In Town Hall, Biden Addresses COVID, LGBTQ Rights, Tax Cuts & More
Biden’s town hall event comprised about 20 voters from across Pennsylvania, of varying political views.
Speaking at the town hall at the National Constitution Centre in Philadelphia on Thursday night, 15 October (ET), former Vice President Joe Biden addressed several issues pertinent to the US as he answered questions from voters ahead of the US Presidential elections in November.
The town hall, moderated by the ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos, was scheduled after US President Donald Trump declined to participate in the second debate after the Commission on Presidential Debates directed it to be held virtually, following Trump testing positive for coronavirus. The debate had been scheduled for Thursday night as well.
According to The New York Times, Biden’s town hall comprised of nearly 20 voters from across Pennsylvania, of varying political views, who were present to ask him questions.
Meanwhile, Trump held his own NBC News town hall at the Pérez Art Museum in Miami simultaneously, competing with the Biden event.
Here are some of the key takeaways from Biden’s town hall event.
On the COVID-19 Response & Vaccine
Answering a question from a voter on how he would have handled the coronavirus pandemic, Biden advocated masks, shutdown regulations and economic stimulus.
Slamming Trump for his handling of pandemic, Biden said that the president had been informed of the severity of the virus and had even acknowledged to journalist Bob Woodward as early as February that coronavirus was “more deadly than even your strenuous flus”, adding that he would have taken a more robust approach.
He mentioned instances where Trump himself or Trump’s campaign had said things that were not true, pointing out that the administration had said that COVID-19 would go away by Easter or be destroyed by the summer heat.
Talking about how he would have done things differently, Biden said his administration would have followed the pandemic plan laid out by Barack Obama’s administration and that he would have sent Americans to China to learn more about the virus.
Biden also provided the impression that he would try to keep businesses, especially the ‘Mom and Pop’ stores, open after ensuring enhanced cleaning and safety measures.
Biden stated that since he did not have the power to do this as president, he would encourage governors to mandate masks in their states.
Later, responding to a question by an undecided voter on the topic of vaccines against COVID-19, Biden said he would not hesitate to take a vaccine if the scientific community vouches for its safety and effectiveness.
Further, while he said that he would not make it mandatory for others to take the vaccine, pointing out that he would not have the power to do so as president, he stressed the importance of a vaccine and said he would press the requisite authorities to pursue a mass vaccination plan.
“It depends on the state of the nature of the vaccine when it comes out and how it’s being distributed,” Biden said, responding on whether he would pressure others into taking the vaccine.
The Democratic nominee also used the opportunity to remind people about Trump’s claims on treatments against COVID-19, such as injecting bleach into one’s arm. Biden also said saying that strict lockdowns would not be necessary if mask-wearing was made mandatory, stressing their use as key to allowing the economy to remain open in the months ahead.
Tax Cuts on Wealthy
Responding to a question on tax cuts, Biden said that his pledge to do away with the tax cuts enacted by Trump was directed towards the wealthy and not the middle class. The former Vice President said that he would preserve the tax cuts for the middle class but said he would repeal the bulk of those that went to the wealthy.
“When I said the Trump tax cuts, about $1.3 trillion of the $2 trillion in his tax cuts went to the top one tenth of 1 percent,” Biden said. “That’s what I’m talking about eliminating. Not all the tax cuts that are out there.”
Biden also implied that the change would take place mostly with respect to corporate tax, saying that if the corporate tax were raised back to 28 percent, it would be possible to raise over $1 trillion.
When asked by host Stephanopoulos if he would raise the corporate tax rate even when the economy was struggling owing to COVID-19, Biden said, “Absolutely.”
Moves for Black Voters
Responding to a Black man’s question about why the community should vote at all, saying that this would only lead to participation in a country where they were not protected, Biden said that everyone has the capacity to bring about change.
“Besides ‘you ain’t Black,’” the man asked, recalling a comment from the Democratic nominee in an interview with Charlamagne tha God, on the radio show ‘The Breakfast Club’. He further questioned how Biden could convince Black voters to take part “in a system that has failed to protect them”.
Biden went on to provide the man with a lengthy answer, highlighting some of his economic and educational proposals, such as triple Title I funding for low-income schools from $15 billion per year to $45 billion and helping schools pay for more social workers and psychologists. Biden also said would seek to direct funding to young Black entrepreneurs who have trouble obtaining loans.
He also spoke about the proposed $70 billion in new funding for historically black colleges and universities, saying that these lack the foundational support that some other universities get.
On Rights for LGBTQ+
Answering a question from a voter about safeguards in place to ensure LGBTQ rights if another conservative justice is approved, Biden criticised SCOTUS nominee Amy Coney Barrett, saying that she does not directly answer many questions and does not lay out “much of a judicial philosophy."
Later in the town hall, responding to a question by a mother – who said one of her daughters is a transgender – about his approach to transgender policies which under Trump’s administration were “dangerous and discriminatory”, Biden said he would reverse the Trump administration executive orders.
“There should be zero discrimination,” Biden declared, also adding that too many transgender women of colour are being murdered.
“There is no reason to suggest that there should be any right denied to your daughter,” Biden said, “that your other daughter has a right to be and do. None. Zero.”
On Environment & Trump’s Foreign Policy
Biden was confronted with a question on fracking, to which he said that while the emission of methane was a concern, it could be dealt with, adding that the future rests in renewable energy.
Biden then went on to speak about his support for renewable energy projects and investment, pointing out his track record during his term as Obama’s VP.
Speaking in general about climate change Biden said he did not support the Green New Deal and rejected the perception that it was a framework for fighting climate change.
Meanwhile, speaking about Trump’s efforts with regard to his foreign policy, Biden said he only deserves “a little” credit for some of his moves, but not “a whole lot”.
Saying that US is more isolated now more than ever before, Biden said that Trump has done a lot to hurt the nation’s standing on the international stage, while saying that he does compliment the president on the deal with Israel.
When asked by Stephanopoulos about what what it mean to him about where America is today if he loses in November, Biden said, “Well it could say that I’m a lousy candidate and I didn't do a good job....But I think, I hope that it doesn't say that we are as racially, ethnically and religiously at odds with one another as it appears the President wants us to be.”
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