- - Tuesday, September 1, 2020

President Trump still trails Joe Biden by a significant margin in most polls. Some of that may be dismissed as a social response — folks reluctant to admit they will vote for an incumbent widely disliked beyond his base — but hardly all of it.

Mr. Trump has come up short on strategies to address COVID-19, and the crisis of confidence in our national institutions to offer all Americans a safe, fair and just society. On Inauguration Day, we will likely have a vaccine in hand or close in sight, but the hangover will remain — by my reckoning an economy that is 7 percent smaller than had the pandemic not occurred and short nearly 15 million jobs.

Joe Biden has plans. He would spend trillions on health care, higher education, green initiatives and other programs, and crosscut those efforts with aggressive preferences for small businesses, women and minorities. The kind of set asides and quotas that enrich the executive class of the social justice crusade, but history shows are ineffective at ameliorating inequality.

He promises federally funded pre-K education and preferences for unions — including “card check,” which would free unions of the terrible inconvenience of winning representation elections.

Some issues need attention — health care and higher education are hugely expensive and leave many shortchanged — but by and large Mr. Biden’s program would leave America too much like Europe — unable to grow and riddled with massive underemployment.

Mr. Biden eschews Sen. Sanders’ national health service but would build on Obamacare to insure more Americans by expanding Medicaid — 14 states still don’t fully participate — lifting income caps on who may qualify for subsidies when purchasing insurance on government exchanges and creating a public option — federal or state run insurance plans to compete with private carriers.

He would force drug companies to charge Americans for prescriptions what they charge in other high-income countries — impose price controls that essentially outsource price setting to German regulators and others.

America spends 18 percent of GDP on health care and nearly 80 percent more than Germany and many other advanced economies, because we pay more for virtually everything — doctor visits, hospital services and drugs.

Prescription drugs only account for about 10 percent of health costs. Elsewhere by ladling on more subsidies, he would further drive up costs, make the U.S. system even less competitive, more expensive and a greater burden on U.S. businesses making products that compete in export markets and with imports. That’s a jobs killer.

We send too many young people to college, where many don’t acquire the critical thinking skills necessary for managerial and professional positions or few other job specific skills. Mr. Biden proposes to build out vocational programs in community colleges, offer more university tuition assistance and partially forgive student loans for those stuck in low-paying jobs.

President Trump’s Department of Labor certified private-sector apprenticeships permitting young people to earn while they learn—no loans necessary. Graduates usually land jobs that pay more than the average starting salary of a college graduate.

Mr. Biden’s student loan forgiveness would encourage more Woke Studies and fewer engineers, increase college graduate underemployment and depress birth rates — already a critical constraint on future growth.

Mr. Biden wants to accelerate the transition to carbon free cars, buildings, electricity and the like by spending $2 trillion over four years. Those goals are laudable but much of the technology is not here yet. He admits this by proffering generous allocations to uncover breakthrough technologies in energy and other R&D.

He needs something that is not possible with his antagonists in the Democratic Party — the Green New Dealers — a reasonable discussion of what is possible and how quickly.

As we learned with the development of a COVID-19 vaccine and President Obama’s Solyndra follies, more money alone cannot accelerate the pace of scientific progress. Mr. Biden’s program would subsidize early adoption of inadequate technologies and 10 years from now leave America with more green energy infrastructure that is terribly outdated and internationally uncompetitive. A more expensive fleet of vehicles, buildings and electrical grid — more jobs killers.

Mr. Biden, like European Social Democrats, makes few bows to the mandates of the marketplace, because he now presides over a political party that holds private enterprise with contempt, blames virtually all failures on a 1619 Project false narrative of slave-conceived capitalism and racial/gender prejudices, and has boundless faith in the ability of government to deliver.

I was thinking about that the other day standing in line at the Post Office.

• Peter Morici, @pmorici1, is an economist and emeritus business professor at the University of Maryland, and a national columnist.

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