Former Vice President Joe Biden on Friday slammed President Trump’s efforts to prop up the economy in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, charging that the focus so far has been on helping large corporations and the very wealthy instead of smaller Main Street businesses.
“Almost 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment, and you know what the White House is proposing? More tax cuts for corporate America. I’ve got a novel idea – how about some relief for Main Street?” Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said in an interview with CNBC.
He added: “The president’s response to all this has cost lives and has cost jobs. The way to fix the economy is to get the public health response correct. What we’re doing now is upside-down – the bigger you are the faster you get the money, the smaller you are, you don’t get the money.”
Biden also criticized the administration for failing to disburse any money so far via the $600 billion Main Street lending facility for companies with less than $5 billion in annual revenue. That program, set up by the Federal Reserve and Treasury, is set to start up in June.
In a statement to CNBC responding to Biden’s remarks, a White House spokesman said the president “has provided state and local leaders with data-driven guidelines to reopen their communities in safe, responsible ways, helped states ramp up their testing capabilities, and surged critical [personal protective equipment] and other supplies where they are needed.” He added that the president has taken steps to “ensure we emerge stronger than ever before.”
The facts: Coronavirus response efforts passed by Congress and signed into law by Trump have expanded unemployment benefits for laid-off workers and provided nearly $300 billion for direct payments to Americans making up to $99,000 ($198,000 for couples). They have also boosted food and housing assistance, among a host of other provisions.
Congress and the administration have also provided $46 billion for emergency bailout funds to airlines and $670 billion for forgivable loans to small businesses under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The Small Business Administration said that, as of May 16, it had approved more than 4.3 million forgivable PPP loans totaling more than $513 billion. But the program has come under widespread criticism, especially after larger companies with stronger banking relationships were reported to have gotten loans.
Read his lips: Asked how quickly he might enact his proposals to raise taxes on corporations and high-earning individuals given the economic devastation of the pandemic, Biden dodged. He said he would reverse the 2017 Trump tax cuts and raise taxes on capital gains for people making over $1 million a year. His plans call for raising the corporate rate to 28% and hiking taxes on those making more than $400,000. “My tax policy is based on a simple proposition,” Biden explained, “which is, stop rewarding wealth and start rewarding work a little bit.”
Biden pledged that he would not raise taxes on anyone making under $400,000 a year. “Nobody making under 400,000 bucks would have their taxes raised. Period. Bingo!” he said.
Criticizing corporate tax cuts: Biden also criticized the 2017 tax cuts and said reducing corporate taxes again would be a mistake. “The president is talking about a greater tax cut for corporations. You tell me what you think, how many jobs that will create in the next six months?” he said.
The former vice president also criticized Amazon, saying that the online retail giant “should start paying their taxes.”
“The biggest corporate bailout in American history is asking next to nothing of corporate America,” he said. “I don’t think any company, I don’t give a damn how big they are, the Lord almighty, should absolutely be in a position where they pay no tax and make billions and billions and billions of dollars." Amazon has said it pays “every penny” it owes.