US Vice-President debate reinforces policy concerns

Friday, October 9th, 2020 00:00 |
US President Donald Trump. Photo/AFP

New York, Thursday

Mike Pence and Kamala Harris went head-to-head in the US vice presidential debate on Wednesday, sparring over issues including the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus, taxes and health care.

Harris said US President Donald Trump and Pence knew about the dangers of the coronavirus — which has killed more than 211,000 people in America — in late January, but “covered it up” and “minimized the seriousness of it.”

This is supported by tapes of interviews with Trump conducted by investigative journalist Bob Woodward, such as one from March 19 in which the president said: “I wanted to always play it down,” and “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

Pence — who is in charge of the administration’s coronavirus response — countered that, “From the very first day, President Donald Trump has put the health of America first,” saying he “suspended all travel from China,” and claiming that Biden criticized the move as “xenophobic.”

The vice president’s statement on travel is inaccurate. Rather than barring all travel from China, Trump imposed restrictions that were subject to multiple exemptions.

A New York Times analysis found that tens of thousands of travellers entered the US from China in the two months following the restrictions.

Biden has accused Trump of trading in xenophobia in tweets this year, but it is not clear if he was specifically referring to the president’s China travel measures.

“Joe Biden is going to raise your taxes,” Pence said. This is partly true, but depends on income.

The Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center said Biden’s tax plan would bring in about $4 trillion in revenues over the next 10 years, and that: “Under his plan, the highest-income households would see substantially larger tax increases than households in other income groups, both in dollar amounts and as share of their incomes.”

This echoes Harris’s response to Pence’s claim, in which she pledged: “Joe Biden will not raise taxes on anyone who earns less than $400,000 a year.”

Neither Pence’s claim or Harris’s response, however, can be fully verified, as Congress would have to pass a new tax law to institute Biden’s plan, which would affect both corporate and personal tax liability.

Harris said Trump is “in court right now trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, which means you will lose protections if you have pre-existing conditions.” This is accurate.

Trump’s Justice Department has argued in a brief to the US Supreme Court that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) should be struck down, which would, as Harris said, end the protection for people with pre-existing conditions that it currently provides.

Pence responded that, “President Trump and I have a plan to improve health care and protect pre-existing conditions.” No such plan has been presented to Congress. - AFP

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