The two presidential contenders squared up this week in the first debate before America votes on November 3rd. President Donald Trump set out to make it a brawl, even throwing a punch at the validity of the electoral process itself (see article). Joe Biden spent the evening jabbing at Mr Trump for bringing the country to its knees. And the president went for what he hoped would be a knockout blow, accusing his opponent of being a weak man who would succumb to the left’s plans to dramatically expand government and cripple business.
Fear of just such a leftward lurch under Mr Biden is circulating among some American business leaders. However, as we explain (see article), the charge is wide of the mark. Mr Biden has rejected the Utopian ideas of the left. His tax and spending proposals are reasonable. They imply only a modestly bigger state and attempt to deal with genuine problems facing America, including shoddy infrastructure, climate change and the travails of small business. In fact, the flaw in Mr Biden’s plans is that in some areas they are not far-reaching enough.
When Mr Trump took power in 2017 he hoped to unleash the animal spirits of business by offering bosses a hotline to the Oval Office and slashing red tape and taxes. Before covid-19, bits of this plan were working, helped by loose policy at the Federal Reserve. Small-business confidence was near a 30-year high; stocks were on a tear and the wages of the poorest quartile of workers were growing by 4.7% a year, the fastest since 2008. Voters rank the economy as a priority and, were it not for the virus that record may have been enough to re-elect him.