By BILL BARROW and MARC LEVY
DUNMORE, Pa. (AP) — Democrat Joe Biden turned his campaign against President Donald Trump toward the economy Thursday, introducing a New Deal-like economic agenda while drawing a sharp contrast with a billionaire incumbent he said has abandoned working-class Americans amid cascading crises.
The former vice president presented details of a comprehensive agenda that he touted as the most aggressive government investment in the U.S. economy since World War II. He also accused Trump of ignoring the coronavirus pandemic and the climate crisis while encouraging division amid a national reckoning with systemic racism.
“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’s shift to the economy meets Trump on turf the Republican president had seen as his strength before the pandemic severely curtailed consumer activity and drove unemployment to near-Great Depression levels. Now, 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 that are intended to benefit U.S. firms but that government agencies can circumvent.
The procurement overhaul is based on ideas Biden has discussed with his former presidential rival, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who offered similar proposals during the Democratic primary. Those moves would create 5 million new jobs, Biden said.
He also emphasized previous pledges to establish a $15-per-hour minimum wage, strengthen workers’ collective bargaining rights and repeal Republican-backed tax breaks for U.S. corporations that move jobs overseas. And his campaign pledged that those investments in domestic markets would come before Biden entered negotiations for any new international trade agreements.