Jim Banks: Joe Biden's support from the working class is in decline. Autoworkers know why

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President Joe Biden joined hundreds of striking United Auto Workers outside Detroit on Tuesday. The visit reeks of electoral politics, not least because it came just one day before President Trump’s speech to autoworkers.

Rust Belt states like Michigan and Wisconsin will play a deciding role in the 2024 election, and UAW, historically a close ally of the Democrat Party, so far has withheld its endorsement of President Biden’s 2024 re-election campaign.

Ultimately, UAW’s leadership will decide whether Biden’s trip to Michigan wins him their endorsement, but in any case, it won’t earn Joe Biden the support of working-class Americans.

As UAW’s former President Bob King explained, our “members feel abandoned by the Democratic Party.” Just this week, a Morning Consult poll showed that non-college-educated voters are now more likely to say the GOP cares about them, making clear just how much the Republican Party has cemented its working-class ties.

President Biden can’t gloss over decades of political betrayal with a well-timed photo op. Without substantive change, the Democrat Party has no chance of reversing its decades-long decline in support from working-class Americans.

Indiana is one of the leading states in the nation for auto production, and the automotive industry employs tens of thousands of Hoosiers in northeast Indiana alone. UAW President Shawn Fain happens to come from Kokomo, Indiana, which borders my district.

I understand why UAW workers are upset because I hear similar frustrations and concerns everywhere I go in Indiana. Joe Biden boldly claims to be the most “pro-union president in history,” but his term has been a disaster for American workers.

The Biden economy has been tough for the entire country, but especially for Midwestern families. According to 2022 economic data recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau, inflation-adjusted wages fell in 17 states last year, including Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Ohio and Wisconsin. It’s no mystery why UAW workers are demanding the Big Three automakers — Stellantis, Ford and GM — index workers’ wages to the cost-of-living. The Biden administration flooded the economy with trillions in “stimulus” and sent inflation to record highs, so their paychecks don’t go anywhere near as far as they used to.

All American workers have had to deal with the effects of inflation, but Biden’s green agenda spells catastrophe for autoworkers, specifically. The White House’s goal is for half of all new cars sold in the U.S. to be electric by 2030. Unlike so much of the Democrat Party’s lofty green energy rhetoric, the administration has taken real steps toward achieving this goal.

Record review: IndyStar examined U.S. Rep. Jim Banks' record in Congress and the Statehouse

The president’s so-called “Inflation Reduction Act” included $370 billion in taxpayer subsidies for electric vehicle manufacturers and other green energy projects. Electric vehicle sales in the US are up 47% since the first half of 2022, thanks to the billions in support from American taxpayers. California has even banned the sale of gas-powered vehicles after 2035. That’s good for climate agitators, green energy companies in Silicon Valley and their allies in the Biden administration, but it’s horrible for American autoworkers.

Roughly half of US autoworkers work jobs directly related to making gas-engine vehicles. They produce and assemble the hundreds of components that make up the internal combustion engine or the many related parts, like multi-speed transmissions, that are absent in electric vehicles. If the U.S. stops buying and making those engines, what will happen to their jobs? According to the Inflation Reduction Act’s boosters, they will be simply retrained to produce electric batteries.

That sounds like an empty promise, and there’s plenty of proof that it is. For one, the Inflation Reduction Act is itself evidence that American companies and workers will lose the green energy arms race. Since the bill was enacted, more than 40% of new manufacturing announcements have been made by foreign firms. One of them, Gotion Inc., partially owned by the Chinese Communist Party, announced a $2.4 billion construction plant in Green Charter Township, Michigan, not far from the site of Biden’s Tuesday visit. Another, Chinese battery manufacturer CATL, signed an agreement with Ford to build a $3.5 billion Michigan plant that explicitly prohibits any technology transfer to Ford, helping ensure battery manufacturing know-how stays with China indefinitely.

China already produces more than 70% of the world’s electric batteries, which is why Chinese firms like Gotion or CATL are set to cash in on billions of Americans taxpayer dollars. To make matters worse, China controls 70% of the lithium used to manufacture those batteries, which will make it even more difficult for U.S. EV producers to catch their Chinese rivals.

Even if by some miracle America transforms itself into an EV heavyweight, mass layoffs are inevitable. Electric vehicle batteries require 30% less labor to manufacture than gas-powered engines, according to an America First Policy Institute report. If Biden’s green energy plan is successful, at least 30% of those roughly 500,000 jobs will vanish. Even the lucky workers who keep their jobs will only keep a small portion of their salaries. The EV battery industry pays three times less than traditional union auto jobs.

The White House’s signature domestic achievement is incompatible with a thriving American auto-industry. Recent polling shows that just a quarter of working-class voters support Joe Biden’s green energy agenda — they aren’t easily fooled. He shouldn’t expect support from the Midwest anytime soon.

Jim Banks has served as the U.S Representative for Indiana's third congressional district since 2017.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Joe Biden's green agenda won't work for autoworkers, Jim Banks writes