WASHINGTON, July 6 — President Joe Biden will tout his economic vision in the US industrial heartland today, as spiraling inflation and a stalled domestic agenda undermine his pledge of commitment to blue-collar America.
The Democratic leader’s trip to Cleveland, Ohio, comes amid steady job growth and unemployment at just 3.6 per cent — but sky-high living costs threaten his party’s prospects in November’s midterm elections.
Meanwhile, a program of interest rate hikes from the Federal Reserve has sparked ominous warnings from economists and investors that the world’s largest economy is headed for a significant slowdown or recession.
White House officials told local media that Biden would discuss the “overall economic challenges” facing the United States, including the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and global inflation.
But they added that he would also credit the US$1.9 trillion (RM8.4 trillion) American Rescue Plan, a coronavirus relief package passed in March last year, for record job growth and providing “dignity at work and dignity in retirement.”
Biden has made inflation his top priority, though lawmakers among the president’s own Democratic rank-and-file are increasingly voicing frustration over the White House’s struggle for a coherent battle plan.
Others have criticized what they see as Biden’s lack of leadership on a host of progressive touchstones, including climate change, abortion rights and gun violence.
“There’s the administrative part of the job and the political part of the job,” Democratic strategist Joel Payne told political outlet The Hill.
“And it seems like this president is leaning more in the administrative role at a time when his coalition is thirsty for political clarity and leadership.”
At a Cleveland high school, the president will announce a lifeline for troubled pensions that will help up to three million workers and retirees avoid benefit cuts as steep as 70 per cent.
The visit will be the sixth of Biden’s presidency to the battleground state, a key midterm target won easily by Republican former president Donald Trump in the last two elections.
‘Sounding the alarm’
Democrat Tim Ryan is running neck and neck with Republican J.D. Vance, the author of the memoir “Hillbilly Elegy” for an open seat that could determine control of the evenly-divided Senate.
Biden’s efforts to appeal to the working class in America’s “Rust Belt” took a hit recently as Intel postponed the groundbreaking for a computer chip plant near the state capital of Columbus.
The decision came with planned investment of more than US$50 billion in the semiconductor industry stalled in Congress, undermining Biden’s efforts to showcase his commitment to US manufacturing.
Meanwhile Biden has been buffeted by recent setbacks, including the Supreme Court’s evisceration of abortion rights and several recent mass shootings that shocked and angered the country.
“We have been sounding the alarm about this for a long time,” leftist New York lawmaker Alexandria Ocasio Cortez tweeted in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling gutting abortion rights.
“We simply cannot make promises, hector people to vote, and then refuse to use our full power when they do. We still have time to fix this and act. But we need to be brave.”
A Gallup survey published this week found just 23 per cent of Americans have confidence in the presidency, compared with 38 per cent 12 months ago. Another from Monmouth University found 88 per cent believe the country is headed in the wrong direction.
“This is a president that has been working tirelessly, day in and day out, since he’s walked into this administration fighting for the American public,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said yesterday.
“That is what matters to him. That is what is important... delivering every way that he can to make sure that we get things done.” — AFP