No one was surprised that the economy was one of the nine topics selected for discussion during Wednesday’s Vice Presidential Debate. With 12.6 million Americans currently unemployed and future layoffs looming over the country’s workforce, the health of our economy is weighing on the American psyche. Even the setting of the debate, Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah, made the emergence of this topic inevitable — nowhere is economic panic more palpable than on college campuses as students worry about finding gainful employment post-graduation. But given the current administration’s abysmal response to COVID-19, it was surprising to hear Mike Pence correctly declare that the American economic comeback would be on the ballot this November. Economic recovery does depend on the outcome of this election, but it is Joe Biden’s and Kamala Harris’ leadership — not another four years of Donald Trump and Pence — that will revive our economy.
The Trump administration’s failure to control COVID-19 infection rates has not only cost more than 210,000 American lives, it has prolonged economic damage, increasing the difficulty of an eventual recovery. Pence claimed in the debate that the Biden-Harris pandemic response plan is based on actions already taken by his COVID-19 response team, nothing could be further from the truth. If elected, Biden would replace the patchwork of state-led pandemic responses with a federal strategy for testing, contact tracing and shoring up the medical supply chain. His administration would also promote “clear, consistent, evidence-based” guidance presented to Americans by health officials, a commitment reaffirmed by Harris during the debate. According to Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association, a strong response plan like Biden’s will be crucial to both stemming the outbreak and steadying the economy.
During the debate, Pence ironically admonished Harris, “Stop playing politics with people’s lives.” This sentiment not only distorted Harris’ previous remarks but is grossly hypocritical. Less than 48 hours before, Trump had declared he would not pass economic relief until he was re-elected, despite upcoming lay-offs and evictions. While he has since softened his stance, the Trump administration has shown their priorities, political power over the lives of everyday Americans. In contrast, Biden and Harris have outlined plans to provide immediate relief to working families and small businesses once they take office. Harris gave voice to why their campaign has made this effort, “I think about 20-year-olds… wondering, ‘Is there going to be a job there for me?’ […] people who are trying to figure out how they’re going to pay rent by the end of the month.”
Republicans frequently use lower taxes as a rallying cry for American voters, but low taxes do not translate to a booming economy. Pence asserted on Wednesday that the sweeping tax cut championed by Trump “revived our economy,” but, in reality, this cut has had little impact on the GDP and is projected to add $1.9 trillion to the country’s deficit over 10 years. Pence also argued that a Biden-Harris presidency would bury the economy through unfettered spending and increased taxes. Economic models, however, suggest this is not the case. The Penn-Wharton model shows the Biden tax plan will result in higher wages for workers without impacting economic growth. A Biden administration will also promote tax provisions that would penalize companies who move jobs overseas while incentivizing investments in local infrastructure and manufacturing. Under Biden’s leadership, the bank account of average Americans will likely do better than it would if Trump is re-elected.
The Biden-Harris ticket leads the Trump-Pence ticket among college students for several reasons that were showcased during Wednesday’s debate, including Pence’s refusal to concede that climate change is an existential threat and his failure to acknowledge systemic racism in America. While I was prepared for Pence’s awful answers on climate science and racial justice, I did not expect him to so totally misrepresent Trump’s economic record and Biden’s plans for economic recovery. Pence’s willingness to downplay the current state of our economy felt like he was dismissing every American’s economic concerns for political gain, mine included. About a month after election day, I am graduating into an economy that has been shattered by the coronavirus. Economic recovery is on the ballot this November and we need a President-Elect who understands our concerns about beginning careers in an uncertain job market. We need a president who has a plan to “build back better.”