Katie Deal , Washington Analyst,
U.S. Equity Division
Coronavirus Pandemic could Shift Health, Economic Agenda
Democratic reforms likely delayed until crisis recedes.
A Delay in Health Care Regulation
Though health care consistently polls as the top issue for Americans, the coronavirus has heightened voters’ awareness of access to affordable treatment—for testing, hospital care, and medical costs. Democrats’ advocacy for expanded Medicare and a national public option could become even more popular among voters, providing a Biden administration the opportunity to capitalize on an opportunity for health care legislation.
Given that drug and biopharmaceutical manufacturers, medical device companies, and hospitals have been leveraged by the government as partners in mitigating and treating the effects of COVID-19 disease, efforts to tighten regulatory policies affecting these industries could be delayed until the crisis has subsided. For example, we could see a pause on Congress’ current efforts to curtail surprise medical billing and contain drug pricing—including an international pricing index.
More Restraint in Tax Policy
n a recovering economy, it will be more politically difficult for a Democratic administration to pass more stringent tax increases, such as a return to a corporate tax rate of 35%. However, as the health crisis recedes, incremental tax increases—raising the highest income tax brackets for individuals, instituting an incremental rise in the corporate tax rate, and increasing capital gains taxes to align with individual income tax rates—could serve as revenue sources to fund stimulus efforts like an infrastructure program.
More Support for Possible Labor Reforms
The coronavirus crisis has also highlighted the effects of income inequality in the United States. According to Martha Ross and Nicole Bateman of the Brookings Institution, about 44% of U.S. workers—53 million people—earn a median hourly wage of USD 10.22, and have limited access to sick and family leave benefits.
The economic damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic could spur stronger political support for Biden’s proposal to raise the minimum wage to USD 15 per hour and expanded sick leave options for low-wage workers.
Potential Impact on the Election
We expect the coronavirus outbreak to affect voter sentiment in the November election. In modern history, recessions have inhibited every president’s ability to win reelection. President Donald Trump’s efforts to shape his campaign around the slogan “promises made, promises kept” may be overwhelmed by his performance navigating the dual public health and economic crises.
In presidential reelection cycles, we assess the health of an incumbent’s campaign through two factors: voter turnout and approval ratings. The coronavirus pandemic will complicate turnout in 2020. Republicans generally have a smaller, but more reliable, voting base than Democrats and tend to benefit from lower overall turnout rates.
If states implement measures to maintain and expand access to voting during this crisis—by opening more and smaller polling sites, encouraging early voting, and widening the availability of mail-in and absentee ballots—voter turnout could be at normal or elevated levels, most likely benefiting Democrats. But this outcome isn’t the likeliest scenario. Voting rules will be inconsistent across states, and uncertainty will surround the availability of mail-in options and polling places. Fewer polling places and unclear mail-in options may lower turnout, which would provide Republicans an advantage.
Voter turnout, too, could wane if the virus is not adequately contained. The fear of congregating in crowded, public places may suppress overall turnout, especially among older voters, voters with underlying health conditions, and voters living in states without the option to cast mail-in ballots.
If Biden wins, he will need majorities in both the House and the Senate or compromise votes from Republicans to accomplish his legislative priorities. Even if a “blue wave” were to occur, Democrats likely would have a narrow margin over Republicans in the Senate. That slim majority would moderate more progressive policy proposals, as well as Biden’s perception of what policy proposals could actually become law.
Sign up for US Equity insights from T. Rowe Price
Share this article:
For professional clients only. Not for further distribution.
This material is being furnished for general informational purposes only. The material does not constitute or undertake to give advice of any nature, including fiduciary investment advice, and prospective investors are recommended to seek independent legal, financial and tax advice before making any investment decision. T. Rowe Price group of companies including T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc. and/or its affiliates receive revenue from T. Rowe Price investment products and services. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. The value of an investment and any income from it can go down as well as up. Investors may get back less than the amount invested.
The material does not constitute a distribution, an offer, an invitation, a personal or general recommendation or solicitation to sell or buy any securities in any jurisdiction or to conduct any particular investment activity. The material has not been reviewed by any regulatory authority in any jurisdiction.
Information and opinions presented have been obtained or derived from sources believed to be reliable and current; however, we cannot guarantee the sources’ accuracy or completeness. There is no guarantee that any forecasts made will come to pass. The views contained herein are as of the date noted on the material and are subject to change without notice; these views may differ from those of other T. Rowe Price group companies and/or associates. Under no circumstances should the material, in whole or in part, be copied or redistributed without consent from T. Rowe Price.
The material is not intended for use by persons in jurisdictions which prohibit or restrict the distribution of the material and in certain countries the material is provided upon specific request.
It is not intended for distribution to retail investors in any jurisdiction.
This material is issued and approved by T. Rowe Price International Ltd, 60 Queen Victoria Street, London, EC4N 4TZ which is authorised and regulated by the UK Financial Conduct Authority. For Professional Clients only.
© 2020 T. Rowe Price. All rights reserved. T. ROWE PRICE, INVEST WITH CONFIDENCE, and the bighorn sheep design are, collectively and/or apart, trademarks or registered trademarks of T. Rowe Price Group, Inc.
You might be interested in…
Read Time: 5 mins
Read Time: 6 mins
Read Time: 4 mins
Read Time: 8 mins
See our comprehensive range of US equity funds