Shortcuts / 28 October 2020

The US Elections: The Policy Debate

If you’ve been tuning into to news about the US election it would be easy to think the race to the White House is only about character. So in Part Three of our four-part Squiz Shortcuts series in the lead up to 3 November, we take a step back from the personality contest, and look at the what each candidate will bring to to the table on policy issues including foreign affairs, climate change, immigration, racial injustice and of course, the coronavirus. 


It’s safe to say Trump and Biden don’t share a lot of common ground on handling the coronavirus crisis. Trump opposes a national requirement for mask-wearing and has publicly criticised his expert advisers over their recommendations to shut things down to stop the spread – something he says has too great an effect on the economy. He has mocked Biden for wearing a mask and for curbing his campaign events for safety’s sake.

Biden says he would listen to the experts, that he would take their advice about handling the virus when it comes to lockdowns and the like. He says Trump’s handling of the pandemic has directly led to the deaths of 220,000 Americans and if he is re-elected, 200,000 more people will die by the end of the year.

But what they do agree on is supporting efforts to get a vaccine developed and distributed as soon as possible. The kicker is Biden says while he absolutely supports efforts to find a COVID- 19 vaccine, he understands people’s doubts that one promoted by the Trump administration would be safe, saying Trump won’t put the health of Americans before politics.

The economy

Donald Trump has said, many times, that he has built the greatest ever US economy – that was prior to the coronavirus outbreak. He claims to have generated historic economic growth, record low unemployment – something he says he will do again if re-elected. And while it is true the US economy was doing well prior to the pandemic, it’s also true that the economy was on that trajectory during the Obama administration – but under Trump and until the start of the COVID pandemic this year there have been spikes of very strong economic performance.

Now the US economy has now been hit by the biggest economic contraction ever recorded and the highest unemployment rate in more than 80 years. Nearly 40 million positions were shed from the payrolls of America’s employers in the pandemic and Trump has pledged to get 10 million of them back in 10 months. He also wants to see income tax cut, and provide companies tax incentivise them to keep jobs in the US.

Biden would raise taxes for people earning more than $400,000 a year to pay for improvements in services. He also supports raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour from the current rate of $7.25. That’s a big policy because some 58% of Americans are working for minimum wage. For context, in Australia, minimum wage is $19.84 per hour and about 18% of workers earn that rate.

Foreign affairs

So in regards to international alliances, during his term Trump has withdrawn the US from the Paris Agreement, cut funding to the World Health Organisation and he’s also been critical of NATO, a big military and intelligence alliance – all moves Biden has been critical of. Trump said if re-elected he will continue to challenge international alliances and maintain the pressure on China. Biden says he would repair relationships with US allies while being tough on Russia and China.

Racial injustice

Trump has been very clear that he’s on the side of law enforcement and he doesn’t believe racism is a systemic problem within US police forces.

Biden sees big problems with systemic racism but has stopped short of supporting efforts to defund the police. He’s got a suite of policies to deal with racism in the justice system.


Trump wants to deregulate the health insurance system and get rid of the Obamacare policies that Congress has stopped him from abandoning. He has said he want to replace it, although no details of the plan have been published.

As for Biden, he wants to expand government programs to give more people access to affordable healthcare.

Climate change

They couldn’t be more different. Trump’s taken America out of the Paris Climate Agreement, and he wants to see an increase in the drilling for oil and gas.

Biden would rejoin Paris and wants the US to reach net zero emissions by 2050. He’s proposed a ban on new leases for oil and gas drilling on public lands. And he’d invest in renewable energy.


Trump’s promise to build a wall along the border with Mexico is underway. Department of Homeland Security says it’s on track to finish 725km of it by the end of the year. And he’s proposing new policies to restrict illegal immigration.

As for Biden, he would stop construction of the border wall, stop separating families at the border, and he’d end the current bans on people from certain Muslim-majority countries from traveling to the US.

Gun control

So Trump has a classical Republican Party stance on this – he is a firm supporter of Americans’ right to bear arms. He did propose the tightening background checks on gun buyers after a string of mass shootings last year, but nothing came of it.

Biden has proposed banning assault weapons, would seek the introduction of universal background checks, and would limiting the number of guns a person can purchase to one per month.

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Squiz Shortcuts – The US Election series

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