Know Your Candidate: How each presidential candidate responds to the issues
Part Two: Shutdowns, wealth tax, student loan forgiveness, and expanding vote-by-mail
(KLTV/KTRE) - Beginning Tuesday, Oct. 13, Americans will head to the polls to cast their vote in what could be one of the most divisive elections in our nation’s history.
Voters will decide between four presidential candidates who are vying for 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.
They are listed in alphabetical order, along with their running mates:
- Joe Biden (D) / Kamala Harris (D)
- Howie Hawkins (G) / Angela Nicole Walker (G)
- Jo Jorgensen (L) / Spike Cohen (L)
- Donald Trump (R) / Mike Pence (R)
Know Your Candidate is a weekly digital series published every Monday in October that will explore issues that are important to voters, as well as the position each candidate holds.
Data collected by the Britannica ProCon graded candidates with a ‘YES’ if they responded in favor of an issue, ‘NO’ if they opposed, ‘NC’ if it’s not clear whether they oppose or support, and ‘?’ if their position on an issue could not be found.
The novel coronavirus is arguably one of the most talked-about issues leading up to the Nov. 2020 elections. In the spring, many local and state governments took measures to combat the spread of COVID-19, including economical shutdowns and mask mandates.
For example, in cities like Tyler and Longview, mandatory shutdowns issues by Gov. Greg Abbott led to $220 million of losses in the Tyler metro statistical area, according to the Hibbs Institute of Business and Economic Research at the University of Texas at Tyler.
One of the issues most pressing to presidential candidates is whether the economy should be shut down again during the COVID-19 pandemic if recommended by leading scientists, such as the CDC or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
President Donald Trump said a national shutdown of any measure would ultimately inflict more than good.
“It’s important for all Americans to recognize that a permanent lockdown is not a viable path forward producing the result that you want, or certainly not a viable path forward and would ultimately inflict more harm than it would prevent," President Trump told CNBC in August. "Lockdowns do not prevent infection in the future. They just don’t. It comes back many times, it comes back.”
Jo Jorgensen echoes President Trump, saying that the government must “get out of the way” so businesses can rebuild as quickly as possible.
“We cannot stimulate the economy through more taxing, borrowing, and spending. I, instead, would simply let Americans keep more of their money,” according to Jorgensen’s campaign site. “What we are experiencing now is much more than just a “rainy day.” But Americans have shown that they can save and invest for emergencies much better than any government.”
If Joe Biden were president, scientists with the CDC or DHHS would play a major role in deciding whether to shutter the economy in hopes of further containing the spread.
“Biden will put scientists in charge of all decisions on safety and efficacy; publicly release clinical data for any vaccine the FDA approves; authorize career staff to write a written report for public review and permit them to appear before Congress and speak publicly uncensored," according to Biden’s campaign website.
Howie Hawkins did not directly state whether he would allow for a national shutdown, but his answer concerning the way the economy should be reopened suggests he would support increased testing and minimal exposure among Americans.
“Before we can reopen the economy in a way that minimizes infections and deaths from COVID-19, we must have in place a robust test, trace, and quarantine program, enforceable OSHA protecting for workers, and other science-based public health measures,” according to the Green Party candidate’s website.
In this slide, answers from candidates include topics regarding universal childcare, whether the federal government should pay reparations, whether federal taxes and/or the federal minimum wage should be increased.
The issue of taxing the wealthy was made popular most recently by former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who supports establishing an annual tax on the extreme wealth of the top 0.1 percent of U.S. households.
The idea is to use a wealth tax to break up the concentration of wealth and power to pay off the national debt, address the national student loan crisis, and pay for universal healthcare and other services better suited for lower and middle-class Americans.
While Sanders' campaign did make some headway in both the 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns, the 2020 nominees widely do not agree with such a tax.
During a debate between Democratic candidates hosted by CNN and the New York Times in Oct. 2019, Biden avoided demonizing the wealthy and instead pointed to "the tax code right now. The idea -- we have to start rewarding work, not just wealth. I would eliminate the capital gains tax -- I would raise the capital gains tax to the highest rate, of 39.5 percent.”
President Trump and Jo Jorgensen share similar views. Jorgensen even went as far as to say it would have a negative impact on the economy.
“European countries who implemented “wealth taxes”, designed to loot the fruits of their citizens' labor, found that the low level of revenues they collected have had zero impact on inequality," Jorgensen said on Twitter. “Yet Democrats want to try the same failed programs here.”
Howie Hawkins is the only candidate who supports increasing taxes on the wealthiest of Americans.
Trump and Biden want to give tax cuts and subsidies to the rich with the assumption that the money will trickle down to the middle and lower classes, Hawkins said during an interview with East Texas Now. He added that instead, the government needs to directly invest in the American people and bail them out as it did with the banks a few years ago.
Hawkins said they would pay for bailing out the American people with “more progressive taxation,” changing federal fund priorities, spending less on the “bloated” military budget, and spending more on affordable housing, jobs, infrastructure, and environmental protection.
In this slide, candidates also sound off on issues like federal welfare benefits, Universal Basic Income, reopening schools during COVID-19, and whether for-profit charter schools should receive federal funding.
President Trump has offered to forgive some student loan debt as part of a new $1.8 trillion stimulus proposal introduced to House Democrats in October, indicating how rapidly the idea of canceling student debt has gained broad, bipartisan appeal.
Prior to his commitment to addressing the student loan crisis during the pandemic, it was not clear how President Trump swayed on the topic of student loan forgiveness.
Biden reaffirmed his commitment to broad student loan forgiveness recently at a town hall in Miami.
“You get all these degrees and you get all this debt, and you get in a position where you can’t get a job because no one is hiring, or they’re hiring at very low wages," the former vice president said. "I’m going to eliminate your student debt if you come from a family [making less] than $125,000 and went to a public university.”
Howie Hawkins' campaign website says, “I would establish a progressively graduated repayment program of 10 percent of income above the poverty line for 20 years after leaving school, after which all remaining debt would be forgiven. The federal government can do this because 92 percent of student loans are federal. The program would take possession of the remaining 8% of student loans. This program would cover student debt for tuition incurred going forward at accredited private institutions. For public institutions, I support free tuition.
"I oppose forgiving all student debt because working-class people should not pay for all the loans of wealthy students and high-income graduates, such as a Harvard graduate who goes to work for Goldman Sachs as a researcher or financial analyst with a starting salary of $75,000.”
The Libertarian Party candidate says she opposes increasing taxes for the rich in order to reduce interest rates for student loans. Jorgensen also opposes the federal government paying for tuition at four-year colleges and universities.
In this slide, candidate responses to guns at schools, federal funding to HBCUs, the cost of public colleges, and whether Election Day should be a national holiday are also examined.
As the impact of COVID-19 shuttered the economy and face coverings and social distancing became the new norm for Americans, vote-by-mail became a topic of debate among political candidates.
Democrats most notably urged people who were eligible to stay home in November—and vote by mail. The idea grew into an issue where voters questioned the ethics and accuracy behind allowing not only eligible Americans, but all Americans, to vote by mail to avoid further spreading the novel coronavirus.
“I think we should be looking to all-mail ballots across the board to begin with because it’s an easier way for people to vote. But whether or not that’s required across the board in all 50 states and territories, I’m not sure yet," Joe Biden told Meet the Press in March. "I think we can make that. But we should be beginning to plan that in each of our states… I think it’s worth looking at, quickly.”
“The uncertainties of the coronavirus pandemic make mail-in balloting the only way to ensure all voters can vote in November," echoed Howie Hawkins in a Green Party of Colorado questionnaire. “The federal government should enact a program with funding and standards to mail all registered voters a mail-in ballot for the November election.”
Jo Jorgensen took the idea a step further, suggesting the process could even be taken online with the proper protocols and security in place.
President Donald Trump, on the other hand, has spent months questioning the security of the practice.
“I think a lot of people cheat with mail-in voting... It shouldn’t be mail-in voting," Trump said during a White House briefing in April. "No, it shouldn’t be mailed in. You should vote at the booth. And you should have voter ID because when you have voter ID, that’s the real deal.”
In this slide, candidate responses to the Electoral College, felons' right to vote, and Voter ID are also examined.
Absentee ballot deadlines
Request: Oct. 23
Return by Mail: Postmarked by Nov. 3 by 7 p.m.
Oct. 13 through Oct. 30, but dates and hours may vary based on where you live.
Data used in the Know Your Candidates graphics was collected via Britannica’s ProCon.org database comparing the 2020 presidential candidates.