Biden's 'Buy American' Jobs Plan Undercuts Trump and Wins Left's Praise

Joe Biden's "Buy American" economic plan that calls for a $700 billion jobs package struck a populist tone that managed to thrill progressives and shock the Trump administration and allies because it undercuts the president on a signature issue.

In an economic speech after touring a Pennsylvania metal works facility, Biden outlined his plan—inspired by Senator Elizabeth Warren's platform—that calls for $400 billion to be spent on American manufacturing and is expected to create as many as 5 million jobs. The "Buy American" plan is part of his broader economic initiative called "Build Back Better," which includes improving infrastructure, investing in clean energy, and ensuring "historic investment" reaches communities of color.

"I do not buy for a second that the vitality of American manufacturing is a thing of the past," Biden said, as it began to rain loudly during his speech. "When we spend taxpayer's money we should use it to buy American products and support American jobs."

The announcement comes as recent polling shows Biden has consolidated the left flank of Democratic politics amid unease and uncertainty from voters about what will come next for them and their families in the wake of an economic crisis brought on by a global pandemic.

Biden invoked the three crises facing the country—COVID-19, an economic crisis, and racial strife— before offering words of hope that the opportunity exists now to include everyone in the economy. He then jabbed at President Donald Trump, saying he has simply given up, and argued he has failed to deliver on his promises.

"He promised to bring back jobs," Biden said. "What happened to that?

Adam Green, a co-founder of Warren allies, The Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), said the former vice president's economic plan "represents Biden going big" and says he's willing to embrace Warren-style policies. "It says he means it when he's embracing a massive infusion of money for millions of new jobs."

By copying Warren, however, Trump allies cautioned that the president and his campaign must now be careful because Biden beat him to announcing a "buy American" plan. Although Trump has been languishing in national polls, he has held a consistent edge among voters on the economy, and allies worry that could slip if Biden gains a foothold on the issue.

"They can't afford to lose the economic edge, that's the central part of their argument," a senior administration official told Newsweek anonymously to speak candidly about the campaign, before turning to Biden's gambit. "Everybody knows this particular type of populist position is politically powerful."

On Thursday, the president's former strategist Steve Bannon offered rare praise for Biden's campaign, telling The Washington Post the plan was "very smart."

"The campaign and White House have been caught flat-footed," Bannon said. "Biden has very smart people around him, particularly on the economic side."

Biden's plan comes after Trump's trade advisor Peter Navarro crafted a draft executive order that has been sitting on the president's desk for three months, The Washington Post reported.

"Trump is extremely vulnerable on what his been his failsafe during his presidency," said Kurt Bardella, with the anti-Trump Republican group, The Lincoln Project. "The economy and the idea that Trump is the sole owner of being America's cheerleader is something that I think the Biden camp is looking to show is a myth more than the substantive reality.

But Bryan Lanza, an adviser to the Trump campaign in 2016 and the presidential transition, told Newsweek that Biden can roll out plans but they don't change his record.

"At the end of the day he had 44 years to do something for these communities that have been left behind in these trade deals and all he did was ship these jobs to China," he said.

In a statement, the Trump campaign said the former vice president's policies caused the slowest economic recovery since the Great Depression and depressed wages, hitting him for supporting the North American Free Trade Deal (NAFTA) while in Congress and being too supportive of China.

"We don't need to guess what a Biden economy would look like since Americans have been forced to live through it once already," the Trump campaign said.

The senior administration official said the Trump campaign has to do a better job of banging the drum to voters that Biden already had a chance at American political leadership. "A big narrative the campaign hasn't put out but would be advantageous is going around saying they've been cleaning up Biden's mess," the source said.

But Brad Bauman, the former executive director of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and a Warren supporter, told Newsweek he suspects Trump aides are "seething" right now.

"They've been trying to get the president to do the same thing and he had something similar sitting on his desk for months," he said. "To have Biden come in with such a strong proposal completely undercuts Donald Trump."

Biden Economy plan
The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks at McGregor Industries on July 09, 2020 in Dunmore, Pennsylvania.The former vice president, who grew up in nearby Scranton, toured a metal works plant in Dunmore in northeastern Pennsylvania and spoke about his economic recovery plan. Spencer Platt/Getty