Final Presidential Debate at Belmont University Moderated by Kristen Welker - Nashville, TN - October 22, 2020 Photo by Adam Schultz / Biden for President

Economic issues may not rest at the forefront of Americans’ minds in the midst of this pandemic, but these issues surely rest as determinants of American livelihoods. This critical turning point comes as the country grapples with estimating damages while simultaneously proposing how to move forward. 

The state of the economy determines the standard of living for the average American. For this reason, it is of chief importance that our leaders promote a swift, strong economic recovery off of which Americans can build their livelihoods. While COVID-19 will not be a pandemic in 10 years, the effects of our economic decisions will be rippling through the fabric of society. Indeed, we may have a “COVID” season annually; The 1918 flu pandemic did eventually turn into our annual flu season. Trump has focused his message around living with the virus and reopening; Biden on “listening to the science.” How does each of these translate into futures for the American people?

Welker first paid attention to the issue of health care, sharing, “Over 20 million Americans get their health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.” In light of Amy Coney Barret’s nomination to the Supreme Court coupled with Trump’s persistent opposition to the ACA, or Obamacare, many Democrats believe the ACA is on its way out. These opinions may be uninformed by Barret’s own testimony during her hearings, which centered around a “Jenga-like” approach to the alteration of laws. When evaluating the constitutionality of one piece, whether or not the newly modified law can stand on its own is a key consideration. November 10, the constitutionality of one section of the ACA will be called into question; The chances of the entire law being thrown out are slim to none.

Regardless, Welker asked, “What would you do if those people have their health insurance taken away?”

Trump started by explaining what he has done to Obamacare in office, stating, “I terminated the individual mandate… We have to pay a fortune for the privilege of not having to pay for bad health insurance.” This individual mandate to which he referred was deemed unconstitutional in a (year) decision by the Supreme Court. Trump has often claimed that, while the removed section was the worst piece of the plan, the plan itself is not conducive to smooth, efficient functioning which benefits both ends of the bargain: the business and the client. 

He went on: “If we don’t win, we will have to run it and we’ll have Obamacare, but it will be better run.” He mentioned a point that is often left out of debates regarding health care. He noted, “We have 180 million people out there that have great private health care, far more than we’re talking about with Obamacare.” The threat to private health care exists not within the “public option” but rather throughout the erosive effects brought forth through the intrinsic incentivization towards a publicly-funded plan. Per Trump’s view, we need to look no farther than the examples of socialized medicine other nations have given us to understand it is a feel-good policy idea that fails every time.

Welker turned to Biden, stating that his plan is built upon Obamacare. Given that the constitutionality of Obamacare is up in the air until the week after the election, she asked, “What is your plan if the law is ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court?”

Ever quick on his feet, Biden offered a solution: “Pass Obamacare [again] with a public option — become BidenCare.” He went further, contesting Trump’s claims about purported threats to the private health industry. He said, “If you qualify for MedicAid, and you do not have the wherewithal in your state to get MedicAid, you automatically are enrolled, providing competition for insurance companies… They did not lose their insurance under my plan, nor did they under Obamacare.” Biden was confident in his statement, no matter how misleading it may be. 

Touching on the unique circumstances we face today, Biden pleaded, “10 million people have lost their private insurance, and he wants to take away 22 million more who have been under Obamacare, and over 110 million people with pre-existing conditions.” When Trump tried to rebut this point, claiming, as always, that pre-existing conditions are not on the line, Biden poked, “I guess we’re gonna get the pre-existing condition plan the same time we get the infrastructure plan that we waited since 17, 18, 19, 20.”

Biden received a follow-up question from Welker, who asked, “What do you say to people who have concerns that your health care plan, which includes a government insurance option, takes the country one step closer to a health care system run entirely by the government?”

His defense rested on the claim that BidenCare has “gotten endorsed by all the major labor unions as well as, as well as a whole range of other people who, in fact, are concerned in the medical field.” Prefacing that was the statement, “Health care is not a privilege, it’s a right. Everyone should have the right to have affordable health care.”

Trump jumped in, “Excuse me, he was here for 47 years — he didn’t do it… And it’s not like it was 25 years ago, it was three and three quarters.” Socialized medicine, in Trump’s opinion, is the enemy. He acknowledged that Biden has traditionally been against the maneuver, occupying a more moderate stance on the spectrum; Trump is concerned about the ticket rather than Biden alone. 

He pointed to Biden’s flip-flopping fracking front as a means by which to not trust his claims about the protection of the general public’s private insurance. One should also not trust that the reality of his plan will resemble the idea of his plan. Biden was able to change his mind about the fracking issue depending on who he was talking to, “And you never asked a question,” Trump nodded towards Welker, who represented the whole of the media at that moment. 

“The BidenCare proposal will, in fact, provide for affordable health care, lower premiums,” Biden persisted. “What we’re going to do is going to cost some money; it’s going to cost over $750 billion over 10 years to do it… You can buy into better plans, the cheaper plans, lower your premiums, deal with unexpected billing, and have your drug prices drop significantly.”

At this point, Trump interjected, claiming the “public option” is inseparable from socialized medicine, warning that this plan will destroy Social Security and MedicAid protections. 

“This is a guy who’s tried to cut MedicAid,” Biden continued. “So I don’t know. I mean, the idea that Donald Trump is lecturing me on Social Security and MedicAid? Come on.”

Biden accepted the stock market may be doing well, but he asked the “ordinary people” — how are they doing? Trump chimed in that 401k’s are “through the roof,” and Welker pushed for a new topic.

With more than 12 million out of work and with 8 million more households below the poverty line, Welker wanted to know: “Mr. President, why haven’t you been able to get them the help they need?”

As Trump began his response, Welker interrupted him — “but you’re the President.” Once again Donald Trump debated both his opponent and the moderator. Imagine if the referee league started so blatantly displaying biases.

“Don’t forget, we’ve already approved three plans… this one [Nancy Pelosi] doesn’t want,” Trump continued. “It’s near the election… She thinks it will help her politically. I think it will hurt her politically.” When Biden joined in, asking why Trump isn’t “talking to his Republican friends,” to get more votes, Trump responded: “The bill that was passed in the House was a bailout of badly run high crime Democrat — all run by Democrats — cities and states… This was a way of sending them things that have nothing to do with COVID, as for your question.”

Biden distanced himself from the partisan parler, stating, “What I see is the American United States, and folks, every single state out there finds themselves in trouble.” Trump remained adamant that, “Nancy Pelosi doesn’t want to approve anything… We are ready, willing, and able to do something.”

On the state of economic turmoil, the United States has found itself in, Welker asked Biden, “Do you think this is the right time to ask them to raise the minimum wage? You, of course, support a $15 minimum wage.”

Biden’s response skimmed the surface of the question’s content: “I do, because I think one of the things we’re gonna have to do is we’re gonna have to bail them out, too. We should be bailing them out now, those small businesses… But this, these guys will not help them. He is not giving them any of the money.” 

“For small businesses,” Trump began, “by raising the minimum wage and helping, I think it should be a state option.” He went on to emphasize the differences in the cost of living between the states, a natural disparity to arise across such a vast country. 

Rejecting the importance of this notion, Biden claimed, “There is no evidence that when you raise the minimum wage, the business has gone out of business.”

The Trump campaign has recently confirmed that its closing argument will revolve around the economy. “Success will bring us together,” the President has claimed on numerous occasions. 

Keeping in mind the lasting economic toll, which candidate offers more security, even prosperity, in the decades to come? Biden would like small businesses, already facing increased taxes, to bear the heavy burden of adhering to minimum wage regulations. As Trump pointed out, the effects will vary by state. Some already have minimum wage mandates close to the value Biden likes. Others face upheaval and potential devastation. 

Trump wants states to have autonomy. This pertains to decisions to reopen the economy as well as to decisions about mandatory wages. Trump’s tax cuts profoundly improved the agency of small businesses. When he snipped the “red tape,” lessening regulations, he incentivized many to start businesses of their own. His promise to return money to the pockets of hard-working Americans was seen through. On a national level, Trump stoked the embers and turned the economy into a roaring engine. Just yesterday, we saw one signal that Trump knows the economy. 

“Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and services produced across the economy, surged by 33.1% on an annualized basis in the three-month period from July through September, the Commerce Department said in its first reading of the data Thursday. The previous post-World War II record was a 16.7% increase in 1950.” (Edie Fordham of Fox)

The GDP is just one tool for measuring the economy and does not encompass everything. So what does a strong GDP following an economic shutdown mean? Trump successfully stimulated the economy in such a way that provoked a rate of growth almost twice that held by the previous record. Post-World War II was an excellent time economically to be an American; Handled correctly, post-COVID could situate us similarly. A high GDP suggests that Americans are producing and exporting efficiently.

One has to wonder, would we still be locked down under a Biden presidency? Would this have attenuated the virus or simply delayed its population-wide spread and onset? The way we choose to handle these issues will determine the coloring of the pandemic’s echoed effects: we will either have comfortable, rosy futures for average Americans, or we will have destitute, grim circumstances with which to struggle. Trump is acting while Biden is reacting. Who wouldn’t choose the fighter?

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