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Biden courts blue collar workers in pitch to US heartland

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US President Joe Biden speaks about the economy at a high school in Cleveland, Ohio July 6, 2022./AFP
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Jul 07, 2022 - 01:41 AM

CLEVELAND — President Joe Biden placed organized labor at the heart of his economic vision Wednesday, as he sought to counter months of bad news on inflation and a stalled domestic agenda with a pledge of commitment to the American worker.

The Democratic leader’s trip to Cleveland, in the industrial heartland state of Ohio, came amid steady job growth — but with sky-high living costs threatening his party’s prospects in November’s midterm elections.

Meanwhile, a program of interest rate hikes from the Federal Reserve has sparked ominous warnings that the world’s largest economy is headed for a significant slowdown or recession.

Biden told a crowd including plant workers and union organizers in the Midwestern battleground state that a fairly-paid working class was the key to see the country through economic headwinds.

“I campaigned to restore the backbone of this country, the middle class and unions. Because I know this: the middle class built America (and) unions built the middle class,” he said.

He spent much of his speech criticizing his predecessor Donald Trump, saying the former president had handed off an economy with “no real plan” for post-pandemic recovery, with millions out of work and families joining long lines in their cars at food banks.

“The previous administration lost more jobs on its watch than any administration since Herbert Hoover… based on failed trickle-down economics that benefit the wealthiest Americans and hit the middle class, the working people, the hardest,” Biden said.

“We came in with a fundamentally different economic vision, an economy that grows from the bottom up and the middle out, for everyone.”

Biden credited the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, a coronavirus relief package passed in March last year, for record job growth and restoring “basic dignity” to workers.

The 46th US president has made inflation his top priority, though lawmakers among his own Democratic ranks are increasingly voicing frustration over the White House’s struggle for a coherent action plan.

Some strategists have criticized what they see as Biden’s lack of leadership on a host of progressive touchstones, including climate change, abortion rights and gun violence.

The president was rewarded with cheers however as he announced a lifeline for troubled pensions that will help up to three million workers and retirees avoid benefit cuts as steep as 70 percent.

The visit was the sixth of Biden’s presidency to Ohio, a key midterm target won easily by Trump in the last two elections.

‘Biden failure tour’ 

Democrat Tim Ryan is running neck and neck in the Buckeye State with Republican J.D. Vance, the author of the memoir “Hillbilly Elegy,” for an open seat that could determine control of the evenly-divided Senate.

Biden’s efforts to appeal to the working class in America’s “Rust Belt” took a hit recently as Intel postponed the groundbreaking for a computer chip plant near the state capital of Columbus.

The decision came with planned investment of more than $50 billion in the semiconductor industry stalled in Congress, undermining Biden’s efforts to showcase his commitment to US manufacturing.

Biden has been buffeted by recent setbacks, including the Supreme Court’s evisceration of abortion rights and several recent mass shootings that shocked and angered the country.

A Gallup survey published this week found just 23 percent of Americans have confidence in the presidency, compared with 38 percent 12 months ago.

“Gas prices and inflation are up, paychecks and real wages are down, and another Biden failure tour stop will not help struggling families and small businesses,” Ronna McDaniel, head of the Republican National Committee said.

“Joe Biden is a burden to every Buckeye Democrat, as Ohioans know that the left’s agenda has made it more difficult for Americans to get by.”

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