By MOLLY NAGLE and JOHN VERHOVEK, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — Former Vice President Joe Biden tore into President Donald Trump Thursday on the incumbent’s signature issue, the economy, seeking to cast him as a divisive and incompetent leader while unveiling the first major plank of his economic recovery plan.
“Donald Trump may believe that pitting Americans against Americans will benefit him. I don’t,” Biden said, arguing that Trump has demonstrated an inability to manage the raft of crises that have engulfed his presidency in the months leading up to the November election.
“We have a health crisis, an economic crisis, a racial justice crisis, a climate crisis. We need to come together to solve these crises, to solve them as Americans. This is our moment to imagine and to build a new American economy for our families and for our communities,” the presumptive Democratic nominee said in a speech after touring a metal works factory in Dunmore, Pennsylvania, just outside of his hometown of Scranton.
The remarks came in concert with the release of the first part of Biden’s “Build Back Better” economy plan, which focuses on a domestic manufacturing and innovation strategy that the campaign says will create 5 million new jobs, in addition to the jobs lost due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The Biden plan to ensure the future is ‘made in all of America’ by all of America’s workers” will look to counter steps taken by Trump in office, including the Trump tax cuts, which the campaign argues has led to an increase in foreign investments over domestic investments, and Trump’s highly touted trade agreement with China.
Biden also took aim at Trump’s 2016 campaign promises in the remarks, questioning what results the president had to show for issues including jobs, health care and manufacturing.
“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 all the talk?” Biden asked.
“He promised to bring back jobs and manufacturing. It was in recession even before COVID-19. He promised to buy American, then he let federal contractors double the rate of offshoring jobs in his first 18 months. I’m going to change that,” the former vice president continued.
Biden blasted what he characterized as the Trump administration’s “incompetence” in dealing with the virus, arguing that Trump has “simply given up” the fight against stopping it’s spread, and is instead solely focused on the fortunes of the stock market and their effect on his reelection prospects.
“When it comes to COVID-19, after months of doing nothing, other than predicting the virus would disappear or maybe, if you drank bleach, you may be okay, Trump has simply given up,” Biden said.
“The truth is throughout this crisis, Donald Trump has been almost singularly focused on the stock market, the Dow and NASDAQ. Not you. Not your families,” he added.
Biden’s pivot to the economy, which has entered a recession spurred by the coronavirus crisis, comes as recent polling still shows Trump with a slight advantage over his Democratic rival when it comes to voters’ attitudes on the topic. In a Quinnipiac University poll conducted in mid-June, Trump retained a 5-point advantage over Biden when voters were asked who would do a better job handling the economy.
The campaign says Biden’s new plan includes a “Buy American” aspect, based on the premise that “when we spend taxpayer money, we should buy American products and support American jobs,” and is meant to be a comprehensive “manufacturing and innovation strategy [that] will marshall the resources of the federal government in ways that we have not seen since World War II.”
The plan, the campaign says, is not just a response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has decimated parts of the American economy, but is also a broader roadmap to a more equitable economy.
The manufacturing aspect of the plan includes a $400 billion “procurement investment” that, together with the former vice president’s clean energy and infrastructure plan, will “power new demand for American products, materials and services and ensure that they are shipped on U.S.-flagged cargo carriers,” according to the Biden campaign.
The procurement portion of Biden’s policy is designed to support small businesses, particularly those owned by people of color and women, according to the policy release, and will also require businesses receiving funds from the investment to commit to a $15 minimum wage, paid leave and the guaranteed option to join a union.
Biden will also seek to work with allies to “modernize international trade rules and associated domestic regulations regarding government procurement,” according to the policy proposal.
Biden is also proposing an additional $300 billion in research and development spending on “breakthrough technologies,” like electric vehicles, lightweight materials, 5G and artificial intelligence. A portion of the proposed investment will also go directly to federal funding for research through entities like the National Institutes of Health.
The campaign did not give specific guidance on how the policy will be paid for, but said that recurring costs of the plan over 10 years would be paid in full, with a payment plan that will be rolled out with other portions of the larger policy. However, it left open the possibility of additional one-time stimulus investments that may not be covered in the proposed plan.
The campaign argues that the current economic situation calls for a “robust jobs agenda,” that will off-set the precipitous decrease in demand and growth caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Today’s elevated unemployment will mean lower demand, which will mean lower growth for our economy (which relies on consumption). A robust jobs agenda will increase demand,” the campaign argued, saying broad investments now are necessary to improve both the long and short-term health of the economy.
Biden’s trip to Pennsylvania on Thursday was his fifth to the critical swing state since the COVID-19 pandemic largely brought in-person campaigning to a halt, and marked Biden’s first trip near his hometown of Scranton since October 2019.
The native Pennsylvanian also made a stop at his childhood home while in town, saying he “couldn’t come to Scranton without coming by the old house.”
In addition to the specific pillar Biden laid out, the campaign also previewed the other three pillars that together make up his plan, which includes mobilization plans across a number of different policy areas, including infrastructure, technological innovation, a “caregiving and education workforce” and racial equality that will be announced in the coming weeks.
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