Joe Biden positioned himself as a champion of the middle class during a campaign speech in his native Pennsylvania on Thursday, targeting blue collar workers in a battleground region of the state that flipped from blue to red in 2016.
“Donald Trump loves to talk and talk and talk, but after three and half years of big promises, what do the American people have to show?” Biden said after he toured McGregor Industries metal works plant in Dunmore, just miles from where he grew up in Scranton. “This is our moment to imagine a new economy for everyone. Everyone will be cut in on the deal this time as we rebuild the middle class.”
The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and former vice president spent more than 30 minutes hammering Trump on his “incompetent” handling of the pandemic while simultaneously inflaming hateful rhetoric as the country reckons with centuries of racial injustice.
“The truth is, throughout this crisis, Donald Trump has been almost singularly focused on the stock market,” he said. “Not you. Not your families. Growing up rich and looking down on people is a bit different than how I grew up here.”
Then, in an effort to challenge the president’s economic talking points, Biden unveiled his “ Build Back Better” recovery plan, which pledges to spend $400 billion buying up American-made goods during his first term to bolster national security, fight climate change and enhance stockpiles of critical goods.
“When we spend taxpayers’ money, we should use it to buy American products and support American jobs,” he said. “My plan would tighten the rules to make this a reality.”
Biden wants to reverse the administration’s 2017 tax cuts and double the fee on foreign profits to keeps jobs and investments stateside. His policies will create 5 million “good paying union jobs” in manufacturing, he said, and prioritize families over investors.
“They [Wall Street] don’t need me, but working families do,” he said. “This should be a guiding principle. We must reward work as much as reward wealth.”
Biden’s recovery plan spends an additional $300 billion on research and development that will “sharpen America’s competitive edge” against China. He also described unions as the antidote to crony capitalism, and credited organized labor for “building the middle class.”
“I do not buy it for one second that the vitality of American manufacturing is a thing of the past,” he said.
An hour away in Chester County, Vice President Mike Pence told workers and reporters at the Rajant Corporation in Malvern that the administration’s tax cuts and trade deals “unleashed American energy and ended the war on coal.” He then departed for a rally at a “packed” Fraternal Order of Police lodge in Philadelphia, according to multiple media reports.
“We actually believe that not only can we bring this economy back but we think 2021 can be one of the greatest years in the history of the American economy,” Pence said.
Thursday’s dueling campaign events underscore Pennsylvania’s weight in the Nov. 3 election, as Biden fights to win back blue collar workers and independents that helped teeter the state’s electoral votes in Trump’s favor four years ago.
An updating average from FiveThirtyEight of state-based presidential polls shows Biden with a 7.6 percent lead over Trump, though some individual surveys show as little as a three point spread between the candidates.
But Biden's progressive stance on energy and the environment – spelled out in a 110-page document drafted by his campaign's unity task force with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders – threatens to undermine the support he needs from building trades and construction workers in key areas of the state.
Chief among the task force's recommendations is to eliminate all carbon-emitting sources of power by 2035 – a difficult pivot for a state with 300,000 jobs anchored in natural gas production alone.
“It’s going to be extremely difficult to support or endorse Joe Biden with the positions he seems to be leaning toward when it comes to energy,” said Jim Kunz, business manager for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 66, during an interview about Biden's climate policies last month. “He seems to be going down the same road as Hillary Clinton in 2016, which I think was instrumental to her loss in Pennsylvania.”
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