programs, and greenhouse gas reduction. The plan would invest $5 billion over five years to improve battery technology for electric vehicles and add charging stations. Biden’s plan also expands the nation’s rail system, invests in high-speed rail, and helps Amtrak become fully electric.

Trump proposed a $1 trillion infrastructure plan. In it, he specified $3.6 billion for road and waterway projects. He added $200 billion for roads, bridges, waterways, and technologies such as 5G wireless communications. The rest would come from the long-term surface transportation reauthorization bill.

Jobs

As of Sept. 1, 2020, Trump lost 4.9 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. This would boost growth by giving workers more to spend, increasing both demand and business revenue. Raising the minimum wage 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 double funding to 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. It made permanent $255 million in annual funding for minority-serving colleges. 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, it would have added between $310 billion and $525 billion to the economy in 2008.

Taxes

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.

Trade

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 U.S. agreed to cut tariffs on some imports by half.

Biden plans to restore American leadership in strategic areas such as clean energy, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing. To confront China’s trade barriers, Biden would work with U.S. allies to present a united front in trade disputes. 

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