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Biden speech takeaways: Government is good, and so are jobs

Zeke Miller and Aamer Madhani
Associated Press

Washington — President Joe Biden is using his first address before a joint session of Congress to make the case that his administration has made progress during the first 100 days he's been in office, confronting the public health and economic maelstrom caused by coronavirus pandemic.

Biden is also using the prime-time address to make his pitch directly to Americans for his expansive — and expensive — vision to rebuild the nation’s roads, bridges, water pipes and other infrastructure, bolster public education an d extend other benefits for a wide swath of Americans.

Here are some key takeaways from the president’s address:

US President Joe Biden, flanked by Vice President Kamala Harris (L) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, addresses a joint session of Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on April 28, 2021.

BIDEN'S FOUR-LETTER WORD: JOBS

Biden uttered the word “jobs” a whopping 43 times, according to his prepared text.

It’s perhaps no surprise for an administration that has made beating backing the pandemic and getting Americans back to work the central guideposts in the early going of the administration.

Biden noted that the economy has gained some 1.3 million new jobs in the first few months of his administration — more than any in the first 100 days of any presidency. But he quickly pivoted to the need to pass his American Jobs Plan if the country is going to sustain momentum and get back to the historic low levels of unemployment prior to the pandemic.

He also aimed to frame his push for the U.S. to meet its international obligations to slow the impact of climate change as, ultimately, a jobs plan.

“For too long, we have failed to use the most important word when it comes to meeting the climate crisis,” Biden said. “Jobs. Jobs. For me, when I think about climate change, I think jobs.”

WHO TURNED THE TIDE?

Biden said “America's house was on fire” when he took office, citing the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, its damaging economic impacts and the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

“Now — after just 100 days — I can report to the nation: America is on the move again,” Biden said, adding the nation is now “turning peril into possibility. Crisis into opportunity. Setback into strength.”

It’s a tried and true strategy by the president to take credit for the more hopeful moment, as the coronavirus vaccines have provided a path out of the pandemic.

Republicans, meanwhile, made it clear they see things differently, with Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., implicitly crediting President Donald Trump for the Biden’s good fortune.

“This administration inherited a tide that had already turned,” he said in prepared remarks from the official GOP response to Biden’s address. “The coronavirus is on the run!”

From polling, it’s clear Biden’s view is winning the day — at least thus far — with more Americans approving of his job performance than ever did of Trump, with strong marks even from Republicans for handling the pandemic.

MAKING THE CASE FOR BIG GOVERNMENT

Biden made the full-throated case for an American embrace of big government.

The president ticked off details of some of his plan for $1.8 trillion in spending to expand preschool, create a national family and medical leave program, distribute childcare subsidies and more.

The plan comes on top of his proposal for $2.3 trillion in spending to rebuild roads and bridges, expand broadband access and launch other infrastructure projects.

Republicans have shown little interest in Biden’s spending plan. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has argued that Biden’s plans are a “Trojan horse” that will lead to middle-class tax hikes.

But Biden and his aides say all of this new spending is wise investment in Americans — and doable in time of low interest rates. Much of it can be paid through raising taxes on the wealthy and would go a long way toward addressing the frailties of life for the middle class and working poor exposed by the pandemic, Biden argues.

While achieving bipartisan backing in Washington for the proposals is a longshot, Biden seems to betting he can win support across the electorate.

He even made a thinly-veiled bid to blue-collar and non-college-educated white men who voted for Trump in November, noting that 90% of the infrastructure jobs that will be created by his spending plans don’t require a college degree and 75% don’t require an associate’s degree.

“The Americans Jobs Plan is a blue-collar blueprint to build America,” Biden said. “And it recognizes something I’ve always said: Wall Street didn’t build this country. The middle class built this country. And unions built the middle class.”