President Donald Trump may be trailing Joe Biden in many national polls, but one area where he still has the edge with voters is his handling of the economy.
On Thursday, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee aimed to change that as Biden unveiled the broad strokes of his “build back better” blueprint to revive the United States economy from the ravages of COVID-19-induced recession, while casting Trump as an unrelatable, divisive leader who has failed to tackle the nation’s most pressing problems.
Speaking in northern Pennsylvania near his boyhood home of Scranton – a town synonymous with blue-collar, working-class Americans that helped Trump win the battleground state in 2016 – Biden told a socially distanced audience, “Enough his enough. It’s time to reverse the priorities in this county.”
Emphasising the need to tackle income and racial inequalities and build resilience against future threats, Biden served up his vision to resuscitate US manufacturing, modernise the nation’s infrastructure, promote clean energy, bolster critical stockpiles and create millions of secure, well-paying union jobs.
Achieving that vision involves sinking $700bn in federal funds into government investment and procurement programmes including $400bn to buy products made in the US, and $300bn to foster innovation in burgeoning industries such as battery technology, AI, biotech and clean energy.
“My plan will create at least five million – five million – new, good-paying jobs,” Biden told the audience.
To fund that investment, Biden said he would raise the corporate tax rate – which Trump’s controversial Tax Cut and Jobs Act slashed from 35 percent to 21 percent – back up to 28 percent.
Biden also previewed other elements of his plan that he pledged to roll out in the coming weeks, including making child and elder care more affordable for working families.
“Donald Trump has no idea what it’s like to be a single parent barely getting by,” he said. “He doesn’t have a clue what it’s like to provide for an aging parent.”
Emphasising his folksy, humble roots, and the struggles he faced as a single parent, Biden cast Trump as out of touch with the struggles and priorities of ordinary people by taking aim at one of the president’s favourite metrics for gauging economic strength – the stock market.
“The truth is throughout this crisis, Donald Trump has been singularly focused on the stock market, the Dow and the Nasdaq. Not you, not your family,” Biden said.
A Gallup poll last month found slightly more than half of the country – 55 percent – are invested in the stock market.
The major US indexes have been on a tear since hitting historic lows in March. But many analysts have highlighted the sharp divergence between the strong rebound in equity markets versus economic data that shows an unequal recovery that by some measures started decelerating in June. And data on Thursday showed more than 30 million Americans are collecting unemployment benefits from state and federal programmes.
Notably absent from Biden’s speech on Thursday was any mention of big, bold policies favoured by some progressive Democrats, such as The Green New Deal.
With less than five months to go until Americans go to the polls, the economy is one area where Biden is playing catch up with Trump.
A recent poll by Pew Research found that while 54 percent of registered voters would either choose or were leaning towards electing Biden, compared with 44 percent for Trump, when it comes to economic policy, half of voters – 51 percent – said they were very or somewhat confident Trump would make good decisions, compared with 48 percent for Biden.