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On Wednesday night, Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris debated at the University of Utah. It was a historic debate for many reasons—not only is Harris the first Black and South Asian woman to participate in a general election debate, but the two candidates were separated by plexiglass as a precaution to combat the spread of Covid-19.
Both candidates evaded directly answering some of the most pressing questions, including the state of President Donald Trump’s health and transfer of power. Pence interrupted Harris multiple times, prompting her to interject with a now viral quote, “Excuse me, I’m still speaking.” A fly sat on Pence’s head for a full two minutes.
Despite the deflections and distractions, there was substantial discussion about the economy and plans for the future.
What Did We Learn About Each Campaign’s Plans For The Economy?
Moderator Susan Page asked the candidates how they would pull the economy out of its current employment slump, citing that nearly 11 million jobs have been lost since the beginning of the year.
Harris responded by providing details on Biden’s plan to repeal a tax bill passed by Trump that benefits “the top one percent and the biggest corporations of America, leading to a two trillion dollar deficit that the American people are going to have to pay for” Harris said.
Harris added that the tax cut would be instead reinvested into Americans, and Biden would focus on investing in infrastructure to create new jobs. Additionally, a Biden administration would make community college free for families who make less than $125,000 per year, and student loan debt balances would be cut by $10,000.
Pence gave few concrete examples of what another Trump presidential term would do to aid economic recovery. Instead, he praised Trump’s cutting of taxes, claiming the administration has already brought back 11.6 million jobs since the height of the pandemic and provided a historic amount of economic aid through the CARES Act in March.
Pence gave no actual plans for economic aid that might come in the future, but did say “the American comeback is on the ballot with four more years of growth and opportunity,” referring to a possible Trump re-election.
One of the more heated topics of the debate was taxes.
During his response to how a Trump administration would aid in economic recovery, Pence took aim at Harris, claiming a Biden presidency would raise taxes on American families by eliminating Trump’s tax cut. Harris fiercely shot back, stating a Biden presidency would not raise taxes on any families making less than $400,000 per year.
Health care has become a contested topic of the 2020 election—and for good reason. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a divisive topic among the general population. A September 2020 poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds about half of the public (49%) have a favorable opinion of the ACA, whereas 42% view it unfavorably (the remaining respondents didn’t know or refused to answer).
Trump has long been an adversary of the ACA, passed during the Obama administration. During the 2016 election, Trump promised to repeal and replace the act, which still hasn’t happened. Pence echoed the administration’s sentiment against the ACA during Wednesday’s debate.
“I hope we have a chance to talk about health care, because Obamacare was a disaster, and the American people remember it well,” Pence said. He added that he and Trump “have a plan to improve health care and protect preexisting conditions for every American” but did not give details on what that plan looks like.
Harris defended the ACA, stating it “brought health care to over 20 million Americans and protected people with preexisting conditions.” She added that the ACA is crucial to Americans right now during the pandemic, claiming it has “saved those families who otherwise were going bankrupt because of hospital bills they could not afford.”
Wednesday’s vice presidential debate was the only VP debate scheduled for the 2020 election.
There are two remaining presidential debates scheduled for Oct. 15 and Oct. 22. The Commission on Presidential Debates announced on Thursday that all presidential debates going forward would be virtual in an effort to protect candidates from Covid-19. But Trump, who is recovering after being diagnosed with the virus last week said on Thursday that virtual debates are a “waste of time” and stated he will not be participating.