Biden pledges ‘New Deal-like’ economic agenda to counter Trump

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at McGregor Industries in Dunmore, Pa., Thursday, July 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

DUNMORE, Pa. — Democrat Joe Biden turned his campaign against President Donald Trump toward the economy Thursday, introducing a New Deal-like economic agenda.

The former vice president presented details of what he touted as the most aggressive government investment in the U.S. economy since World War II.

“His failures come with a terrible human cost and a deep economic toll,” Biden said during a 30-minute address at a metal works firm near his childhood hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania. “Time and again, working families are paying the price for this administration’s incompetence.”

Biden and his aides believe the issue is an all-encompassing opening that gives Democrats avenues to attack Trump on multiple fronts while explaining their own governing vision for the country.

The former vice president began Thursday with proposals intended to reinvigorate the U.S. manufacturing and technology sectors.

Biden called for a $400 billion, four-year increase in government purchasing of U.S.-based goods and services, plus $300 billion in new research and development in U.S. technology firms. He proposed tightening current “Buy American” laws.

The procurement overhaul is based on ideas Biden said has discussed with his former presidential rival, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who offered similar proposals during the Democratic primary.

He also emphasized previous pledges to establish a $15-per-hour minimum wage, strengthen workers’ collective bargaining rights and repeal Trump’s 2017 tax law.

His opening emphasis on manufacturing and labor policy is no coincidence: Biden wants to capitalize on his union ties and win back working-class white voters who fueled Trump’s upset win four years ago.

“It’s not sufficient to build back. We have to build back better,” Biden said, promising he’d “ensure all Americans are in on the deal.”

Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday was also in Pennsylvania, where he cast Biden as a threat to the economy. Pence touted job gains before the pandemic and said Trump is now leading a “great American comeback.” He said the company where Biden spoke received federal pandemic aid that Trump signed into law.

Still, as with Pence’s remarks Thursday, Republicans have made clear they’ll attack Biden on trade and the economy, tying him to the Democratic party’s move to the far left on taxes and a willing participant in decades of trade policy that gutted American workers. Trump also has lampooned Biden as “weak on China.”

As a senator, Biden voted for the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994. One of Trump’s signature achievements is an overhaul of NAFTA, which he accomplished with backing from many Democrats on Capitol Hill.

The campaign’s policy outline emphasizes that Biden wants a resurgence in U.S. markets before engaging in new trade agreements abroad. That includes the Trans-Pacific Partnership that Biden advocated when he was President Barack Obama’s vice president. Trump opposed the TPP as a 2016 candidate.

For now, Biden has not said how he’d pay for the proposed new spending for manufacturing and technology. Revenue from repealing GOP tax cuts on corporations and the wealthiest Americans, Biden says, would cover his proposed annual spending, including expanded Medicaid coverage.