By James Molnar
What exactly are the policies that our presidential candidates advocate for? What is their reasoning behind supporting these policies? In this article, we explore the candidates’ views on two key issues: immigration and economics.
On the issue of immigration, the two presidential candidates hold starkly different philosophies. President Trump favors a merit-based immigration system, with an emphasis on curbing illegal immigration. He aims to change the criteria with which applicants are selected, relying primarily on such traits as education, economic productivity, and entrepreneurship, rather than a lottery system. He argues that “Random selection is contrary to American values and blocks out many qualified potential immigrants from around the world who have much to contribute.” As he points out, similar meritocratic immigration systems are in use in a host of other developed nations, including Canada and New Zealand.
In order to curb the influx of undocumented immigrants into the country, Trump plans to continue to build his signature “wall” along the Southern border, about 320 miles of which have already been erected. This marks a pivotal disagreement between President Trump and his adversary. While Trump believes that illegal immigration brings about heightened crime as well as economic degradation, Democratic candidate Biden holds that it is an indispensable boon to America, providing both economic benefit and a host of unique cultural traditions. Biden, therefore, vows to grant citizenship to the 11 million-strong community of undocumented immigrants. The two candidates agree that the U.S. should secure its borders against drug traffickers, but while Trump sees a physical barrier as being vital in this pursuit, Biden holds that such a barrier would be both expensive and impractical, and therefore promises to cut funding for it. He does, however, agree with Trump on the importance of screenings at legal ports of entry into the country.
In essence, Trump believes that the immigration process should prioritize applicants who have demonstrated skills that would tangibly benefit the United States. Biden, however, theorizes that America is strengthened by the presence of immigrants more generally, regardless of their economic fortitude, and thus seeks to grant citizenship to illegal immigrants and to abolish many of the policies that Trump has implemented.
In the economic sector, Biden believes that prosperity can best be achieved by raising taxes on the wealthy and using the proceeds to fund a variety of welfare programs. He wishes to increase the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28% and the rate for the highest income bracket from 37% to 39.6%. Biden’s economic ideology is underpinned by the conception that vast amounts of money are being “hoarded” in the wallets of overpaid Wall Street titans, a phenomenon that he sees as being worsened by the President’s policies over the last four years. While Biden makes it clear that his economic views are not as radical as those of Senator Bernie Sanders, and is careful not to “demonize” billionaires, he nonetheless believes that the wealthy are not paying their fair share of taxes. Moreover, Biden's model appears to treat economics as a “zero-sum game,” insofar as it implies a tradeoff between the prosperity of the wealthy and that of the working class.
President Trump approaches economics with a substantially different philosophy. He advocates for a more Laissez-Faire system, drawing from the ideas of Adam Smith, the father of free-market economics, aiming to spur economic growth through lowering tax rates and lifting stifling regulations. During his presidency, Trump implemented tax cuts across the board. Prior to the fallout associated with Covid-19, the economy surged and unemployment fell in record numbers. As the president points out, these positive effects are especially apparent for historically disadvantaged groups. Though the precise cause of this growth is still a matter of debate, many believe that Trump’s economic policies played a key role in it.
Some of the candidates' ideological differences on this issue may stem from their notably different personal backgrounds. While Biden dedicated most of his working years to jobs in government, affecting the economy through passing laws and regulations, Trump spent most of his career working in the private sector as a prominent entrepreneur and businessman, stimulating economic growth by building companies.
In summary, Biden favors a redistributionist approach to economics, consisting of heightened tax rates on the wealthy and the introduction of additional social programs. Trump, on the other hand, takes a more free-market view, advocating for deregulation and decreased taxes across the board.
Melanie Moyer '22,