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The US economy and the race for the 2020 election

Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer, HuffPost Washington Bureau Chief Amanda Terkel, Yahoo News Editor-in-Chief Dan Klaidman, and HuffPost Senior White House Correspondent Shirish Date discuss the biggest issues facing Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Both face tough questions on the coronavirus response, racial injustice, and the state of the U.S. economy.

Video Transcript

ANDY SERWER: Hello, everyone. I'm Andy Serwer, Editor in Chief of Yahoo Finance. And I want to welcome you to our third Election 2020 Special, presented to you in conjunction with "HuffPost" and Yahoo News. Tonight we're on my home terrain, as we're going to go deep into the economy and how it's played in the campaign so far, and what to watch three weeks between now and election day. I'm joined, as I've been each week, by my co-host, Yahoo News Editor in Chief Dan Klaidman, and "HuffPost" Washington Bureau Chief Amanda Terkel. Nice to see both of you guys again.

DAN KLAIDMAN: Hey, Andy, good to be here.

ANDY SERWER: Amanda, let me start with you. Just how important are economic issues when it comes to the election this time around?

AMANDA TERKEL: As always, they are, they're important. They're the most important thing, which is why you always see candidates running ads on economic issues and trying to focus on talking about those things. In this election, as in all others, but this I think at this election more so, you have them so intertwined with what is going on right now. You have the coronavirus pandemic and you have Democrats arguing that Trump and his administration have not done enough on it, and that congressional Republicans have gone along with that, saying look, because Trump failed to address it, the economy hasn't been able to be restarted.

Whereas you have Trump and Republicans making the case that if it's up to Democrats, they would just lock down the economy for as long as possible. They're not interested in restarting it. They're more interested in wearing masks and taking these precautions that aren't really necessary. And so right now, you have Congress and the administration looking at, are they going to do another stimulus deal, which everyone agrees is actually needed. The question is, what's it going to look like? Who is it going to target? And how big is it going to be?

ANDY SERWER: Dan, I want to ask you kind of the same question. And the stimulus deal I guess, is we're COVID and the economy meets. It seems like the average American is getting a raw deal here though.

DAN KLAIDMAN: Yeah, oh, yeah. And once again, it is because of the utter and total dysfunction in Washington. The fact that Congress, when people are desperate for money and for relief in ways that they have not been in generations, and Congress can't act, won't act. So maybe that will change over the course of the next week or two. But there seem to be so many incentives, ideological and political incentives on both sides, not to act, that I don't know that it'll happen.

And I think that is a reason, part of the reason that Americans are really gloomy right now. One of the sort of paradoxes in this election is that consistently, Donald Trump has led Joe Biden in really all the polls on the question of who would handle the economy better. Our latest Yahoo News/YouGov poll has it at 47-41 in favor of Trump. But at the same time, Americans are very gloomy about the state of the economy right now, not just right now, but also going forward into the near future.

45%, though a plurality of those polled, think that the economy is getting worse, and only 29% say it's getting better. And if you're, and then we asked, what if we were able to stop the spread of the virus. A full 53% of the American people say it would take a year or more just to get things to start improving. So I think when people go to the polls, they think about what is happening in their lives right now. I don't know that they project out several years ahead to think who will do better then.

ANDY SERWER: Yeah, and one of the kind of curious hallmarks of this time of COVID, if you will, has been the fact that we had inequality in this country, and it was a problem. But COVID seems to have exacerbated inequality, Amanda. And I know that you guys have written about how billionaires have gotten even more rich, because you look at those tech companies and they've just benefited tremendously, and those CEOs and the top executives have gotten richer and richer. And I wonder if inequality is something that you think is resonating with voters is become kind of a hot button issue.

AMANDA TERKEL: I think it is with some voters. I think a lot more voters look at how they're doing, and whether Biden will help them or whether Trump has helped them, and whether they blame Trump for what is going on. Were they doing well before the coronavirus pandemic and they don't think that this is his fault? Or do they think, look, Trump could have done a lot more?

But certainly inequality has been a big issue on the left. But that's not, it's not exclusively on the left, it's not exclusively in cities. I've been out to rural areas where you have sort of agricultural monopolies and you have that sort of rural poverty, rural inequality as an issue that resonates with a lot of people out there, and that doesn't get talked about quite as much by the national media. So again, people see that, can they afford health care, they don't have child care right now, they don't have their job. How much do they blame Trump? And do they think Biden will make that better. I think, it's what people will be looking at.

DAN KLAIDMAN: Andy, I think there's a more kind of destructive or insidious divide in this country right now, not just between the sort of 1% that we talk about and the 99%. There's a real, and I think caused by this coronavirus pandemic, a real sort of blue collar, white collar divide. Trump has been talking about the V-shaped recovery, whereas Biden talks about a K-shaped recovery. And that is that white collar, blue collar divide.

At the top leg of the K, white collar workers, people who can work from home, people in the tech sector or frankly, people like us in the media and have been able to continue to do their jobs. And then there's the lower leg of the K, people who actually have to gather with people, who have to go places, people in the service economy, people in certain trades. And those people can't go back to work. And so I think that is going to have real political consequences going forward, unless it's reversed and reversed fairly soon.