One side effect of the 2020 presidential contest sliding towards an existential choice between continuing with flawed democracy or barreling into an authoritarian dark age is that the traditional issues often fall by the wayside. While Donald Trump probably did not enjoy Thursday's very accurate headlines tracing his declared intent to disregard the results of a democratic election, he probably preferred that conversation to one about his record and his plans for a second term.
Joe Biden's healthcare plan almost certainly does not go far enough to remedy the sprawling issues in the American system, but Trump's plan—which has been set to arrive "in two weeks" for years—appears to be to sign a meaningless executive order declaring that we should definitely protect coverage for pre-existing conditions, even if his administration is currently signed onto a lawsuit that would destroy those protections along with the rest of the Affordable Care Act. Biden's $2 trillion climate plan may not get us all the way to where we need to go, but the incumbent believes much of the western United States was consumed by fire for weeks because of poor "forest management" and exploding trees.
The issue where Donald Trump does have a foothold with voters, however, is on the economy. Somehow, despite the fact that his complete mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic has helped the economy descend deep into the toilet over the last few months—at least for low-wage workers and the millions who are unemployed—the president consistently polls better than his Democratic opponent on how he'd handle economic issues. Among his core supporters, it seems to be some combination of the President Business Deals myth and the fact that the pandemic-fueled recession has landed less heavily on small-business owners in rural states. Still, around 11 percent of Americans do not approve of Trump, but do approve of his handling of the economy.
Is it down to some invincible belief that the president is a Business Man who knows about Business, even if he is a businessman in the way Pat Sajack or Clark Stanley are "businessmen"? Is it faith that the Republican tax cut for rich people and corporations provided some rocket boost to economic growth, despite limited evidence, but quite a bit of evidence that conservative supply-side economics simply do not work? (Unless the intent is to shovel money to the top while dramatically increasing income inequality, in which case they work quite well.) Is it his commitment to "deregulation," which has meant turning over regulatory arms of the Executive Branch to lobbyists for and insiders from the industries they're nominally tasked with regulating?
Whatever the source of this undying faith, Trump polls better on the economy. But a new study from Moody's Analytics, reported on by the Washington Post, indicates this is not exactly reflected in the two candidates' plans for the economy.
A Democratic sweep that puts Joe Biden in the White House and the party back in the Senate majority would produce 7.4 million more jobs and a faster economic recovery than if President Trump retains power, [Moody's found]...And they are not alone in finding a Biden win translating into brisker growth: Economists at Goldman Sachs and Oxford Economics conclude that even a version of Biden’s program that would have to shrink to pass the Senate would mean a faster rally back to prepandemic conditions.
All three see the higher government spending a Biden administration would approve — for emergency relief programs, infrastructure, and an expanded social safety net — giving the economy a potent injection of stimulus.
There's a strong argument to take all this with a boulder of salt, at least if you harbor doubts about, say, Goldman Sachs' commitment to delivering broad-based prosperity that includes the American worker. What are the jobs? Do they pay a living wage? Biden promises, at least, that his climate program will create union jobs that pay at least $15 an hour. But more broadly, the idea that government spending can stimulate the economy and create jobs during a downturn is just Keynesian economics. And you can guaran-damn-tee there will be no broad-based prosperity under the continued rule of a kleptocratic regime that deals almost exclusively in favors and leverage.
To that end, the president hasn't even really presented a second-term agenda, and the Republican Party simply declined to lay out a platform at its national convention in August. They basically admitted that their agenda will be whatever the shell of a human being to whom they have pledged absolute fealty decides to tweet about each morning, having seen something about it on cable television. Lawyers for his favorite channel just argued in court that it features hosts who should be approached with extreme skepticism as sources of information. They won the case, though.
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