As coronavirus infections continue to spread uncontrolled in most states across the U.S., many Americans are deeply concerned about how the situation will be addressed.
Early in the U.S. outbreak, President Trump restricted travel from countries where the virus was spreading quickly. He has also focused on the fast development of a vaccine for the virus. Overall, however, he has largely left it up to individual states to oversee their response to the coronavirus.
Since cases began mounting in March, many state leaders have requested assistance from the federal government. In some areas, hospitals have been overwhelmed with patients and have lacked supplies. Testing for the virus has been slow and inadequate, experts say.
Meanwhile, in an effort to boost the economy, Trump has encouraged businesses that had been temporarily shut down to reopen quickly. Health experts caution that reopening too early could lead to new outbreaks. Indeed, many states that reopened businesses have seen a spike in cases.
The long history of unjust treatment of Black people in America is a major focus of this election.
This past spring, in the wake of police killings of Black Americans, huge protests erupted across the country in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Meanwhile, the coronavirus pandemic has seriously underscored the widespread problem of racial inequality in the United States. Data show that people of color are contracting and dying of the virus at the highest rates, largely because of the wealth gap that exists between white people and people of color. Many Americans of all races are now demanding an end to police violence and other injustices toward Black people in this country.
In June, President Trump signed an executive order encouraging police departments to change how they train officers and use force. But overall, he has defended law enforcement, opposed protesters’ calls for reforms, and taken an aggressive stance against the largely peaceful demonstrations. In July, for instance, he sent federal police to Portland, Oregon, to break up rallies there. Local officials say those officers illegally detained protesters and sparked violence.
Many people see the president’s response to the protests as part of a pattern of racism. He has repeatedly made racist statements and at times shown support for people who promote white supremacy. He has also largely refused to acknowledge the role racism plays in America. For example, he has dismissed research showing that Black people are more likely than white people to be stopped, arrested, and killed by the police.
Trump says he is not a racist, however, and that he has worked to help Americans of color. He says the strong pre pandemic economy, which featured record low unemployment for Black and Latinx people, is evidence of that. He also points to a criminal justice reform bill he signed in 2019, which changed federal prison sentencing laws that disproportionately affected Black Americans.
From 2010 through early 2020, the U.S. economy experienced strong growth. Then came the coronavirus pandemic. Last spring, most businesses across the country temporarily shut down to contain the spread of the virus. As a result, the economy is now in its worst downturn in roughly a century. Though many businesses have since resumed operations, experts expect the economy to rebound slowly. They say many businesses won’t ever reopen and that it’s likely that millions of job losses will be permanent.
During the pandemic, President Trump has signed several bills giving trillions of dollars in aid to businesses and Americans. That helped many families to afford food and rent and companies to stay in business. He has also supported opening up the country sooner rather than later to bring back jobs and boost the economy. Health officials have continued to express concern that opening businesses too early could lead the virus to spread. Many states have seen spikes in Covid-19 cases after businesses reopened—in no small part because of the loosened restrictions, health experts say.
Overall, the economy has been a major focus of Trump’s presidency. He has claimed responsibility for the booming U.S. economy before the pandemic, which featured record low unemployment for Black and Latinx people. In general, when it comes to strengthening the economy, Trump supports fewer regulations on businesses and providing tax cuts to give businesses and Americans more money to spend. In 2017, he signed a major bill into law that reduced taxes for Americans and corporations.
Millions of Americans lack health insurance, which is a plan that helps people pay their medical bills. And many of those who do have health insurance struggle to afford it. The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the importance of making affordable health care accessible to all Americans.
The last major change to the U.S. health-care system took place a decade ago, when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law. It has helped millions of Americans get health insurance. Still, the law has been criticized for being too costly for many Americans, including by President Donald Trump.
Trump says he wants the ACA repealed and replaced with something better. Since he took office, he has successfully worked to weaken the law. For example, he eliminated a penalty that required people to pay a fee for not having health insurance. The president has also expanded access to other kinds of health plans for small businesses and extended the amount of time people can have short-term health plans.
President Donald Trump has questioned how much human activity is to blame for climate change and how much of an emergency it is.
Scientists say human activity is largely to blame for climate change. When people burn fossil fuels like oil, coal, and gas to power homes, businesses, and cars, carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases are released into Earth’s atmosphere. That’s driving climate change, experts say. If carbon levels aren’t drastically cut, scientists warn, Earth’s average temperature will continue to increase, sea levels will continue to rise, and the number of extreme weather events, such as droughts and wildfires, will grow.
Trump has said he doesn’t want Americans to pay more money for products as a result of policies meant to reduce greenhouse gases. In 2017, he announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris Agreement, an international pact to limit global carbon emissions. He said remaining in the pact would hurt our economy. Since taking office, the president has worked to repeal more than 100 environmental regulations, calling them needlessly burdensome for the fossil-fuel industry. Many of those rules were meant to limit greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, he wants to expand fossil fuel drilling in the United States and has approved projects to increase oil and gas production.
Education has become a big issue for voters in the U.S., in part because inequalities in public education nationwide are hurting students of color. Many schools are segregated by race and wealth. School districts primarily serving Black students and other students of color receive much less in state and local funding per student than mostly white districts, which are usually wealthier. Another education issue Americans are concerned about is skyrocketing college costs, which many people are struggling to pay.
In his State of the Union address this year, President Donald Trump said that too many American children are “trapped in failing government schools,” referring to public schools, which are run by state and local governments. Trump has made school choice a focus of his education policies. That means he wants to help give more families the ability to choose between traditional public schools, charter schools, and private schools. For example, he wants to offer tax breaks to people who donate to scholarship funds that would pay for students to go to private and religious schools. Critics of school choice say it takes needed money away from public schools. President Trump says it will allow more students, including students of color, to go to better schools.
Over the past few decades, the focus of the immigration debate in the U.S. has been on the nearly 11 million immigrants in the U.S. who are undocumented. That means they are living in the U.S. without official permission to be here. In recent years, some Americans have also been concerned about how to respond to people from Central America who have come to this country with their children by crossing the U.S. border with Mexico. Many of those people are fleeing violence in their home countries and are hoping to apply for a special protection called asylum. (If granted, asylum allows immigrants to stay in the U.S. permanently.)
Immigration reform has been one of President Trump’s priorities since taking office. He has made deporting undocumented immigrants a top priority. He has also worked to restrict both legal and illegal immigration. For example, he has drastically cut the number of people allowed to resettle in the U.S. who are fleeing violence or unfair treatment in their home countries. His administration also enacted a policy that required children to be separated from their adult relatives and placed in overcrowded detention centers after they arrived here illegally. At the same time, Trump’s most well-known plan to address illegal immigration is to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.
Trump’s stated reasons for restricting immigration include concerns over the cost to Americans. He points to the price of providing services that immigrants use, such as food programs and health care. However, research shows that immigration has an overall positive effect on the U.S. economy. One reason is that immigrants increase the workforce and help to fill jobs at all levels.
One of the biggest international challenges America now faces involves other nations using cyberoperations to disrupt U.S. elections. (Cyberoperations are attempts to digitally disrupt or destroy computers, networks, or information.)
Intelligence experts and the U.S. Senate have concluded that Russia used cyberoperations during the 2016 election to help get President Donald Trump elected. Russia spread false or misleading information on social media and hacked into voting systems.
The Trump administration has ramped up efforts to work with state and local governments to improve election security. He has also signed an order saying the federal government could impose sanctions, or punishments, on nations or people found to have interfered in a U.S. election. But many experts say not nearly enough has been done to secure U.S. voting systems from foreign interference. They say critical steps must be taken to curb U.S. election interference, such as requiring paper ballots at all polling places.
Another major concern of U.S. leaders has been the desire of America’s adversaries, particularly Iran, to develop nuclear weapons. President Trump has taken a hard-line stance against Iran. In 2018, he pulled the U.S. out of a 2015 deal made with a group of other nations in which Iran had agreed to limit its nuclear program. (Many experts believed that Iran had been honoring the agreement.) He also imposed sanctions on Iran.
Trump has said his goal is to force Iran to stop assisting terrorist groups and make a better deal over its nuclear program. Since Trump pulled out of the 2015 deal, tensions with Iran have been building. In June, the U.S. and some nations in Europe accused Iran of hiding suspected nuclear activity.