Where Kamala Harris Stands on the Economy

In the past, her plans have been vastly different from Biden's.

kamala harris
(Image credit: Michael A. McCoy)

Before she joined Joe Biden's presidential campaign as his vice presidential pick, Senator Kamala Harris presented big ideas about how to stimulate the economy. Her proposals as a presidential candidate offer a particular vision for an economy that protects lower- and middle-income families, underrepresented groups, and the environment. As she and Biden continue to push forward as running mates, some of her policies may come to the forefront of their combined plan—alternatively, she and Biden may disagree and work towards a compromise of sorts. So what do we know about Harris' economic policies as of this moment, and how they may evolve in her new role? (FYI: We've also put together guides to Harris' positions on healthcare (opens in new tab)climate change, (opens in new tab) guns (opens in new tab)abortion (opens in new tab), and more.)

Kamala Harris on the Economy and COVID-19

Both Biden and Harris have been critical of the current administration's mishandling of the pandemic. In Biden and Harris' first joint appearance, Harris said, "This virus has impacted almost every country, but there’s a reason it has hit America worse than any other advanced nation. It’s because of Trump’s failure to take it seriously from the start."

Harris has put her money where her mouth is, so to speak: She's either proposed or supported a range of economic supports for individuals and small businesses particularly impacted by COVID-19, like monetary relief for struggling families (opens in new tab)banning evictions and foreclosures (opens in new tab)small business grants (opens in new tab), and the COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force Act.

Biden and Harris also conducted a coronavirus briefing in August to listen to experts and propose action. On the Biden-Harris website, there's a long list of potential solutions that would support the 20 million unemployed Americans, and they include "restart packages" for small businesses, but doesn't go quite as far as Harris' proposals yet; they appear to be focused on solutions around controlling the spread.

Kamala Harris on Economic Stability and Recovery

Both Biden and Harris support raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 and then allowing it to increase with inflation (opens in new tab); Harris has also been critical of the administration's handling of the economy pre-pandemic for its lack of support for working men and women. In 2019, Harris explained exactly why she was joining Democrats in support of raising the minimum wage:

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In regard to paid leave, Harris proposed a "Children's Agenda (opens in new tab)" that would put children at the forefront of decisions about care, in her words, and would provide six months' paid leave to all workers, including part-time and self-employed. She also proposed a new Office of Paid Family and Medical Leave to run and enforce the program in a larger attempt to promote economic justice.

Since automation is a major concern for the potential loss of jobs, particularly in poorer areas of the country, Harris has addressed that too: Her 21st Century SKILLS Act (opens in new tab) would allow workers free access to training in specialized fields, with transportation and childcare covered, to allow them to mitigate job loss from career paths that have become obsolete.

Harris has also supported debt-free college and universal pre-K (opens in new tab), debt relief programs for student loans, expanding tax benefits for low- and middle-income (opens in new tab) families to address inequality, and imposing higher taxes on financial institutions.

Kamala Harris on a "Clean" Economy

One cannot talk about climate change without bringing in the economy, particularly the fossil fuel industry and its continued harm done to the planet. Harris is in favor of rejoining the Paris Agreement and is a proponent of the Green New Deal (opens in new tab), proposed legislation to tackle climate change while still stimulating the economy at the same time. In 2019, she also proposed a plan (opens in new tab) for a "clean economy" that would use $12 trillion in public and private funding to help create jobs, develop climate resilience measures, and get to net-zero carbon emissions (2045) and carbon-neutral electricity (2030). Harris has worked with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to explore developing (opens in new tab) an Office of Climate and Environmental Justice Accountability.

Harris has also encouraged Americans to eat less meat to help combat climate change, which is going to come up during the VP debate with Mike Pence, likely taken out of context as he's been misusing it in the past (opens in new tab).

Kamala Harris on Equality and Reparations

The concept of reparations (also known as a kind of compensation for injustice, in this case for Black Americans for slavery, racism, and discrimination) has once again entered the public discourse. It was one of the ideas endorsed by the Black Lives Matter movement, and it's gained popularity among Democrats for at least discussion and debate. In March 2019, Harris floated the idea that a form of reparations (opens in new tab) could be funding for mental healthcare, following the research-based evidence that racism and discrimination are materially adverse to Black people's physical and mental health (also called "weathering" (opens in new tab)).

Biden's economic plan from July skipped any mention of reparations (opens in new tab), but he has said in the past he favored research (opens in new tab) on the subject to determine its efficacy and see what form(s) it could take. The notion doesn't appear to be on the Biden-Harris website's racial equity section (opens in new tab) at the moment, including the H.R. 40 bill proposed by the House of Representatives to study reparations. But, the section has a long, long list of proposals, including major investments in areas like education, infrastructure, small business, and homeownership. Biden has indicated that racial equality is a big part of his overall economic campaign (and Harris has long been a proponent of racial justice):

And the subject of reparations could come up in debates or in interviews, so TBD.

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Katherine’s a Boston-based contributor at Marie Claire who covers fashion, culture, and lifestyle—from “Clueless” to Everlane to news about Lizzo. She’s been a freelancer for 11 years and has had roles with Cosmopolitan and Bustle, with bylines in Parents, Seventeen, and elsewhere. It’s “I go to dinner,” not “Her huge ego,” but she responds to both.