US president Joe Biden will issue a rallying cry for his economic agenda on Tuesday night, saying he is building an “economy where no one is left behind” that will deliver tangible benefits for the most forgotten households in “blue-collar” America.
According to excerpts of his State of the Union address released by the White House, the US president will tout the 12mn jobs created under his watch over the past two years in a swift bounceback from the damage wrought by the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden will argue that the recovery is benefiting middle and low income families that have suffered for decades. Despite the strong labour market, he has weak approval ratings over his handling of an economy that has been hammered by high inflation during his tenure.
“My economic plan is about investing in places and people that have been forgotten. Amid the economic upheaval of the past four decades too many people have been left behind or treated like they’re invisible,” Biden will say.
“Maybe that’s you watching at home. You remember the jobs that went away. And you wonder whether a path even exists anymore for you and your children to get ahead without moving away. I get it. That’s why we’re building an economy where no one is left behind,” he will add.
Biden’s speech comes at an inflection point in his presidency, after his first two years in office were dominated by the recovery from the worst of the pandemic, an economic burst that fuelled record job creation but also high inflation, and the response to Russia’s full-scale war in Ukraine.
After November’s midterm elections, Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives, which will inevitably stymie Biden’s legislative ambitions and could lead to big clashes particularly over raising the debt ceiling. But Democrats still have a majority in the Senate, meaning the president will be able to secure the confirmation of judicial nominations and executive appointments.
“To my Republican friends, if we could work together in the last Congress, there is no reason we can’t work together in this new Congress. The people sent us a clear message. Fighting for the sake of fighting, power for the sake of power, conflict for the sake of conflict, gets us nowhere,” Biden will say.
The president is also expected to spend much of the speech addressing foreign policy. His remarks come as tensions between the US and China have suddenly flared up after the Pentagon detected a Chinese spy balloon flying over the US and shot it down over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of South Carolina.
The episode led to the cancellation of a planned trip to China by Antony Blinken, the secretary of state, and dashed hopes of a detente between Washington and Beijing after Biden’s meeting with Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, in November.
With regards to Europe, Biden is expected to renew his call for both the US Congress and America’s allies to continue supporting Ukraine with military and financial aid to resist Russia’s invasion as the war enters a second year. But there is some tension on the economic front, with European capitals upset that Biden passed such an expansive subsidy scheme for clean energy that it could divert green investments from Europe to the US.
The mixed outcome of the midterm elections has boosted Biden’s standing within his party since he avoided the more sweeping defeats in congressional races that typically hit presidents during their first term in office. Despite concerns about his age — Biden is 80 — he is widely expected to launch his 2024 campaign for re-election in the coming weeks or months.
The president’s approval ratings have bounced back in the past few months, but he remains unpopular. According to the Realclearpolitics.com polling average, 51.5 per cent of Americans disapprove of his job as president, while 44.2 per cent approve.
White House officials hope that Biden’s multiple legislative accomplishments, particularly on the economy, will soon begin to have a more tangible political impact. He is expected to tout the benefits of the large government subsidies he enacted to spur domestic manufacturing.
Biden will also call for higher taxes on big business and the wealthiest Americans, including quadrupling a tax on share buybacks and introducing a billionaire’s tax to reduce the deficit.