(PHILADELPHIA) — President Joe Biden delivered fired-up remarks on the economy before a friendly, cheering audience of union workers in Philadelphia Tuesday — nodding to inflation, high food and gas prices, and his plans to try to ease the economic pressures American families are facing.
Shouting at times, receiving standing ovations, and delivering plenty of classic “Bidenisms,” the president spoke about the economy to a convention of the AFL-CIO federation of labor unions — and acknowledged the record-high inflation rates his administration is trying to combat.
“Jobs are back, but prices are still too high,” Biden conceded, arguing Republicans are blocking him from carrying out his plan to bring down costs. “COVID is down, but gas prices are up. Our work isn’t done.”
High inflation is a major political liability for Biden, who blamed Republicans for blocking a lot of his ideas to lower prices for Americans.
During his campaign-like speech, he heavily praised organized labor — and delivered a midterm message.
“You’re a gigantic reason why I’m standing here,” Biden told the crowd. “Standing here today as your president. I really mean it.”
‘Jobs are back, but prices are still too high’
While Biden focused his message on the economy, he did not address inflation until well into his speech, and when he did, he reiterated how his personal experience with inflation gave him an understanding of what families are facing.
“Republicans in Congress are doing everything they can to stop my plans to bring down costs on ordinary families. That’s why my plan is not finished and why the results aren’t finished either,” Biden argued.
The president pointed to his efforts to bring down prices at the pump in particular by tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to get more oil to market, but noted the entire world is facing high inflation, and that in the United States, “It’s sapping the strength of a lot of families.”
Biden also went into more detail than usual about the food crisis stemming from the war in Ukraine, saying, part of his plan to help bring down food costs included the U.S. working to get Ukrainian grain out of the country and to the global markets.
He acknowledged the complicating factors involved in doing so, particularly because of the differences between Ukraine’s rails and the rest of Europe.
“We’re going to build silos, temporary silos in the borders of Ukraine, including in Poland, so we can transfer it from those cars into those silos into cars in Europe and get it out to the ocean and get it across the world,” Biden pledged, but conceded, “it’s taking time.”
Midterm message and support for Democratic candidates in Pennsylvania, Atlanta
With the midterm elections just a few months away, Biden used his remarks to also deliver a message to voters — trying to draw contrast between his party and Republicans on the economy, despite the dreary headlines his administration has been facing.
“Our work isn’t done but here’s the deal. America still has a choice to make. A choice between a government by the few for the few or a government for all of us. Democracy for all of us, an economy where all of us have a fair shot and a chance to earn our place in the economy,” Biden pitched to the crowd.
The president, who had prided himself on bipartisanship, said he is under no “illusions” when it comes to the Republican party today, hitting Florida GOP Sen. Rick Scott’s tax proposal in his remarks.
“The fact is Republicans in Congress are still in the grip of the ‘ultra-MAGA’ agenda. And they still refuse to consider any part of the Trump tax cuts, which delivered a massive windfall to billionaires and others. And they weren’t paid for,” Biden said.
“They still refuse to consider a minimum corporate tax of 15%, minimum tax,” he said. “They seem to think that the problem in America today is the working families aren’t paying enough.”
He also delivered messages of support for two midterm candidates in particular: Pennsylvania Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and the Democratic nominee for governor in Georgia, Stacey Abrams.
Biden said he held a Zoom call on Monday with Fetterman, who is running for Senate in Pennsylvania and recently suffered a stroke, telling the crowd Fetterman was “looking good” and “can’t wait to get back on the trail” — adding a joke about Fetterman’s size.
“If you’re in a foxhole, you want John with you man,” Biden said. “I know he can’t wait to get back on the trail. He’s looking good. He’s no bigger, stronger voice for working people in this state than John. Certainly no bigger one, for that matter.”
He also called on the union members to support Abrams, who he said was in attendance.
“I gotta ask y’all a favor: Help her in Georgia. Help Stacey Abrams in Georgia,” he said. “There’s three things I learned about her early on. One, she’s loyal. Two, she’s capable. And three, she’s smarter than me. She knows what she’s doing. So folks, please help her out.”
Touts pro-union credentials
Speaking before the union crowd, Biden said “nothing had made me prouder than that” to be called “the most pro-union president in history” by the AFL-CIO’S leadership.
“I promised you I would be, and I commit to you as long as I have this job I will remain that,” Biden said.
The president also called on Congress to pass the PRO Act, which would expand labor protections and the right to organize.
He touted his accomplishments, including the infrastructure bill, the millions of jobs created during his time in office, and how American families are carrying less debt and have more savings.
“I love these guys talking about why these guys left my employment, went to another job,” Biden said. “Because he got paid more! Isn’t that awful, isn’t that a shame that they gotta compete for labor. Better paying jobs, for better jobs for them and their families. It’s been a long time since that’s happened in this country, but it’s happening now.”
He contrasted himself with his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, and the poor state of the economy in 2020.
“I promise you, I’m going to keep fighting for you,” Biden shouted, to loud cheers. “Are you prepared to fight with me?”
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