The President's Column: Biden v Trump

February 16, 2024

When it comes to helping working people, there is no comparison.

A lot is at stake this year. In November, we will elect the President, Vice President, the entire House of Representatives, onethird of the Senate, and entire state legislators in Massachusetts, Florida, New York and Maryland.

One thing different this year from previous presidential election years is that we already know the candidates. Regardless of whatever hoopla the media manufactures, President Joe Biden is going to be the Democratic candidate and Donald Trump is going to be his Republican opponent.

Whoever wins will become the oldest person to be elected president; so, age should not be a dealbreaker. Everyone knows Biden sometimes stumbles over words; he always has, having overcome years as a stutterer. On the other hand, virtually everything Trump says makes one wonder if he’s deranged, depraved, a pathological liar—or all three.

But let’s compare what the two men did in office for workers and ordinary Americans.

LABOR RIGHTS: Trump came into the White House saying he would “fight the elites” on behalf of workers. Instead, he pushed bills making it easier for employers to get away with wage theft; to allow companies to avoid paying lowwage workers overtime pay; to misclassify fast-food and gig workers as “independent contractors” so their bosses could take a slice of their tips; and to prevent them from unionizing and bargaining collectively. He gutted the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to allow companies to hide workers’ injuries.

At the National Labor Relations Board, Trump installed business-friendly board members and a general counsel who set about reversing pro-union policies.

By contrast, Biden is widely considered the most pro-union president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt, nearly a century ago. During his three years—and under his union-friendly NLRB appointees—union organizing has grown at a pace not seen in several decades. Combined with a new generation of militant labor leaders, unions like the Teamsters and UAW won their best contracts in this century.

Most dramatically, during the recent historic auto workers strike, Joe Biden became the first president in history to walk a picket line, while candidate Trump took it as an opportunity for a photo-op at a non-union auto parts plant.

INFRASTRUCTURE: During his 201516 campaign, Trump promised to rebuild the country’s aging infrastructure. But in four years as President, he never once introduced an infrastructure bill, let alone passed one. His singular legislative victory was a $1.5 trillion (over 10 years) tax giveaway to the one-percent of already wealthy individuals—including himself.

Joe Biden actually passed a one-trillion-dollar infrastructure bill that promises to deliver clean water and eliminate the nation’s lead pipelines; ensure every American has access to reliable high-speed internet; and repair and rebuild our roads and bridges. It is the largest investment in public transit in U.S. history—and the largest investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak. It will build a national network of electric vehicle chargers, upgrade our power infrastructure to achieve a zero-emissions future, and deliver the largest investment in cleaning up toxic Superfund sites.

THE JUDICIAL BRANCH: In partnership with Senate Republicans, Trump was able to pack the Supreme Court with three far-right justices, giving the court a two-thirds ultra-conservative majority. Together with hundreds of (nearly all-white) corporate-backed appointees to district and appellate courts, Trump helped create an unelected branch of government now able to block or reverse any progressive legislation emerging from Congress. The Trumpist courts have abolished gun control laws, reproductive rights, affirmative action in colleges and universities, voting rights (mainly for Black voters) and legal remedies for reversing corporate poisoning of our air and water.

Biden used his Supreme Court appointment opportunity to nominate Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman to serve on the court. Two-thirds of the federal judges he has appointed to date are women, and the same share are people of color. No other president has nominated such a diverse group of judges.

PUBLIC HEALTH: Covid emerged during Trump’s presidency but can hardly be blamed on Trump. But he can be blamed for politicizing the disease, blaming it on China, denigrating Dr. Anthony Fauci, making a point of refusing to wear a mask himself, casting doubt on science and expertise, promoting hair-brained notions (remember the idea that maybe swallowing household bleach would work against Covid?). The Biden administration, by contrast, has taken concrete steps to protect the most vulnerable in society. For instance, it has proposed rules to create a national standard for nursing home staffing ratios.