Biden argues Trump’s policies fueled coronavirus ‘economic disaster’

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Joe Biden launched a blistering attack at President Trump on Friday, hours after the nation’s jobless rate skyrocketed to levels not seen since the Great Depression nearly a century ago.

And the former vice president charged that the sharp economic downturn -- caused by the shuttering of much of the nation’s economy in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic -- was deepened “because Donald Trump has spent three years tilting the playing field to the wealthy, and not the middle class.”

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The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee made his comments in a speech carried live online by NowThis – a progressive, social media-focused, youth-oriented news organization.

Biden spoke a couple of hours after the Labor Department reported that the nation’s unemployment level soared to 14.7 percent in April, the highest jobless rate since the Great Depression.

He emphasized that the president’s economic agenda has “three unmistakable failings.” Biden said Trump’s main measure of economic progress is the state of the stock market and that the president delayed action on the virus to “protect the Dow Jones average.” He also claimed that that Trump’s strategy is focused on helping wealthy corporations and that the president hasn’t lived up to his promise to fight for the forgotten middle class.

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“Donald Trump utterly failed to prepare for this pandemic and delayed in taking the necessary steps to safeguard our nation against the near-worst-case-economic scenario we are now living. COVID-19 caused a massive economic challenge. But this crisis hit us harder, and will last longer, because Donald Trump spent the last three years undermining the core pillars of our economic strength,” Biden argued.

And he spotlighted that “many small businesses have closed because of stay-at-home orders. But a lot of them won't open again because they do not have a cushion due to three years of Trump's policies that reward the biggest companies.”

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The Trump reelection campaign, in a statement ahead of Biden’s speech, highlighted that the former vice president “presided over the slowest economic recovery since World War II and has promised to raise taxes and burden job creators with strangling regulations under the Green New Deal.”

The president was in the middle of an extended and exclusive interview on "Fox and Friends" when the jobless report was released.

“It’s totally expected. There’s no surprise. Everybody knows,” he said when asked about the skyrocketing figure. And he boasted, before the coronavirus crippled the economy, “We created the greatest economy in the history of the world, the best we’ve ever had, the best employment numbers, best stock market, the number of jobs, in every way, the best economy in the history of the world.”

The president’s been anxious to loosen social distancing restrictions and reopen the nation’s economy. Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh – in a statement after the release of the unemployment report – said that the president’s “determined to open up the economy again and get us moving as soon as it safely possible. He built the economy to historic strength and he will do it a second time.”

But Biden argued that the president had been doing damage to the economy well before the coronavirus hit.

“If you need proof that Trump’s policies were a failure even before this virus hit, just compare the first 35 months of Trump’s presidency to the last 35 months of the Obama-Biden Administration, hiring was slower and real wages grew more slowly too,” Biden said. “Trump was already well into the process of hollowing out the good economy we left him long before the first case of coronavirus.”

And the former vice president listed the key points of his economic recovery plan that he says will be able to withstand the next public health crisis and that will be released in the near future.

“In the coming weeks, I’ll be laying out a detailed plan for the right kind of economic recovery,” Biden said. “Today, let me outline just a few key principles. It starts with rebuilding the backbone of this country: a stronger, more inclusive, more resilient middle class – a middle class that can withstand the next public health crisis or whatever else comes our way.”

Biden was wearing a mask as he appeared on camera from his home in Wilmington, Delaware, but removed it before making his speech. He was mocked by the Trump campaign.

The president has face scrutiny and criticism for refusing to wear a mask in public.