Joe Biden laid out a populist economic vision on Thursday, starting with a $700 billion proposal to reinvigorate the nation's manufacturing sector, and laced into President Donald Trump for being out of touch with the challenges facing the American public.
Speaking at a metal works plant in Dunmore, Pennsylvania, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee said the barrage of crises pummeling the nation -- the coronavirus pandemic, the subsequent economic fallout, the turmoil over racial injustice -- offer an opportunity for sweeping improvement to "build back better," as he dubbed his recovery plan.
"This is our moment to imagine and to build a new American economy for our families and for our communities -- an economy where every American has the chance to get a fair return for the work they put in, an equal chance to get ahead," he told his socially distanced audience of about 50 people.
The manufacturing proposal, the first plank of four initiatives Biden is planning to roll out in the coming weeks, includes spending $300 billion on research and development projects in clean energy, telecommunications, artificial intelligence and other fields. He would also commit to $400 billion in his first term for federal procurement of American-made products ranging from clean vehicles to construction materials. The promise of government purchases, the campaign said, will give businesses confidence to hire additional workers.
The campaign did not specify how it would pay for the new spending.
The plan also aims to boost domestic production by tightening rules on what products can be designated "made in America" and updating international trade rules around government procurement. It also includes previously announced measures to manufacture more medical equipment and other critical supplies to battle pandemics, after the U.S. reliance on international supply chains proved to be faulty in the current coronavirus crisis.
For months, the former vice president has signaled a shift in his economic thinking spurred by the public health and financial crises gripping the country. Instead of promising a return to normalcy -- which defined his message during the presidential primary -- Biden began talking up bold, transformational change as necessary to address the upheaval brought by the coronavirus. The manufacturing proposal offers a glimpse at how Biden is translating that rhetoric into policy.
Much like Trump in his 2016 campaign, Biden struck a populist tone, promising to advocate for the American worker who has seen manufacturing job prospects decline in the globalized economy. But Biden used that line to draw a contrast with his opponent, painting Trump as siding with elites and showing little interest in learning about the stresses faced by everyday Americans.
He promised "an economy that says investing in American people and working families is more important than the nearly $2 trillion in tax breaks, predominantly handed out to the super-wealthy.
"Donald Trump loves to talk and talk and talk, but after 3 1/2 years of big promises, what do the American people have to show for all the talk?" he said.