SCRANTON, PA -- Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden returned to his childhoold hometown in Pennsylvania on Thursday during a trip where he proposed spending $700 billion on American products and research - in the hopes of bringing back millions of jobs lost by an economy flattened by the coronavirus pandemic.
His proposal - called the “Build Back Better” plan - also seeks to create 5 million new jobs and is the first of four economic proposals Biden is expected to roll out over the coming weeks.
"Let’s use this opportunity to take bold investments in American industry and innovation, so the future is made in America, all in America," Biden emphasized.
“When the federal government spends taxpayers’ money, we should use it to buy American products and support American jobs,” he added.
The American-centric proposals spotlighted by Biden will compete in this year’s White House race with the “America first” agenda long pushed by President Trump, who has emphasized protecting American workers and re-energizing domestic industries in decline while moving away from free trade and a global economy.
In a speech carried live by all three major national cable news networks, Biden repeatedly struck a populist theme and spotlighted his workingclass roots.
“If I am fortunate enough to be elected president, I’ll be laser-focused on working families, the middle-class families I came from here in Scranton, not the wealthy investor class. They don’t need me. But working families do," he stressed. "We must reward work as much as we rewarded wealth, but now we just reward excessive wealth."
“I do not buy for one second that the vitality of American manufacturing is a thing of the past,” Biden said. He also touted his longstanding close ties to union workers, saying, “I had an uncle who said, ‘Joey, you're labor from belt buckle to shoe sole.’ Well I’ve taken pride in that.”
The first part of the former vice president's proposal is a $400 billion investment by the federal government to purchase American products such as cement, concrete, steel, and other materials to rebuild the nation’s crumbling infrastructure.
The second part is a $300 billion investment in research for new technologies, such as electric vehicles, artificial intelligence, and 5G.
Biden’s plan also calls for new tax breaks and credits for small manufacturers – including those run by minorities and women – and would levy penalties on companies who take federal money and then move their investments overseas. The campaign says that Biden will also push federal investments toward overlooked parts of the country that have not received government help.
The former vice president also took a firm tone towards China, pushing for “aggressive trade enforcement actions.”
Biden’s proposals appear to be an acknowledgment of the political success the president has enjoyed pushing his “America First” agenda. Trump's victory in the 2016 presidential election was in part due to his promises of bringing back American jobs and re-inflating flagging industries. And as president, he's waged an aggressive trade war with China and slapped tariffs on other nations, including longtime allies.
The president's reelection campaign has slammed Biden for the slow economic recovery from the Great Recession during Biden's tenure as President Obama's vice president.
"Biden’s policies caused the slowest economic recovery since the Great Depression, anemic job growth, and depressed wages for the workers left," Trump campaign national press secretary Hogan Gidley argued.
And campaign manager Brad Parscale – taking aim at Biden’s past support for free trade deals – tweeted earlier Thursday that “Biden voted for [North American Free Trade Agreement], then spent decades defending it while 850,000 Americans lost their jobs.”
After his speech, Biden headed to his childhood home on North Washington Avenue in Scranton.
The former vice president greeted Ann Kearns - who now lives in the home and is a self-described big Biden fan - as well as several other neighbors.
Biden's latest trip to Pennsylvania - he's made seven in the past month and a half - came on the same day Vice President MIke Pence kicked off a campaign bus tour through the state.
Pennsylvania - along with fellow 'Rust Belt' states Michigan and Wisconsin - was carried by the Democrats for a quarter century in presidential elections. But Trump narrowly edged out 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton four years ago in all three states to help him win the White House.
With just under four months to go until Election Day in November, the latest public opinion polls in all three states indicate Biden holding a single-digit advanage over the president.
Fox News' Allie Raffa and Patrick Ward contributed to this story