When he formally announced his entry into the 2020 presidential race, Joe Biden declared that he stood for two things – workers who “built this country”, and values that can bridge its divisions.
As the US faces challenges from coronavirus to racial inequity, his pitch is to create new economic opportunities for workers, restore environmental protections and healthcare rights, and international alliances.
Here in detail is where the president-elect stands on eight key issues.
A national test and trace programme
Mr Biden’s approach to tackling coronavirus, the most immediate and obvious challenge facing the country, is to provide free testing for all and hire 100,000 people to set up a national contact-tracing programme.
He says he wants to establish at least 10 testing centres in every state, call upon federal agencies to deploy resources and give firmer national guidance through federal experts. He says all governors should mandate wearing masks.
Voters suspicious of federal authority will see this as overreach, but it lies very much in line with Mr Biden’s and Democrats’ general view on the role government should play.
Raise minimum wage and invest in green energy
To address the immediate impact of the coronavirus crisis, Mr Biden has vowed to spend “whatever it takes” to extend loans to small businesses and increase direct money payments to families. Among the proposals are an additional $200 in Social Security payments per month, rescinding Trump-era tax cuts and $10,000 of student loan forgiveness for federal loans.
Mr Biden’s broader economic policies, dubbed his “Build Back Better” plan, aim to please two constituencies that traditionally support Democrats – young people and blue collar workers.
He supports raising the federal minimum wage to $15 (£11.50) an hour – a measure that is popular among young people and that has become something of a totem figure for the party in 2020, and a sign of its move to the left. He also wants a $2tn investment in green energy, arguing that boosting green manufacturing helps working class union workers, who perform most of those jobs.
There is also a $400bn pledge to use federal dollars to buy American goods, alongside a wider commitment to enforce “Buy American” laws for new transport projects. Mr Biden was previously criticised for backing the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), which critics say shipped jobs overseas.
His 2020 plan calls for the federal government to invest $300bn in US-made materials, services, research and technology.
Criminal justice reform, grants for minority communities
In the wake of the race protests that have gripped the US this year, he said he believes that racism exists in the US and must be dealt with through broad economic and social programmes to support minorities. A pillar of his “build back” programme is to create business support for minorities through a $30bn investment fund.
On criminal justice, he has moved far from his much-criticised “tough-on-crime” position of the 1990s. Mr Biden has now proposed policies to reduce incarceration, address race, gender and income-based disparities in the justice system, and rehabilitate released prisoners. He would now create a $20bn grant programme to incentivise states to invest in incarceration reduction efforts, eliminate mandatory minimum sentences, decriminalise marijuana and expunge prior cannabis convictions, and end the death penalty.
However, he has rejected calls to defund police, saying resources should instead be tied to maintaining standards. He argues that some funding for police should be redirected to social services like mental health, and calls for a $300m investment into a community policing programme.
Rejoin global climate accord
Mr Biden has called climate change an existential threat, and says he will rally the rest of the world to act more quickly on curbing emissions by rejoining the Paris Climate Accord. The agreement, which Donald Trump withdrew from, committed the US to cutting greenhouse gases up to 28% by 2025, based on 2005 levels.
Though he does not embrace the Green New Deal – a climate and jobs package put forward by the left wing of his party – he is proposing a $1.7tn federal investment in green technologies research, some of which overlaps with the funding in his economics plan, to be spent over the next 10 years, and wants the US to reach net zero emissions by 2050 – a commitment that was made by more than 60 other countries last year. China and India, the two other biggest carbon emitters, have yet to join the pledge. The investments dovetail with his economic plan to create jobs in manufacturing “green energy” products.
Restore America’s reputation… and maybe take on China
Mr Biden wrote that as president, he would focus on national issues first. That said, there is little to suggest that Mr Biden’s values on foreign policy have shifted away from multilateralism and engagement on the world stage, in opposition to Mr Trump’s unabashedly isolationist one. He has also promised to repair relationships with US allies, particularly with the Nato alliance, which Mr Trump has repeatedly threatened to undermine with funding cuts.
The former vice-president has said China should be held accountable for unfair environment and trade practices, but instead of unilateral tariffs, he has proposed an international coalition with other democracies that China “can’t afford to ignore”, though he has been vague about what that means.
Mr Biden says he will expand the public health insurance scheme passed when he was President Barack Obama’s deputy, and implement a plan to insure an estimated 97% of Americans. Though he stops short of the universal health insurance proposal on the wish lists of the more left-wing members of his party, Mr Biden promises to give all Americans the option to enrol in a public health insurance option similar to Medicare, which provides medical benefits to the elderly and to lower the age of eligibility for Medicare itself from 65 to 60 years old. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a non-partisan group, estimates that the total Biden plan would cost $2.25tn over 10 years.
Undo Trump’s policies
In his first 100 days in office, Mr Biden promises to reverse Trump policies that separate parents from their children at the US-Mexican border, rescind limits on the number of applications for asylum and end the bans on travel from several majority-Muslim countries. He also promises to protect the “Dreamers” – people brought illegally to the US as children who were permitted to stay under an Obama-era policy – as well as ensure they are eligible for federal student aid.
Universal pre-school, expand free college
In a notable shift to the left, he has endorsed several big pieces of education policy that have become popular within the party – student loan debt forgiveness, expansion of tuition-free colleges, and universal preschool access. These would be paid using money gained back from withdrawing the Trump-era tax cuts.
- Credit: BBC News