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Sept. 23, 2020, 8:42 a.m. EDT

A Nobel laureate makes the economic case for Joe Biden

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By Edmund S. Phelps

NEW YORK ( Project Syndicate )—Commentators have offered many reasons why one should vote in November for Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee for U.S. president. Yet the economic dimension of the election has been of little interest to pundits, and few, if any, economists speaking on the subject have bothered to highlight how the outcome bears directly on people’s welfare.

But the economy is the stage on which people work in the hope of gaining personal development and the satisfaction of succeeding. It isn’t just about the money.

The economic case for Biden begins with the economic case against President Donald Trump. Consider Trump’s costly corporate tax cut. It did not deliver anything like the investment and growth he promised, and the main effect was to run up fiscal deficits in the first three years of his presidency.

Trump’s disregard for this fiscal profligacy has set a precedent for unnecessary deficits in future administrations. (Of course, the deficit incurred more recently in responding to the pandemic was unavoidable and, under the circumstances, beneficial.)

His habitual threats to American businesses have added new uncertainty to investment and trade decisions. He practices Mussolini’s doctrine of corporatism : the government as puppet master pulling the strings of puppet companies. That economic policy inhibits enterprise and innovation at a time when they are desperately needed.

Breaking news: Trump bestows ‘blessing’ on proposed Oracle-Walmart deal for TikTok’s U.S. operation

Trump’s misguided crusade to reduce the harmless trade deficit has shrunk world trade, thus worsening the efficiency of resource allocation at home and abroad.

His populist rhetoric has not translated into better pay for less advantaged workers or victims of discrimination. He has sought to erase any sense of economic justice . He cares nothing about the appallingly low wage rates for those at the bottom or about the terrible living standards that these wages afford. And he has done nothing to support the eradication of statistical discrimination —racial, gender, and LGBT+.

His weakening of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) has heavily affected people with low incomes. 

Related: Biden says death of Justice Ginsburg highlights threats to U.S. health care

Trump’s insistence that climate change is a hoax has put the world economy and the viability of the planet in further danger. He says that the wildfires ravaging the American West are the result of poor “ forest management. ” He has depreciated American soldiers’ heroism and sacrifice, and has no appreciation or understanding that the economy needs people’s heroism to dream up new ideas and risk investing in their development and market entry.

In attacking institutions from the FBI to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Trump is hollowing out the governmental structure. In imposing pointless obstacles that lead to trade wars, he has alienated America’s allies. In his admiration for dictators and authoritarian leaders, he is helping them to establish 21st-century fascism. And his chronic lying from the Office of the President undermines the people’s confidence in their government.

Opinion: Trump is faking it on the economy, just as he’s faking it on the pandemic, just as he’s faked everything his whole life

There are other outrages too numerous to mention. But one of the most appalling was his effort to eliminate the so-called DACA program for undocumented aliens who were brought to the U.S. as children, who, after being raised and educated in America, now face deportation. Yet another outrage is his tactic of instilling fear of reprisals and arrest. As a result, there is a growing climate of anxiety and distrust.

Today, a great many people support Biden on these grounds and others. Trump stands in the way of the nation regaining a sense of flourishing, equity, and social harmony.

But it is not clear that he could be defeated on these grounds alone. Many Americans dread a government devoted to ministering to a mélange of social groups without a thought to core matters of economic growth and job satisfaction.

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