2020 Presidential Election Guide

Here’s how President Trump and former V.P. Biden compare on some of the most important policy issues in this election.

Topics covered so far:
Health Care || Taxes || Labor
Last updated: Monday, October 19

Health Care

Health care is easily one of the biggest campaign issues, with many of the proposals from the Democratic primaries and the current race revolving around the Affordable Care Act. It’s looking likely that, with the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the ACA could be effectively gutted following a SCOTUS case this November. Here’s how Trump and Biden compare on the ACA:

  • President Trump and his party have tried frequently over the last three and a half years to repeal the ACA or at least parts of it. Several times, Trump has said he would implement his own better health care plan once this happens. After years of dodging questions on the specifics of his plan, Trump came forward with an executive order that calls for guaranteeing health coverage to those with preexisting conditions and ending surprise billing. By itself, this action does virtually nothing.
  • On the other side, Biden has said he would build on the existing ACA, first by reimplementing the parts of the law that have been rolled back. He would also expand the eligibility of the health care tax credit, cap premiums, and maintain coverage for those with preexisting conditions.

Perhaps most importantly, the Democratic candidate wants to create a public option for health care, partially by expanding Medicare and Medicaid. Meanwhile, the President has cut funding to Medicare and supports work requirements for Medicaid benefits.

Medical news outlet Healthline has a great piece here on how the two candidates differ on health care policy.

Taxes

During the RNC, President Trump said he would go all in on tax breaks and credits. Importantly, he’d like to reduce the capital gains tax and taxes on the middle class, though experts say this is difficult to do and wouldn’t benefit these earners. Trump also wants to institute a “Made in America” tax credit to increase worker take-home pay, but he has not specified what this credit actually is. He’s also said he’d like to implement a payroll tax deferral, something he did temporarily this year that would make Social Security insolvent, and expand Opportunity Zones, designated areas with tax deferments meant to spur economic development.

(Opportunity Zones were a part of the 2017 tax cuts; they have not really worked in bolstering communities but instead have mostly helped wealthy investors instead.)

Vice President Joe Biden’s tax plan also includes expanding tax credits, though his campaign has specified what those are and who they benefit, namely working families and those with children. But most importantly, Biden would increase income, payroll, and capital gains taxes for those making $400,000 or more each year and increase corporate income taxes. (Parts of these would be simply undoing provisions from the 2017 tax cuts.)

As tax plans typically do, both of these reflect the candidates’ perceptions of “well-being.” For Trump, that simply means fewer taxes, more take-home money, and an overall boost to wealthier Americans to maintain the economic success Trump had seen before the pandemic. For Biden, it means leveraging the wealth and assets America has to pay for the things it needs—housing, health care, green energy jobs. One sounds like trickle-down economics, the other is an acknowledgment that working individuals, families, and communities have been struggling for some time and deserve more support.

The Tax Foundation expertly explains both plans; you can read analyses of Trump’s and Biden’s to see what else these plans include. For a side-by-side, check out this piece from CPA Practice Advisor.

Labor

After decades of declining membership and power, labor unions are once again growing widespread popularity in the U.S., making them a key policy issue for the 2020 election. The candidates for president are polling at about even among union members, but how would they actually work with/against organized labor? Let’s start with the President’s record on workers’ rights.

As a candidate in 2016 and again this year, President Trump has talked a lot about bringing back jobs that were sent abroad thanks to globalization and bad trade policy. But plainly, he has not been a friend to labor unions. Here are some big-picture reasons:

  • Trump has appointed federal judges with anti-union views, most notably Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.
  • He has filled the National Labor Relations Board, which is meant to protect workers’ rights, with former corporate executives that have consistently weakened the very rights they’re meant to defend.
  • He signed off on the 2017 GOP tax bill, which incentivized companies to move more jobs overseas.
  • His administration has also more directly affected individual workers by changing regulations for overtime, health insurance, and workplace safety and he’s blasted pro-worker legislation.

On the flip side, Trump has raised the minimum wage for federal employees and has offered to increase the Earned Income Tax Credit to supplement a raise to the federal minimum wage. Still, his record on labor is appallingly bad.

Former V.P. Joe Biden has always modeled himself as a friend to labor unions, and his campaign is further testament to this. He’s been endorsed by several national unions, including the AFL-CIO. He has also said he would enact the PRO Act, which would partially undo right-to-work laws, and has said he would set up a working group “that will solely focus on promoting union organizing and collective bargaining” within his administration. Union leaders seem hopeful for a Biden presidency.

But Biden does have some drawbacks when it comes to labor. The PRO Act, though endorsed by unions, would potentially hurt the gig economy and make it more difficult for freelancers to find work.

There’s also Biden’s record as a senator. He supported trade deals (NAFTA, TPP) that shifted jobs in many sectors overseas, and at times he’s been considered too close to the credit card industry. For instance, he championed an important bankruptcy bill in 2005 that significantly decreased financial resources for those struggling with debt.

If you remember, Biden was hit hard over this 2005 bill during the Democratic primary debates by fellow candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). However, Biden would go on to endorse Warren’s bankruptcy plan that would virtually undo all of that ’05 legislation.

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