Former Vice President Joe Biden said in a CNBC interview on Friday that an economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic looks "a long way away."
He also condemned President Donald Trump's handling of the crisis, blaming him for lost lives and economic ruin.
In the interview on "Squawk Box," the apparent Democratic presidential nominee criticized the 2017 Republican tax cuts and questioned how the U.S. could use the lost revenue as it tries to lift a devastated economy. More than 38 million people have filed jobless claims since states started widespread lockdowns to slow the pandemic, and GDP is expected to go into freefall in the second quarter.
"Imagine if we had that $2 trillion now as we go into, God willing, a recovery which is a long way away as I see it right now," Biden told CNBC's Andrew Ross Sorkin.
He spoke during an unprecedented presidential election where the pandemic and economic collapse — and Trump's response — have overshadowed any other issue. The virus has forced both major party candidates to stop in-person events for more than two months as the incumbent tries to defend a virus response that critics such as Biden have called sluggish and inadequate.
"His slowness is costing lives and costing jobs and costing our ability to rebound," the former vice president said Friday. Biden said he would make a coronavirus vaccine free for everyone in the United States.
In a statement responding to Biden's remarks, White House spokesman Judd Deere said Trump "has provided state and local leaders with data-driven guidelines to reopen their communities in safe, responsible ways, helped states ramp up their testing capabilities, and surged critical [personal protective equipment] and other supplies where they are needed." He added that the president has taken steps to "ensure we emerge stronger than ever before."
The U.S. has reported more than 1.5 million Covid-19 cases, and the disease has led to more than 94,000 deaths nationwide, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The Trump administration's preparedness for the outbreak and efforts to ramp up testing came under particular scrutiny as cases in America quickly outpaced any other country this spring.
As states battered by business closures and unemployment start to reopen their economies, some still have not seen their infection rates decline. In Washington, policymakers are divided over whether to forge ahead with partial restarts while focusing on testing or send more federal relief to states, businesses and individuals while taking a more cautious approach to lifting lockdowns.
While the president and many of his GOP allies push to restart businesses now to boost growth, Biden said "the way to fix the economy is get the public health response correct."
Trump's rival in the 2020 election condemned the president's party for its reluctance to send more relief money to state and local governments, some of which could struggle to pay first responders or teachers as they face higher expenses and lost revenue. House Democrats approved nearly $1 trillion in aid to states and municipalities last week, but Senate Republicans have no plans to pass the $3 trillion rescue bill.
Biden also contended the government has favored larger businesses over smaller ones as it doles out the more than $2.5 trillion in taxpayer relief money approved in March and April.
In detailing the economic policies he would implement if he won the White House, Biden said he would "repeal the $2 trillion tax cut for folks making over a million bucks a year" and hike the corporate tax rate to 28% even during a recovery period. He added that as the U.S. moves closer to rebounding from the crisis, he wants to push for an infrastructure overhaul and other job-creating measures.
Among his virus response plans, Biden has called for short-time compensation, under which companies would keep workers employed with reduced hours and the government would pay for the difference in wages. He has pushed for better safety standards and a pay boost for employees deemed essential who have to work on-site during the crisis.
Averages of recent polls in swing states such as Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania show a tight race with Biden holding a narrow edge.