From the president’s taxes to the employment effects of a Green New Deal, Sen. Kamala Harris faced off with Vice President Mike Pence on the economy as part of their vice presidential debate at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
While Wednesday’s debate was the only time the California Democrat and former Indiana governor will debate in the 2020 campaign, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden will meet next on Oct. 15, the second of three planned debates between the presidential candidates. The two first sparred last week, shortly after The New York Times reported on Trump’s financial records, which he refused to make public for much of his presidency.
Harris brought up Trump’s finances early in the evening, highlighting the report the president paid $750 in taxes and has debts of $400 million.
“When we say in debt it means you owe money to somebody and it would be really good to know who the commander-in-chief owes money to, because the American people have a right to know what is influencing the president’s decisions, and is he making those decisions on the best interest of the American people — of you — or self-interest,” said Harris.
“The American people have a president who is a businessman, a job creator. He has paid tens of millions of dollars in taxes. Payroll taxes, property taxes,” Pence said, adding that the president has said the reports are not accurate.
The exchange allowed moderator Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for USA TODAY, to segue from discussion of the administration’s response to the coronavirus into questions about jobs and the economy.
Harris, the first black woman and first Indian-American to be a major party’s vice presidential nominee, vowed a Biden administration would roll back Trump’s signature tax bill. Instead, the money would go to infrastructure, clean energy and renewable energy, science, and education.
“Joe Biden believes you measure the health and the strength of America’s economy, based on the health and the strength of the American worker and the American family,” said Harris. “On the other hand, you have Donald Trump, who measures the strength of the economy based on how rich people are doing. Which is why he passed a tax bill benefiting the top 1 percent and the biggest corporations in America, leading to a $2 trillion deficit that the American people are going to have to pay for.”
Harris said under Biden’s plan, two-year community colleges would be free for everybody, and four-year universities would be free for families making less than $125,000 annually.
“And across the board, if you have student loan debt, we’ll cut that by $10,000,” Harris said. “That’s how Joe Biden thinks about the economy. It’s about investing in the people of our country, as opposed to passing a tax bill, which had the benefit of letting American corporations go off-shore to do their business.”
But Pence saw an opening and took aim.
“When President Trump and I took office, America had gone through the slowest economic recovery since the Great Depression. President Trump cut taxes across the board,” Pence said. “But, America, you just heard Senator Harris tell you: On Day One, Joe Biden’s going to raise your taxes.”
Harris shook her head, saying, “That’s not what I said.”
Pence argued the administration’s actions have strengthened the economy against the pandemic.
“We’re going through a pandemic that lost 22 million jobs at the height, we’ve already added back 11.6 million jobs because we had a president that cut taxes, rolled back regulation, unleashed American energy, fought for free and fair trade, and secured $4 trillion dollars from the Congress of the United States to give direct payments to families. Saved 50 million jobs through the paycheck protection program,” he said.
The vice president also pointed to Harris’ support of the Green New Deal, a proposal aimed at combating climate change and championed by progressive New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“Joe Biden and Kamala Harris want to raise taxes. They want to bury our economy under a $2 trillion Green New Deal. They want to abolish fossil fuels,” said Pence. “And ban fracking, which would cost hundreds of thousands of jobs across all the heartland.”
(Edited by Allison Elyse Gualtieri)
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