Policy Differences

We know that progressives despise President Trump; they consider him a liar, a bigot, a would-be authoritarian and, above all, a vulgarian. And we know that conservatives don’t think much of Joe Biden; they (we) think of him as being stupid, borderline senile and craven.

Let’s try to set aside these character judgments – on both sides – for a few minutes, so we can take a look at their differences on some of the policies that are likely to eventually make differences in our lives.

1. Entitlements

Notwithstanding the pressure that the demographically-driven growth in Social Security and Medicare outlays is putting on the nation’s finances, Trump has consistently cast himself as a defender of these gargantuan entitlements. By so doing, he is kicking the can down the road rather than addressing the longer-term unsustainability of the present trends – and trying to take this hot-button issue off the table.

Not only is Biden also ignoring the looming fiscal problems inherent in how these programs are currently organized, he proposes to pour oil on the bonfire of our nation’s creditworthiness by locking in new entitlements for healthcare and college costs and by spending trillions on the Green New Deal, which is not an entitlement but will also cost trillions more than our government has.  

2. Patriotism vs. Globalism

Trump is a thoroughgoing nationalist. His policies with regard to trade, immigration, the military, our alliances and undeclared wars are designed to benefit our country’s interests, often by upsetting the pre-existing global order. He believes that other nations – particularly China – have taken unfair advantage of our free trade proclivities, that our allies – particularly Germany – have taken advantage of our outsized contributions to NATO, that China represents a significant and growing threat to world peace, that the US has gotten itself into far too many no-win wars and that it does not serve the interests of the American people to allow limitless immigration. He is strongly pro-Israel, and trying hard to prevent Iran from getting the bomb.

The substance of Trump’s twinned policies of avoiding undeclared wars while rebuilding our military to (we hope!) head off the possibility of a much bigger, declared one could be described as being similar to that of Teddy Roosevelt (“Speak softly and carry a big stick”) – if he ever spoke softly.  

Biden is a thoroughgoing globalist. His foreign, trade and immigration policies would be a reversion to those of President Obama, in furtherance of the indefinite continuation of the old international order. He thinks our trade relationships and alliances should have been left as they were. He’s a longtime proponent of the view that China’s rise is an opportunity rather than a threat. He looks to restore the deal that President Obama cut with Iran, and to pressure Israel to make a deal with the Palestinians. He is in favor of essentially unlimited immigration. He believes that most international disputes should be settled by the UN or other multilateral organizations. He would almost certainly reverse Trump’s increases in military spending but, like Trump’s predecessors, be marginally more inclined than Trump is to involve the military in undeclared wars.    

3. Culture 

Trump is generally opposed to increasing legally mandated racial and gender diversity in jobs or housing and specifically opposed to de facto quotas in college admissions. For him, the idea of reparations for slavery is a total non-starter.

Biden favors specific set-asides based on race and gender and has said that he will follow Obama’s policy of forcing suburbs to achieve racial diversity through subsidized housing. He is flirting with the idea of paying reparations to the descendants of slaves, without specifying how such a program might work.

Trump would continue to name federal judges who would be guided by a close reading of the Constitution. Biden would appoint judges who would find ways to justify or enforce progressive priorities.     

4. Law and Order

Trump would be more inclined than Biden to use federal power to shut down riots by radical agitators pretending to be peaceful protesters. He is very supportive of law enforcement, and has little patience for those who believe in defunding the police or excusing violent “protesters”.

Biden, and the Democrats generally, prefer to see the riots in a benign light, as protests that sometimes get out of hand. They also believe that the “protesters” share many of their left wing policy preferences, and that the riots will subside if Trump is voted out of office.  

5. Government’s Regulatory Footprint

Trump is a staunch deregulator; he has reduced federal regulations in many areas, thereby arguably creating jobs and helping the economy grow much more quickly than it had under Bush II or Obama.

Biden’s every instinct is to increase the regulation of both business activity and our daily lives. The proposed Green New Deal alone would represent a nearly-complete reordering of our economy and of how we live, to the end of creating a carbon-free future. It would require a radical reordering of society.

Biden would also be much more likely than Trump to order additional lockdowns or mandate universal face mask usage in the event that Covid 19, or some other virus, flares.      

6. Taxes

Trump is proud of having cut taxes for the great majority of Americans and would resist re-raising them.

Biden is proposing to raise trillions through tax increases, allegedly mostly from the rich, but he is also in favor of restoring the deductions for state and local taxes that favor the well-to-do who reside in high-tax (Democrat-dominated) states. In reality, his tax increases would have to be across-the-board to raise anything approaching the sums he would need for enriched entitlements, the Green New Deal and possible reparations.  

***

Both candidates advocate financing big deficits now and, odds are, bigger ones (because of our changing demographics) in the coming years, via easy money/artificially low interest rates. Similar policies, coupled with an even more severe demographic shift than we are experiencing, pushed Japan into a still-ongoing multi-decade period of economic and cultural stagnation – so that might be where we’re headed, either way.

We would just get there much, much more quickly if Biden were to win.

M.H. Johnston

3 comments to Policy Differences

  • DP  says:

    You’ve written a great argument for voting for a Republican as President. I’m less sure about its advocacy of President Trump, because character and leadership count. Whether he leaves now or in another four years, I think we will all shake our heads and breathe a sigh of relief. Just my opinion, but I hope not to ever hear another President try to manipulate the Post Office budget to surpress voting, and then accuse the opposition of trying to steal the election. His campaign is the equivalent of “Project Fear” that the remainers ran during the U.K. Brexit argument. So it’s not only progressives who think poorly of him. He’s beyond the pale now, for me. Republicans need to lead the country. I wonder what President Reagan would have to say about this privately?

    • M Johnston  says:

      For the record, I disagree with you about Trump – and the post office kerfuffle. Universal vote by mail IS an invitation to fraud – and there is quite a lot of vote fraud already. And I don’t buy that Trump fooled with the PO budget to “suppress the vote”. Not even a little. I have concluded that Trump is in fact a very decent guy in terms of what he actually does and why he does it – just pugnacious in a way that strikes most as deeply uncultured. I’ll take pugnacious over the smarmy corruption of an Obama or Biden every day of the week.

  • Anonymous  says:

    Trump claimed the 2016 was rigged. One would think in four years with a majority in the house and senate to start he could figure out how to have fair elections in the United States as we had for over 200 years with no kerfuffles

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