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With the pandemic overshadowing everything, one can sometimes forget that there is a presidential campaign going on. That helps to explain why the media paid so little attention, over the past two weeks, when Joe Biden released his plans to fight climate change and revive the economy. The climate change plan is ambitious and forward-thinking, but more interesting is the economic plan, which promises “to ensure the future is ‘made in all of America.’ ” That sounds like an America First agenda, and sure enough, President Trump accused Biden of stealing his ideas. But in fact, while the plan is politically clever in moving directly onto Trump’s turf of economic nationalism, it is much better than the president’s approach.
First and most important is what the plan does not do. It is not a mercantilist call for tariffs and trade wars, hallmarks of the Trump presidency. These Trump policies have failed by any measure. The evidence is so clear that when Biden released a fiery ad saying Trump “lost” the trade war with China, Politifact’s only quibble with that claim was it should have been present tense “losing.” The group pointed to the following studies from 2019: a Federal Reserve report that determined the tariffs “have not boosted manufacturing employment or output, even as they increased producer prices”; a Moody’s analysis finding that the trade war had cost 300,000 U.S. jobs; and a Federal Reserve study assessing the cost of these tariffs to the average American household at about $800 per year, erasing the benefits of the Trump tax cut. Oxford Economics estimated the trade war shaved 0.3 percent off U.S. gross domestic product growth last year.