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Biden pitches his vision for the economic future in Ohio

President Biden visited Cleveland on Thursday to deliver an address on the state of the economy, as efforts in Congress to reach a bipartisan deal on an infrastructure package are at a crucial stage. 

Specifically, the president made the case for Congress to pass the American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan, insisting the U.S. is at an economic inflection point. He called on Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour — a figure that’s too high for most Republicans and some Democrats. Mr. Biden toured Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland before making his economic speech from the college, his latest stop in his nationwide pitch for the passage of his infrastructure and jobs plans.

“Now we’re faced with a question. What kind of economy are we going to build for tomorrow? What are we going to do? I believe this is our moment to rebuild an economy from the bottom up and the middle out,” Mr. Biden said. 

The president also spoke of his administration’s involvement in getting the pandemic under control, because “you’ve got to fix the pandemic before you can fix the economy.” Mr. Biden’s proposals call for higher taxes for those making more than $400,000, and a 28% tax rate on corporations. The corporate tax rate is currently 21%, thanks to the Trump-era Republican tax law. 

“Wall Street did not build this country,” the president said. “The middle class built this country. And unions built the middle class.” 

The president said the U.S. can “keep giving every break in the world to corporations and CEOs, or we could raise the corporate tax break back to 28%,” noting that the corporate tax rate used to be 36%.

Mr. Biden tried to make the case for his plans in the future by insisting that so far, his economic plans have worked, while recognizing that economic figures fluctuate. In April, employers only added 266,000 jobs, far below the forecasted figure. The unemployment rate was 6.1% in April, roughly unchanged from the month before.

“The Biden economic plan is working,” the president claimed. 

Bureau of Labor Statistics figures for the unemployment rate and employment

Bureau of Labor Statistics figures

Mr. Biden said a key principle of his economic vision for the future is one built in America, insisting that taxpayer-backed projects will go to American companies. 

Smilingly, the president held up a piece of paper that he said contained a list of Republicans who voted against the COVID-19-related American Rescue Plan, but have since touted the law in public.

Cuyahoga Community College was the location of the last rally Mr. Biden was scheduled to hold during the 2020 presidential campaign before the coronavirus pandemic forced candidates off the campaign trail.

Mr. Biden in March put forth a $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, but has since been engaged in negotiations with a group of Republican senators to reach consensus on a deal that would garner bipartisan support. The group, led by Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, on Thursday unveiled their latest counteroffer to Mr. Biden’s proposal, which calls for $928 billion to go toward hardening the nation’s physical infrastructure.

The plan includes $506 billion for roads, bridges and “major projects,” which includes $4 billion for electric vehicle infrastructure, $800 million for “reconnecting communities” and $14 billion for resilience, according to an outline from Capito’s office.

Psaki said in a statement Mr. Biden spoke with Capito about her plan and is expected to receive more details later Thursday.  

“At first review, we note several constructive additions to the group’s previous proposals, including on roads, bridges and rail,” Psaki said in a statement. “At the same time, we remain concerned that their plan still provides no substantial new funds for critical job-creating needs, such as fixing our veterans’ hospitals, building modern rail systems, repairing our transit systems, removing dangerous lead pipes, and powering America’s leadership in a job-creating clean energy economy, among other things.”

She said the White House is also concerned the proposed means of playing for the package “remains unclear.”

“We are worried that major cuts in COVID relief funds could imperil pending aid to small businesses, restaurants and rural hospitals using this money to get back on their feet after the crush of the pandemic,” she said.

Mr. Biden says he wants an infrastructure package with bipartisan backing, but Republicans have taken issue with the size of his plan and scope, arguing it expands the traditional definition of infrastructure. In addition to his infrastructure package, Mr. Biden has also put forth a $1.8 trillion plan focused on what the White House calls “human” infrastructure, which addresses health care, child care and education. 

The president made an unscheduled stop for ice cream after his speech. 

Fin Gomez contributed to this report


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