President Joe Biden arrives to deliver remarks on bipartisan infrastructure law in a previous visit to Wisconsin. Biden returned Thursday to celebrate a $1 billion federal grant to repair the Blatnik Bridge linking Superior, Wis. to Duluth, Minnesota and to tout his administration's investments in building the middle class. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden highlighted the differences between his economic policies and those of the last Republican administration during a trip to Wisconsin on Thursday, the same day new data showed the U.S. economy grew by 3.1% last year.
Gov. Tony Evers and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin), welcomed Biden to Wisconsin to celebrate a $1 billion federal grant awarded to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) and the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to replace the aging John A. Blatnik Bridge between Superior, Wisconsin, and Duluth, Minnesota.
More than 33,000 cars and 265,000 trucks transporting about $4 billion in goods cross the Blatnik Bridge each day. Built in 1961, the important freight and commercial connector has been load-posted for 40 tons since 2019 and can no longer carry overweight freight loads.
Speaking at a brewery in Superior, Biden, who appears likely to face former President Donald Trump in the November elections, detailed legislation enacted during the past three years, including investments in roads and bridges, rural broadband, semiconductor chip manufacturing and climate change.
Biden argued those initiatives have helped the middle class far more than the tax cuts and other legislation approved during Trump’s term in office.
“That’s our economic plan — invest in America, invest in American products, build in America. That’s what we call Bidenomics,” Biden said. “My predecessor, he chose a different course; trickle-down economics, cut taxes for the very wealthy and big corporations, increasing the deficit significantly.”
Biden spoke just minutes after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen wrapped up remarks at the Economic Club of Chicago on the nation’s growth and low unemployment rate.
“Overall, the Biden administration has put in place the most extensive set of policies and investments to benefit the middle class and grow the economy that our country has seen in my lifetime,” Yellen said. “Our economic plan is improving lives and laying the foundation for a new future for middle-class families and communities across the country.”
Biden and Trump
Biden is running for re-election this November and will likely face Trump in the general election after the former president won the Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire primary.
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Halley continues to campaign for the GOP presidential nomination, saying that those two states don’t get to decide the nominee for all Americans.
But, the Biden campaign and several Republicans in Congress have said that Trump is the presumptive nominee and have begun either advocating for him or looking for ways to defeat him during the November election.
Biden, speaking from the Earth Rider Brewery in Superior, Wisconsin, said that since he became president, Americans have filed a record 16 million new business applications.
“When someone files for a new business, it’s an example of hope, something they believe in,” he said.
Biden also noted the economic numbers out Thursday morning showing growth defied the odds.
“The experts, from the time I got elected, were insisting that a recession was just around the corner,” Biden said. “Well, you know, we’ve got really strong growth.”
Biden also rebuked Trump for making a comment on the campaign trail that he hoped the U.S. economy would “crash” before the elections in order to benefit the Republicans’ campaign for the Oval Office.
“My predecessor recently said he was actually hoping for the economy to crash,” Biden said. “Can you believe it? Well, he said he’s hoping it happens soon while I’m still president. That’s what he’s hoping for.”
Gains across demographic groups
Yellen, speaking in Chicago, showcased economic statistics about the country’s recovery, including that the unemployment rate has been below 4% for almost two years.
“Put simply, it’s been the fairest recovery on record,” Yellen said. “We see this in gains not only for middle-class Americans, but also across demographic groups, such as the rapid decline in unemployment rates for Black and Hispanic Americans.”
“There are gains across the country, too,” Yellen added. “Before the pandemic, the unemployment rate was nearly 20% higher in rural than in metropolitan areas. That large gap has been eliminated.”
But, Yellen conceded that many Americans don’t necessarily feel that the economy is improving for them, especially following record inflation and as the price for housing is especially high.
The Biden administration’s goal, Yellen said, is for middle-class Americans to be able to fare better in both the short term and the long term.
“It is still too hard to be a working parent,” Yellen said. “We need to get American families access to affordable child care and other support for their children. As these children get older, they should be able to get a good education, including through free community college, and receive training that prepares them for good jobs.”
Those changes will take some time, Yellen said, noting that the “obstacles the middle class has faced for decades will not disappear overnight.”
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