WASHINGTON – After weeks of defending his economic policies against critics blaming them for overheating the economy, President Joe Biden went on the offensive Thursday, arguing that rising wages are a sign that his agenda is adding to the wealth of working Americans.
“The bottom line is, Biden’s business plan is working,” said the president in a speech at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Ohio. “We have created a record number of jobs, we are seeing record economic growth, we are creating a new paradigm. One that rewards work – the working people in this country, not just those at the top. “
Republicans and corporate groups claim that the increased federal unemployment benefits in Biden’s American Rescue Plan, its signature domestic achievement, are responsible for a “labor shortage” that has forced companies like McDonald’s and Bank of America to raise their minimum hourly wages.
Biden dismissed this view of the economy: “When it comes to the economy we are building, rising wages are not a mistake, they are a characteristic,” he said.
The president on Thursday renewed his call to Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to $ 15 an hour.
Biden credited the American rescue plan and its ambitious vaccination program with boosting a US economy battered by the Covid pandemic.
The bill passed without Republican votes, but several Republicans later tried to get it approved by their voters despite voting against it.
“I’m not going to embarrass anyone, but I have a list of those who brag about the bailout plan in their districts,” Biden said, holding up a list of Republicans who had promoted the aid funding.
“I mean some people have no shame,” he added. “I’m glad they know their voters benefited from it, that’s fine with me. But if you’re trying to get credit for what we’ve done, you’re not standing in our way of what remains to be done. “
As Biden seeks to support additional stimulus programs worth more than $ 3 trillion, the Republican opposition solidifies.
As the economy improves, conservatives argue that the incentives proposed by Biden are no longer necessary.
According to economist Mark Zandi, private sector wages rose 3% in the first quarter of this year, the fastest pace in at least 25 years. This has made it difficult for employers to attract workers willing to work for a minimum hourly wage.
“We want to achieve what economists call full employment, in which employers do not compete for scarce jobs but compete to attract workers,” said Biden.
Biden rejected growing concerns from some businesses and economists that higher wages and full employment will lead to rapid inflation. Instead, companies can afford to pay their workers more without passing higher prices on to consumers.
“Many companies have done very well during this crisis and have done well for them,” he said. “The simple fact, however, is that corporate profits are higher than they have been in decades. Workers’ wages are lower than they have been in 70 years. We have more than enough leeway to raise workers’ wages without raising customer prices. “
In addition to supporting higher wages, Biden has pushed for a corporate tax increase to 28%, revenue he will need to fund his ambitious infrastructure proposal. The US employment plan is to spend around $ 2 trillion over the next decade on revitalizing the country’s infrastructure and manufacturing sectors.
The president also made it clear that he sees these tax hikes as more than just a necessary evil to fund his grand plans: they are an integral part of restoring a sense of shared responsibility and burden-sharing in the American economy.
“We have the chance to use the economic dynamism of the first few months of my tenure, not just to build, but to build better,” he said. “And this time we’ll deal with all of them.”