Joseph R. Biden’s presidential campaign tacked further left Thursday with a massive tax-and-spend economic plan, as the longtime Democratic Party workhorse reinvented himself as the most far-left major party nominee in U.S. history.
He called for massive federal spending to buy U.S. goods and services, pay for high-tech research and development, build infrastructure, provide job training, and fund higher education for minorities.
Mr. Biden said his plan would turn a trio of crises — the COVID-19 pandemic, the resulting economic downturn and the racial justice upheaval — into an opportunity to rebuild a better America.
In a speech at a manufacturing plant in Pennsylvania, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee said the wave of spending, which would be on top of a $1.7 trillion clean energy and infrastructure plan, would be the biggest government jobs program since the Great Depression or World War II.
“It’s bold, it’s practical and it’s focused on building an economy for the future, not for the past,” Mr. Biden said in the speech.
He repeatedly blamed President Trump for America’s plight. He said the president failed to follow through with his big talk on the economy and failed to respond to the threefold calamity.
Mr. Biden’s sweeping jobs plan includes $300 billion in spending for technological development, including electric vehicle technology, lightweight materials, 5G telecommunications and artificial intelligence.
It would pour $400 billion into a federal “Buy American” program to drive economic demand. Another $50 billion would go to job training and $70 billion to historically Black colleges and universities.
Much of the spending would use roughly $4 trillion in new taxes, mostly from canceling Mr. Trump’s tax cuts.
The Trump campaign responded by highlighting the tepid economic recovery when Mr. Biden was the vice president in the Obama White House.
“We don’t need to guess what a Biden economy would look like since Americans have been forced to live through it once already. Biden’s policies caused the slowest economic recovery since the Great Depression, anemic job growth and depressed wages for the workers left,” said Trump campaign spokesman Hogan Gidley. “Now, Biden proudly brags he has borrowed his economic plans from [democratic socialist Sen.] Bernie Sanders, saying he’ll raise taxes on all Americans.”
Mr. Biden leads in most polls but needs to beat back Mr. Trump’s claims to a roaring economy that was undermined by forced government shutdowns and the promises he can rebuild it once the coronavirus crisis ends.
“The fact is Biden and Democrats are wrong on the economy, health care, education and coronavirus, and their ideas would only make the economy worse, cost jobs, and have already taken too many lives,” said David McIntosh, president of the conservative Club for Growth.
The new Biden economic formula advanced his march to the left following a “unity platform” that he devised with Mr. Sanders’ team.
The agenda embraces citizenship rights for 11 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S. and erases Mr. Trump’s get-tough border policies.
It also checks off the far-left wish list for universal pre-K, mandatory 12-week paid family leave and climate change measures such as eliminating carbon pollution from power plants by 2035.
“The last few days have provided a clear indication of Biden’s jog to the left,” said Christopher P. Borick, director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
He described it as a smart political play by Mr. Biden.
“From my perspective, it helps bolster Biden’s support from the Sanders wing while posing limited risk in terms of potential swing voters in places such as Pennsylvania,” he said. “Despite the economic struggles after the arrival of COVID-19, the president’s public standing in this area remains fairly strong and thus this is a potential weak spot for Biden.”
The unity platform stopped short of going full Sanders, leaving out key items such as “Medicare for All” government-run health care, a Green New Deal environmental makeover of the economy and canceling most student debt.
Still, it went a long way in appeasing the left-wing army of supporters of Mr. Sanders and his ideological soul mate, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
Adam Green, a co-founder of the left-leaning Progressive Change Campaign Committee, called Mr. Biden’s economic plan “Warren-esque” in its use of federal procurement spending to boost demand.
It’s not just a hat-tip to the left but a full embrace, he said.
“Most progressives are intent on voting for Joe Biden against Trump. The big variable going forward is whether they donate and volunteer,” Mr. Green said. “By proposing Warren-esque policies like this jobs program, it will help move many progressives toward enthusiastically volunteering and donating in addition to voting.”
⦁ Gabriella Muñoz contributed to this report.
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