The growing role of state power
The line between state and federal governments has been blurred as more and more of the COVID-19 response has fallen to governors. Where should the line be drawn when it comes to protecting public health and promoting economic activity?
“All eyes are on the governors right now because they are the place where things really do get fixed and where they get implemented,” said Haley, who served as governor of South Carolina from 2011 to 2017, in addition to being the former US Ambassador to the UN. “You have to facilitate on the ground, making sure you know where your hotspots are, knowing how best to get those people taken care of. The governor puts the processes in place. The governor really makes sure that information gathered is sent to the federal government and that there's good coordination.”
Haley adds that it is after this on the ground work is done that states can then look at how to use resources from the federal government. “It's very much a partnership but the governor sets the tone,” she says.
In times of crisis, governors can really shine or flail, she continues. “A strong governor, you'll be able to see it through this COVID crisis. A weak governor, you'll also be able to see that.”
Healthcare is an obvious issue that has been highlighted by the pandemic but there are others. An important and challenging issue is infrastructure, as it relates to limited broadband in some parts of the country, points out Sebelius, the former governor of Kansas from 2003 to 2009 and the 21st US Secretary of Health and Human Services. “It not only is harming kids who are trying to learn virtually, and businesses trying to operate virtually, but it harms hospital systems and others who need to exchange information quickly,” she says.
Haley notes that “When you look at a child in a rural area the only way we can make sure they get a good education is to make sure that they have broadband. But it goes a step further. Economic development does not go to areas that don't have sufficient broadband. And so, if we want to improve all areas in the country, we have to make sure that we have that viable broadband in place so that companies do move to those rural areas and everyone benefits.”
The challenge is for Democrats and Republicans to find a compromise. “Where's the middle ground to make sure that, yes, you can be as green as you need to be but you're also doing this at a fast enough pace that the cost of the infrastructure is not triple and quadruple what you think it's going to be?,” asks Haley. “At the end of the day, we all want the same things, but the bottom line is: How do we get there and how quickly can we get there?”
Women voters and the election
Attention turned to women voters in 2016, when 63% of eligible women cast ballots in the presidential election, according to Pew Research. This demographic is poised to be an important focus of the 2020 campaign trail.
The advice Sebelius says she would share with Joe Biden is to remember that all issues are women’s issues. “We used to have this little category where women thought about education and men thought about commerce and taxes. That's no longer the case. Women think about everything from health and the safety of their families to healthcare to jobs and economics…The fact that America is the only country in the world without paid maternal and paternal leave, that we still have a great pay equity gap, that follows women throughout their work lives.”
Reflecting on Kamala Harris as Biden’s running mate, Sebelius says, “I do think that having a woman vice-presidential candidate is going to be very exciting to a lot of the population.”
Haley disagrees that having a woman on the ticket will change a lot of female voters’ minds. “I don't think a woman votes based on whether there's a woman on the ticket or not. I think they vote based on the policies of what's going to happen.”
As for what Haley would advise President Trump, “What the president needs to do is remind everyone that prior to COVID, we had more people working than ever before. And that's really what you need to remind women is that, look, we've done it once; we can do it again.”
Nikki Haley, former US Ambassador to the United Nations, and Kathleen Sebelius, 21 st US Secretary of Health and Human Services, spoke with Bob McCann, Chairman of UBS Americas, about the growing role of state governments on 8 Sept. 2020. Watch the replay at ubs.com/electionwatch2020.
The UBS ElectionWatch 2020 virtual event series features policy makers and UBS experts, who discuss the policies and issues that matter most and what they could mean for investors.