(CN) — Former vice president and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden made his case to the working class this week, delivering a speech from the battleground state of Pennsylvania touting himself as the candidate best positioned to restore America to its past manufacturing glory.
Biden toured a steel plant in northern Pennsylvania with Senator Bob Casey and local officials from the city of Dunmore, outside Scranton. He then laid out his vision for economic recovery while sharply contrasting that vision with President Donald Trump’s.
“Trump has been singularly focused on the stock market, the Dow and the Nasdaq at the expense of working families,” Biden said during his speech. “I will work for the middle-class families like the one I came from in Scranton.”
Biden promised to raise tax rates for the top income bracket and use that money to invest in research and development for clean energy technology while returning vital manufacturing to American shores.
“My plan is to build back better and build for the future, not the past,” Biden said.
The former vice president also said projections of a future of mass job obliteration due to automation and international competition is too pessimistic.
“I do not accept the defeatist view that the forces of automation and globalization render us helpless to retain well-paid union jobs and create more of them here in America,” Biden said. “I do not buy for one second that the vitality of U.S. manufacturing is a thing of the past.”
The Trump campaign responded to Biden’s economic vision by saying he — as Barack Obama’s vice president — presided over a slow recovery after the Great Recession.
“Biden’s policies caused the slowest economic recovery since the Great Depression, anemic job growth, and depressed wages for the workers left.,” said Hogan Gidley, press secretary for the Trump campaign.
The Trump campaign also continued its effort to paint Biden as a dangerous socialist who wants to impose huge tax burdens on the middle class. And the campaign used the moment to try and shore up one of their candidate’s few remaining strengths with voters.
Polls indicate voters trust Trump to handle the economy to a greater degree than Biden and the Trump campaign tried to use that sentiment to distinguish their candidate.
“President Trump built the greatest economy anyone alive has ever known before the unprecedented global pandemic, and he’s already doing it again,” Gidley said. “President Trump’s policies created more jobs and prosperity for every American in three years than Joe Biden could muster in nearly half a century.”
The Trump camp also accused Biden of being soft on China, selling out working-class people by allowing companies to export jobs.
Biden said he would stand up to the abuses of the Chinese government, positioning himself to the right of Trump on the issue.
Trump has conjured China as the cause of the coronavirus while also routinely praising Chinese leader Xi Jinping, and has declined to raise human rights issues with the Chinese government despite concentration camps in the country’s west and anti-free speech laws passed in Hong Kong.
In his bestselling tell-all, former National Security adviser John Bolton said Trump asked for Xi’s assistance in his re-election efforts.
Biden’s concentration on the middle class and working class in the Midwest represents a sharp departure from the 2016 campaign of Hillary Clinton, which focused more on identity issues of diversity and feminism.
A campaign stop among ironworkers in Pennsylvania demonstrates the Biden campaign’s commitment to those workers who may have fled the Democrats for Trump in 2016, but may be hankering for a return after Trump’s divisive turn as president.
McGregor Industries, where Biden spoke, was founded in Scranton in 1919 amid the boom in the steel and coal industries in northern Pennsylvania. The company is more of a craft manufacturer than a large-scale producer, as it makes small metal parts for metal artists those who craft items like staircases, railings and other steel items not necessary for foundational construction.
Biden noted his father is from Dunmore.