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Has it come to this?

How Biden could have responded to Trump’s endless falsehoods


It was difficult to watch last Thursday night’s presidential debate without considering the obvious. Are these two individuals really the best that America can produce for the most powerful and important job in the world?
On the one hand, we had a fast-talking New York huckster who spewed little more than falsehoods and fantasies, while the sitting president struggled to respond coherently. Both had a primary mission in their 90-minute confrontation. Biden’s was to show that he still has what it takes to defeat a man who is a clear and present danger to America and its institutions. Trump’s was to appear as something other than himself— i.e. a crude and infantile individual who lies as easily as he breathes air.
In the end, both men failed in their mission.
Admittedly, Biden had the tougher task, since Trump would lob falsehoods far faster than Biden, or anyone, could hope to respond. Biden clearly wasn’t up to the task and he missed numerous opportunities to make his case.
Here’s some of what Biden should have said last Thursday night.
 On inflation: The COVID pandemic sparked a structural inflation globally, and that was further fueled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Despite those inflationary pressures, the U.S. has fared much better than almost any other country in containing inflation, which is now nearly back to the Federal Reserve’s preferred two percent rate. We did so while sustaining a remarkably strong economy that is currently outpacing anything we saw during the Trump years. That strong economy has allowed the growth in wages in the U.S. to outpace the rise in prices for most American families.
What’s more, virtually every economic proposal offered by Trump is wildly inflationary. Foreign countries don’t pay tariffs on their exports to the U.S. That’s just another Trump fallacy. U.S. importers, like Target or Walmart, pay those costs and they inevitably pass them on to consumers through higher prices. Trump has also proposed weakening the dollar, which will again make imported goods more expensive. What’s more, Trump wants to end the independence of the Federal Reserve and lower interest rates, which were raised specifically to fight inflation. In short, Trump has no actual plan to fight higher prices. His policies would do exactly the opposite.
 On the economy in general: Economic growth and job creation have both been stronger and faster under Biden that under Trump. Biden has seen over 15 million new jobs created during his administration (and less than half were bounce-back jobs from COVID) and since we emerged from COVID, we’ve experienced historically strong economic growth in GDP. The stock market is at record highs and wages have climbed faster under Biden than under Trump, particularly for lower-income workers.
 On immigration: Despite their rhetoric, the last thing Republicans ever want to do is solve a decades-long problem that motivates their voter base year after year. Trump ran in 2016 largely on the border crisis. Yet, despite total control of Congress and the White House in the wake of the 2016 election, did the Republicans pass any change in the law to stem the flow? Of course not.
Biden, meanwhile, agreed to sign major bipartisan reforms that, among other things, would have helped to address the backlog in asylum claims and allowed for the shutdown of border crossings when immigrant flows reached a certain threshold, but Trump pressured Republicans to block it out of fear it would rob him of a potent campaign issue. That’s certainly not putting America first.
 On Social Security:
Contrary to Trump’s false claim, undocumented immigrants aren’t weakening Social Security. Undocumented retirees aren’t coming to this country and even if they did they wouldn’t qualify for Social Security because they haven’t paid in and wouldn’t have an actual Social Security account. In either case, it is young people and families making the dangerous passage into the U.S. and when those people are employed in the legal economy, they pay into Social Security, in most cases without the hope of ever drawing benefits.
The biggest threat to Social Security is the declining ratio of workers to beneficiaries. Allowing more immigration and making it easier for them to work legally in the U.S. is the best way to extend the financial viability of Social Security. That’s well understood. Trump is outright lying on this issue, as he is on so many other things.
Biden actually has a strong case to make, but it was painfully obvious last week that he is not the best person to make it. That should prompt some real soul-searching on the part of Democrats. While it’s been largely verboten within the party to raise the possibility of replacing Biden on the ticket, last Thursday’s performance put that discussion front and center. It needs to be taken seriously. The danger posed by Trump is too great to let someone’s ego hand him the keys to the White House.