When he formally announced his entry into the 2020 presidential race, Joe Biden declared that he stood for two things – workers who “built this country”, and values that can bridge its divisions. As the US faces challenges from the coronavirus to racial inequity, his pitch is to create new economic opportunities for workers, restore environmental protections and healthcare rights, and international alliances. This begs the question, where does he stand on key issues?
A National Test and Trace Program
Mr. Biden’s approach to tackling coronavirus, the most immediate and obvious challenge facing the country, is to provide free testing for all and hire 100,000 people to set up a national contact-tracing program. He says he wants to establish at least 10 testing centers in every state, call upon federal agencies to deploy resources, and give firmer national guidance through federal experts. Biden says all governors should mandate wearing masks.
Raise the Minimum Wage and Invest in Green Energy
Mr. Biden’s broader economic policies, dubbed his “Build Back Better” plan, aim to please two constituencies that traditionally support Democrats – young people and blue-collar workers. He supports raising the federal minimum wage to $15 (£11.50) an hour – a measure that is popular among young people and that has become something of a totem figure for the party in 2020, and a sign of its move to the left.
He also wants a $2 trillion investment in green energy, arguing that boosting green manufacturing helps working-class union workers, who perform most of those jobs. There is also a $400 billion dollar pledge to use federal dollars to buy American goods, alongside a wider commitment to enforcing “Buy American” laws for new transport projects.
Criminal Justice Reform, Grants For Minority Communities
In the wake of the race protests that have gripped the US last year, he said he believes that systemic racism exists in the US and must be dealt with through broad economic and social programs to support minorities. A pillar of his “build back” program is to create business support for minorities through a $30 billion investment fund.
However, he has rejected calls to defund police, saying resources should instead be tied to maintaining standards. He argues that some funding for police should be redirected to social services like mental health, and calls for a $300m investment into a community policing program.
Rejoin Global Climate Accord
Mr. Biden has called climate change an existential threat and says he will rally the rest of the world to act more quickly on curbing emissions by rejoining the Paris Climate Accord. Though he does not embrace the Green New Deal – a climate and jobs package put forward by the left-wing of his party – he is proposing a $1.7 trilliom federal investment in green technologies research, some of which overlaps with the funding in his economic plan, to be spent over the next 10 years, and wants the US to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 – a commitment that was made by more than 60 other countries in 2019. China and India, the two other biggest carbon emitters, have yet to join the pledge. The investments dovetail with his economic plan to create jobs in manufacturing “green energy” products.
Restore America’s Reputation
Mr. Biden wrote that as president, he would focus on national issues first. That said, there is little to suggest that Mr. Biden’s values on foreign policy have shifted away from multilateralism and engagement on the world stage, in opposition to Mr. Trump’s unabashedly isolationist one. He has also promised to repair broken relationships with US allies, particularly with the Nato alliance, which Mr. Trump has repeatedly threatened to undermine with funding cuts.
Mr. Biden says he will expand the public health insurance scheme passed when he was President Barack Obama’s deputy, and implement a plan to ensure an estimated 97% of Americans. Mr. Biden also promises to give all Americans the option to enroll in a public health insurance option similar to Medicare, which provides medical benefits to the elderly.
Undo Trump’s Policies
In his first 100 days in office, Mr. Biden promises to reverse Trump policies that separate parents from their children at the US-Mexican border, rescind limits on the number of applications for asylum, and end the bans on travel from several majority-Muslim countries. He also promises to protect the “Dreamers” – people brought illegally to the US as children who were permitted to stay under an Obama-era policy – as well as ensure they are eligible for federal student aid.
Universal Pre-school, Expand Free College
In a notable shift to the left, he has endorsed several big pieces of education policy that have become popular within the party – student loan debt forgiveness, expansion of tuition-free colleges, and universal preschool access. These would be paid using money gained back from withdrawing the Trump-era tax cuts.
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