Biden, in full campaign mode, touts record at Building Trades conference

PAI Staff Writer

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN speaks at the North America’s Building Trades Union National Legislative Conference at the Washington Hilton in Washington, on April 25, 2023. – Andrew Harnik/AP photo

Washington (PAI) – In full-throated campaign mode, since he announced his bid for re-election just hours before, Democratic President Joe Biden launched his 2024 run for the White House with a stem-winding — and long and sometimes folksy — recapitulation of his and their achievements before an audience of 3,000 Building Trades members.

Biden was repeatedly interrupted by applause and sometimes by whistles, cheers and chants of “Four more years!” from the North America’s Building Trades Unions’ legislative conference on April 25. Biden spoke so long that he even joked at the end “I’m taking up too much of your time.”

The conferees, virtually all local union activists, at one point cheered for so long Biden had to stop and wait for several minutes. Left unsaid was whether rank-and-file building trades members agree with their leaders, especially in the key industrial states around the Great Lakes.

In 2020, Biden narrowly carried the nation’s most-heavily industrial state, Wisconsin, against Republican Donald Trump. His margins were somewhat wider in swing states Minnesota, Michigan and Pennsylvania. He lost Ohio, which is slowly turning redder, 45 percent to 53 percent, and never had a chance in Indiana. Biden thumped Trump in Illinois (58 percent to 41 percent) and New York (61 percent to 38 percent).

In turn, Biden gave the workers generous credit for helping to elect him to the White House in 2020, in his prior Senate career, and in steering his program through a closely split Congress in 2021-22 — and especially for the five-year $1.2 trillion Infrastructure and Jobs Act, which the construction unions and their members lobbied long and hard for in those years.

“My economic plan is a blue-collar blueprint for rebuilding” the middle class, he declared.

And Biden got in some digs at the “MAGA Republicans,” too. After all, he repeatedly told the audience, they want to repeal almost all the measures he, they and congressional Democrats enacted to pull the economy out of the coronavirus-caused depression.

He even used the infrastructure law for a shot, by name, at his erstwhile foe, Trump, who currently leads in his party’s polls and has the GOP kowtowing to him.

Biden quoted a New York Times article: “President Biden appears to be presiding over the kind of manufacturing surge that Trump had promised.”

Biden spent most of his speech touting the infrastructure achievements, and blasting the House Republicans for trying to repeal them in their budget blueprint.

“Under my predecessor, ‘Infrastructure Week’ became a punchline,” Biden declared. “On my watch, infrastructure has become a decade headline. A decade.” That’s an admission, which he later explicitly repeated, saying that while shovels have hit the ground for many infrastructure projects, “These things take time.”

And Biden repeatedly reminded the crowd that almost all the accomplishments occurred “without one Republican vote.” The infrastructure law was the exception. Even some House Republicans, and most Senate Republicans, voted for it, so Biden didn’t use the zero-Republican-support line then.

The coming job surge, in “green” factories and plants making semiconductor computer chips, will remake the economy and make the U.S. No. 1 in manufacturing again, he stated. Those plants will be union-built, Biden declared, with prevailing wage guarantees and using Project Labor Agreements. And all the materials “will be made in America.” Those lines got more cheers.

When Biden wasn’t touting his and their achievements, he got in digs against “the MAGA Republicans,” especially the combination of their fealty to Trump and their power to force weak House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to dance to the Trump tune.

Biden even turned a Trump statement against McCarthy as he is threatening to send the U.S. into default on its past debts unless Biden and the Democrats bow to McCarthy’s planned 22 percent cut in domestic spending and his threats to Medicare and Social Security. McCarthy would also eliminate the Project Labor Agreements and prevailing wage guarantees of the infrastructure law, said Biden.

A default, Biden forecast, would immediately cost 870,000 jobs. It also would blow the U.S.’s credit rating to hell. Even Trump recognized that.

“Little did I think I’d be quoting Donald Trump,” Biden deadpanned. “But even Donald Trump said, ‘I can’t imagine (anyone) ever thinking of using the debt ceiling as a negotiating wedge.’” Raising the federal debt ceiling is the technical term for setting a new and higher debt limit.

“These guys are saying unless I agree to cut all these programs by 22 percent…and cut taxes for the super wealthy and corporations,” they won’t raise the debt ceiling.

“Folks, America is a not a deadbeat nation. We pay our bills.”

As might be expected, the crowd was enthusiastic. One building trades union, the Electrical Workers (IBEW), issued an early endorsement for Biden’s re-election.

“When the IBEW endorsed candidate Joe Biden in 2019, it was because of his commitment to creating good union jobs, protecting secure retirements, addressing climate change responsibly and investing in American manufacturing. President Joe Biden has delivered on all of these pledges: Promises made and promises kept,” union President Kenneth Cooper’s statement read, in part.

“Throughout his first term, President Biden has been a steadfast ally of unions and American workers. I am confident that support will continue in his second term,” Cooper continued. “The Biden-Harris administration consistently advanced policies that empower workers, created opportunities for everyday people, and promoted the well-being of working families.

“As a direct result” Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have “overseen robust economic growth, increased worker wages and the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years.”

Biden, too, touted the 3.5 percent jobless rate, and bragged about the 12.6 million new jobs businesses claimed to create on his watch. Federal data show even more than that are in the private sector. Its job numbers have soared beyond pre-coronavirus figures under Trump. State government jobs, however, mostly in schools, still lag behind the numbers they had before the crash hit.


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