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Joe Biden proposed a sweeping plan aimed at boosting U.S. manufacturing on Thursday, the first plank of an economic recovery agenda that his campaign is expected to roll out in the coming weeks.
The Biden campaign is calling this economic plan the “Build Back Better Agenda.” The campaign says Biden will soon introduce more plans to address caregiving and education, racial equity and clean energy.
Biden gave his remarks shortly after touring a metalworks facility in Dunmore, Pa. “Donald Trump loves to talk and talk and talk. But after three and a half years of big promises, what do the American people have to show for it?” he said in a winding, discursive speech near the city of Scranton, where he spent much of his childhood.
President Trump’s surprise victory in Pennsylvania helped catapult him to the White House in 2016. He was the first Republican to carry the state since 1988, in part because of his promise to revive America’s once robust manufacturing sector, which has faltered in recent decades as corporations looked to move factories overseas.
But despite the president’s boast earlier this year that his administration has been “restoring our nation’s manufacturing,” the sector is still suffering, particularly in the Democratic-leaning Rust Belt states he won in the last election. Biden is hoping to win these states back this November and is all but certain to win the presidency if he’s successful in doing so.
“Trump has simply given up. He’s waved the white flag,” jabbed Biden. “He’s walked away. His failures come with terrible human cost and deep economic toll. Time and again, working families are paying the price for this administration’s incompetence.”
He added: “We know who built this country. Hardworking folks like you grew up with. And you know who built the middle class? Unions built the middle class.”
Biden promises, if elected, a hefty $700 billion push to “buy American,” with $400 billion allocated to federal purchasing of U.S. materials and services and $300 billion to technological research and development. The plan would also require that steel and iron used in transportation are manufactured in the U.S.
In his speech, Biden implicitly contrasted his program with Trump’s “America First” agenda, which the former vice president argued has been unsuccessful. Biden said that, as president, he would unite a country that feels increasingly fractured along racial and partisan lines.
“He’s the exact wrong person to lead at this moment,” Biden said of Trump. “He will not bring this country together — he’s determined to drive us apart and keep his base in place.”
Biden’s plan also aims to shift medical supply chains away from Russia and China via changing tax policies that he says encourage drug companies to produce materials overseas. The U.S. reliance on countries like China for critical products like personal protective equipment, such as gloves and face masks, has been criticized by Democrats and Republicans alike since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden also stressed the dangers of falling behind China in technological innovation, particularly when it comes to artificial intelligence.
“The Chinese are spending billions [in research and development] while we sit with our thumb in our ear.”
If elected, Biden’s campaign says, he will launch a 100-day review of supply chains and commit to “ensure adequate surge manufacturing capacity in time of crisis,” according to the policy readout.
He also aims to make good on promises to recover over 20 million jobs lost due to the coronavirus pandemic through tax credits for small to medium manufacturers.
The Biden plan claims it will create 5 million additional jobs on top of those lost since the pandemic while simultaneously holding corporate America’s feet to the fire. Among other promises, he said he’d force the tech juggernaut Amazon to pay federal income tax, an idea integral to former candidate Andrew Yang’s stump speech.
Biden aims to increase domestic manufacturing of U.S. automotives and become the global leader in the production of environmentally friendly electric vehicles.
Blue-collar workers are a central target for the campaign, and Biden often bills himself as “a union man” and a friend of the working class.
Current polling averages have him leading Trump by 6 points in the Keystone State. The Biden campaign recently staffed up in Pennsylvania, hoping to widen that margin and net the state’s 20 electoral votes.
The Trump campaign has banked on campaigning on surprisingly strong job reports and broader economic growth, but the continued spread of the coronavirus has hampered that strategy. Though voters overall seemed turned off by Trump’s handling of the nation’s widespread racial reckoning as well as COVID-19, recent polling shows that only a narrow majority disapprove of his handling of the economy.
Earlier this year, Trump had the highest economic approval rating of any president in the past two decades. Biden’s repeated attempts to discredit Trump on his economic victory laps could potentially siphon off vulnerable members of the president’s base, particularly the white working-class voters who went for Obama before defecting to Trump in 2016.
“I do not buy for one second that the vitality of American manufacturing is a thing of the past,” Biden said.
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