Wednesday, 29 March, 2023

Biden to urge US unity and 'blue collar' economic revival

Biden to urge US unity and 'blue collar' economic revival

President Joe Biden will tell Americans Tuesday that US democracy is "bruised" but "unbroken" in a State of the Union speech appealing to Republican opponents to unite in building a blue-collar economy, according to excerpts from the White House.

Biden, who is expected soon to announce a bid for a second term, despite being already 80 years old, will use the address before the full Congress and tens of millions of television viewers to underline his centrist, populist vision, White House officials said.

Referring to his predecessor Donald Trump's attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election, Biden will say that US democracy is "bruised" after facing "its greatest threat since the Civil War."

However, today "our democracy remains unbowed and unbroken," he will declare, according to the excerpts released in advance.

Biden will tout surging employment figures and tell Americans that his economic plan aims to rebuild the country's manufacturing base, restoring "pride" to "forgotten" industrial communities.

"Amid the economic upheaval of the past four decades too many people have been left behind or treated like they're invisible," he will say.

Andrew Bates, a White House spokesman, said among Biden's proposals in the speech will be a new "billionaire tax."

And amid deep political divisions, Biden will urge Republicans now holding the majority in the House of Representatives to "unite the country."

"Fighting for the sake of fighting, power for the sake of power, conflict for the sake of conflict, gets us nowhere. And that's always been my vision for the country: to restore the soul of the nation," he will say.

The White House announced the guests of First Lady Jill Biden for the speech will include Ukraine's ambassador, Oksana Markarova, and rock band mega star and HIV/AIDS campaigner Bono.

The most eye-catching, though, may be Brandon Tsay, the 26-year-old man who disarmed the gunman in a January mass shooting in California, and RowVaughn and Rodney Wells, the parents of Tyre Nichols, a man whose death after a prolonged police beating in Memphis, Tennessee, shocked the nation.

- Biden 'excuses' -

Biden has good news to tout.

Inflation, which just a few months ago seemed a near-existential threat to his presidency, is steadily ticking downward. On Friday, new figures showed joblessness hitting a half-century low.

Even if Biden has yet to formally announce his 2024 candidacy, the speech -- followed by two very campaign-like trips Wednesday and Thursday to Wisconsin and Florida -- is expected to give him a big push.

However, last week's Chinese balloon drama -- a US warplane shot down what officials say was a high-tech espionage device on Saturday -- shows how narratives in Washington easily take dangerous new turns.

And when Biden speaks, half of the Congress members in the chamber, as well as Speaker Kevin McCarthy sitting directly behind him, will be Republicans vowing to use their new, narrow House majority to block his policies.

"The state of the union is weaker and American families are suffering because of Joe Biden," Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said. "All they'll hear from Biden are excuses."

Already, a major crisis is brewing over Republican refusal to extend the US debt limit, usually a rubber stamp procedure. Biden's government warns of financial calamity, with major international implications, if Republicans stick to their guns, potentially pushing the United States into default.

Those kinds of uncertainties, as well as doubts over Biden's ability to serve a second term that would end after his 86th birthday, may be partly to blame for pessimism in a slew of new polls. An ABC News-Washington Post Poll found that 58 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents said the party should find someone else for 2024.