Biden pushes his economic populism on the trail in Pennsylvania as Trump sits in a New York courtroom newsbhunt


Scranton, Pennsylvania

President Joe Biden is seeking to make a sharp economic argument against former President Donald Trump during a three-day swing through Pennsylvania with campaign officials framing the election as a debate between his “kitchen table” Scranton outlook and Trump’s “Mar-a-Lago vision.”

The trip, which kicked off Tuesday in Biden’s childhood hometown of Scranton, also will set up a stark split screen as the president is on the campaign trail while Trump spends most of the week in a New York City courtroom for his criminal trial.

Biden’s speech on Tuesday centered heavily on economic populism as he sought to portray Trump as out of touch with Americans’ concerns – and himself as a folksy, scrappy kid from Scranton who holds the interests of the average American at heart.

“Folks,” Biden said on Tuesday, “where we come from matters. When I look at the economy I don’t see it through the eyes of Mar-a-Lago, I see it through the eyes of Scranton – and that’s not hyperbole.”

Biden’s Pennsylvania push comes as he’s also seeking to move the needle with voters who continue to hold sour views about the president’s handling of the economy. Recent polling has also shown a close contest between Biden and Trump fewer than seven months from Election Day.

To that end, he referenced the historic job losses that took place during Trump’s term at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Biden called his rival “Donald ‘Herbert Hoover’ Trump,” a reference to the 31st president who oversaw the beginning of the Great Depression – the largest economic crisis in US history that saw nearly a quarter of all Americans unemployed at its peak.

It’s not the first time Biden has made that comparison – and some of Hoover’s descendants have taken umbrage with it. The bulk of the job losses that took place under Trump happened because of lockdowns associated with an unprecedented pandemic

The president slammed Trump’s pledge to extend the sweeping tax cuts that congressional Republicans approved in 2017 – a measure that reduced taxes for most Americans, but from which the rich benefited far more than others.

Meanwhile, Biden is campaigning on raising taxes on the wealthy to fund his social and other priorities while protecting those who earn less than $400,000 a year from tax hikes.

“Trickle-down economics failed the middle class,” Biden said. “It failed America.”

“The truth is, Donald Trump embodies that failure,” he added.

In 2020, Biden used his hometown to frame the election as a “Scranton vs. Park Avenue” choice for voters. Ahead of the president’s trip this week, campaign officials sought to cast the election as a debate between Scranton and Trump’s Mar-a-Lago country club.

“You got Joe Biden, a candidate who sees the world from the kitchen table where he grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Donald Trump, who sees the world from his country club down at Mar-a-Lago. Nowhere is that contrast of world views on display more clearly, than when it comes to who each candidate believes should be paying more in taxes and who they believe should be paying less,” said Biden campaign communications director Michael Tyler.

The president will also travel to Pittsburgh on Wednesday, where he will speak at the United Steelworkers Headquarters, and Philadelphia for a campaign event on Thursday where he will continue to push his economic message.

Biden’s tax plans contain a variety of tax increases on the wealthy and big corporations, which he wants to use to shore up Medicare’s finances, create two new tax breaks for buying homes, temporarily extend the enhanced child tax credit, reduce child care costs and permanently extend enhanced Affordable Care Act subsidies, among other initiatives.

His most recent budget proposal, which outlines the policies that he will also campaign on, calls for a 25% minimum tax on all the income of the wealthiest .01% of Americans, including their appreciated assets, which are not currently taxed. It would hit those with a net worth of more than $100 million.

Biden also proposes taxing capital gains at the same rate as wage income for those earning more than $1 million and increasing the net investment income tax rate on earned and unearned income above $400,000 to 5%, up from 3.8%.

The president wants to increase the corporate tax rate to 28%, up from the 21% rate set by the GOP tax cut package in 2017, and raise the corporate minimum tax rate on billion-dollar corporations to 21%, from 15%. Also, he would reduce incentives for multinational businesses to book profits in low-tax jurisdictions and raise the tax rate on their foreign earnings to 21% from 10.5%. Plus, he would quadruple the tax on companies that buy back their own stock instead of investing in workers or lowering prices.

Trump sought to preempt Biden’s speech with a social media post Monday touting the 2017 tax cuts and criticizing Biden’s plans to raise taxes for the wealthy and corporations.

“If Joe Biden gets his way you will soon be facing colossal tax hikes, the likes of which no one has ever seen before,” Trump said in a video on Truth Social.

The former president has told supporters – including wealthy donors – that extending the 2017 tax cuts will be one of his main goals for a second term. The law reduced individual and corporate income tax rates, changed international tax rules, repealed personal exemptions, increased the standard deduction and child tax credit, limited or restricted certain itemized deductions and doubled the estate tax exemption, among other provisions.

Most Americans benefited from the tax law, but the wealthy benefited the most.

Nearly all the individual income and estate tax provisions expire at the end of 2025, while most of the corporate measures are permanent. The next president and Congress will have to deal with the expiring provisions next year.

Ahead of the trip, Biden used Tax Day to tee up another contrast with his predecessor by releasing his tax 2023 return. Trump declined to voluntarily release his tax returns as president.

“President Biden believes that all occupants of the Oval Office should be open and honest with the American people,” the White House said in a statement on Monday, “and that the longstanding tradition of annually releasing presidential tax returns should continue unbroken.”

The president’s events this week come as his campaign continues to build out its infrastructure Pennsylvania, where recent polling has shown no clear leader in a two-way race between Biden and Trump.

Biden campaign battleground states director Dan Kanninen told reporters on a call Monday that the Biden campaign is investing heavily in the commonwealth with a particular focus on driving turnout in Philadelphia. The Biden campaign has opened 14 new offices in Pennsylvania in March as they work to train volunteers and hire campaign staff.

“We’re obviously looking at Pennsylvania right now where the president is spending the week campaigning, and it’s a textbook example of how we’re going to run those votes,” said Kanninen.

Campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez also released a campaign strategy memo ahead of the visit, pointing to the coordinated campaign’s early investments in Allegheny County, home to Pittsburgh, as well as in the central part of the state in York and Lancaster counties – two counties Trump won in 2020 where the team sees “opportunities for Democratic growth as shown by gains made at the local level.”

Chavez Rodriguez argued Biden’s support for unions, abortion rights, and protecting democracy will play with Pennsylvania voters in November.

“With all of these issues remaining salient for voters and Trump and MAGA Republicans only becoming more extreme, they continue to alienate the voters that decide elections in Pennsylvania – and show no signs of being able to win them back,” she wrote.

This story has been updated with additional developments on Tuesday.


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