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How Biden says he would rescue a faltering U.S. economy

With tens of millions of Americans reeling financially from the coronavirus pandemic, the future of the U.S. economy is on the minds of many. Both President Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden are seeking to convince voters they can revive the country. But what do their respective policies suggest? Paul Solman analyzes some of Biden’s key economic proposals -- and how he would pay for them.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    With tens of millions of Americans reeling financially from the coronavirus pandemic, the future of the U.S. economy is on the minds, of course, of many.

    Both President Trump and the Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, are trying to convince voters they're the best choice to revive the country in the near future and for the long haul.

    This week, our chief economics correspondent, Paul Solman, takes a look at the economic agenda of Joe Biden.

    It's part of our regular series Making Sense.

  • Former President Joseph Biden:

    Here we are now, with an economy in crisis, but with an incredible opportunity, not just to build back to where we were before, but better, stronger.

  • Paul Solman:

    At stump speeches, and more recently via Zoom, Vice President Joe Biden makes the case for why he's the person to lead the economy out of the COVID crisis, which has nearly 30 million Americans receiving unemployment insurance.

    Biden's plan? First, says Jared Bernstein:

  • Jared Bernstein:

    What he would do is very much the opposite of what you have seen the current president, President Trump, do. He would listen to the physicians.

  • Paul Solman:

    Tests, masks, tracers. But Bernstein isn't a doctor. He was the chief economist for Vice President Biden and now advises the campaign.

    Economic step one, says Bernstein: immediate relief.

  • Jared Bernstein:

    People need relief in terms of unemployment insurance coverage, in terms of state and local fiscal relief, nutritional support, support for renters.

  • Paul Solman:

    So, Biden says, among other things, he'd extend unemployment insurance, consider another round of stimulus checks, and initiate paid sick leave for all workers who get COVID or have to care for sick family members.

    That's right away. And after that?

  • Jared Bernstein:

    One thing that Vice President Biden has been crystal clear about is that simply getting back to where we were sets the bar way too low.

  • Paul Solman:

    Which is why the campaign calls its plan Build Back Better, focusing on manufacturing, climate and infrastructure, racial equity, and support for child care and adult caregivers.

  • Jared Bernstein:

    When Vice President Biden says building back better, he means building an economy that is far more resilient to the kinds of shocks that come fast and furiously in today's global economy.

    We can't have an unemployment insurance system that we have to reinvent every time we hit a recession. We can't have a health care system that is totally dependent on your connection to work, because what if 30 million people lose their jobs in a pandemic, right? We can't have an environment that is continually degraded.

  • Paul Solman:

    So, Biden has a slate of policies.

  • Jared Bernstein:

    There's 45 of them, at last count, from clean energy, to infrastructure, to manufacturing, to the caring agenda. That's what they're all geared towards.

  • Paul Solman:

    You may be relieved to hear we won't enumerate all 45, but highlights include a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035, creating millions of new green jobs, $775 billion for caregiving, including universal pre-K to 3- and 4-year-olds, expanding access to $100 billion in low-interest loans to communities of color, and a $700 billion buy-American campaign, $400 billion on goods and services made in the U.S., and $300 billion on R&D into new technologies.

    As to buying American, President Trump said:

  • President Donald Trump:

    He plagiarized from me, but he can never pull it off. He likes plagiarizing. It's a plan that is very radical left, but he said the right things because he's copying what I have done.

  • Jared Bernstein:

    The idea Biden copying Trump makes zero sense, because Trump never gets anything done, and Biden is all about implementation and execution.

  • Paul Solman:

    But what about paying for all this spending? Taxes, right? Or, as President Trump put it, the Biden plan won't happen:

  • President Donald Trump:

    Because he's raising taxes way too much. He's raising everybody's taxes.

  • Paul Solman:

    So, Biden would increase the top income tax rate to 39.6 percent, for example.

    Yes, he's taxing people. He's going to be taxing me.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Jared Bernstein:

    Nothing personal, but I suspect, if we have a $400,000 cutoff, which we do, you will be OK.

  • Paul Solman:

    If I were to make, I don't know, $410,000, then I'm suddenly going to be taxed at a higher rate on the whole amount?

  • Jared Bernstein:

    No. No, no, no, no, no. These are marginal tax rates. So you would be taxed on that $10,000 that's above $400,000. So anything below $400,000 is left alone.

  • Paul Solman:

    The Biden tax plan also includes capital gains on income of more than $1 million taxed at 39.6 percent, the corporate tax rate raised to 28 percent.

    One nonpartisan group predicts the plan would raise some $3.5 trillion over 10 years — critics say his policies will cost a lot more — mainly by increasing taxes for the top 1 percent to pay for Biden's spending.

  • Jared Bernstein:

    To pay for it by tapping some of the excesses in our ages in our age of inequality.

  • Paul Solman:

    I have been knocking around for a long time, the week before the conventions happen, interviewing people like you — in fact, you in the past — and those promises, I have heard every four years going back into the '80s. And so few of them actually get implemented.

    What makes you think that this time is different?

  • Jared Bernstein:

    Biden uses his skills to get things done, to execute them, and to explain to people how he's doing it or, if he's being blocked, who's blocking him.

    So, to me, it's the difference between reality TV and reality.

  • Paul Solman:

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Paul Solman.

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