President Joe Biden’s visit to Pennsylvania Wednesday was yet another reminder of the policy divide between his administration and the blue-collar voters he hopes to bring back into the Democratic fold.
“I’m here to talk about a commitment that’s sacred to me and central to our efforts to keep things moving,” the president said at Mack Trucks’ Lehigh Valley Operations in Macungie. “It’s a straightforward solution: Support and grow more American-based companies, put more Americans to work in union jobs, strengthen American manufacturing and secure critical supply chains, and confront the climate crisis, which is all about jobs.”
Biden met with employees, including those represented by United Auto Workers Local 677, and toured the Lehigh Valley Operations, learning about Mack’s assembly process, its supply chain, and Mack’s commitment to battery-electric vehicles.
“President Biden’s visit to Mack Trucks spotlights the importance of manufacturing and good-paying jobs to the U.S. economy, and we are pleased to have hosted him at our facility,” said Gunnar Brunius, vice president and general manager of Lehigh Valley Operations.
But Republicans, as well as representatives of the energy sector so vital to Pennsylvania’s economy, were quick to point out the problems Biden’s embrace of Green New Deal politics can create for the state.
“The President’s top policy people and regulatory appointments are hostile to coal and natural gas power,” said Leo Knepper, Political Director for Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania. “Given the importance of those two sectors to the commonwealth, there is no doubt that enacting their preferred policies will crush our economy. There is a lag between the enactment of new policies and economic activity. We’ll find out over the course of the next six months what kind of impact the president’s policies will have on our economy.”
Biden was in Pennsylvania promoting the $1.1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure spending deal U.S. Senate negotiators have been working on for weeks. During his speech in Lower Macungie Township, news broke that a deal had been reached on Capitol Hill.
“You may have heard that in Washington now, just on the phone, it looks like you reached a bipartisan agreement on infrastructure, a fancy word for bridges, roads, transit system, high speed internet, clean drinking water, cleaning and capping the orphan wells, over thousands of abandoned, and abandoned mines, and a modern, resilient electric grid to build,” Biden said.
However, advocates for Pennsylvania’s energy sector note the lack of funding in the spending deal for traditional energy infrastructure. For example, it includes $7.5 billion for electric charging stations, but nothing for energy pipelines.
“America’s infrastructure is more than just highways and bridges,” said Kurt Knaus, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Energy Infrastructure Alliance. “You simply cannot have a comprehensive infrastructure plan — especially in Pennsylvania, which remains a net energy exporter — if you include social programs but exclude the pipelines that are so critical to both our economic and climate challenges.”
“President Joe Biden, Gov. Tom Wolf (D-Pa.), and Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa. 7th District) are waging a war on Pennsylvania workers,” said Allie Carroll, Pennsylvania Communications Director for the Republican National Committee (RNC).
“The reality for Pennsylvanians is that wages are getting lower, and our jobs are being outsourced, especially in the manufacturing sector, so we thought it was pretty hypocritical and ironic to talk about manufacturing jobs when so many companies in that area are facing worker shortages and having to outsource their jobs,” said Carroll. “Pennsylvania businesses and families are paying the price of their liberal policies.”
Carroll pointed to several Lehigh Valley companies as examples.
“Windkits, LLC, a maker of wind turbine blades in Macungie, is closing its Lehigh Valley manufacturing plant and shifting the work to Mexico,” said Carroll. “The Lehigh Valley’s Dixie Cup plant also blames outsourcing work to China as its reason for closing, while commercial data provider Dun & Bradstreet is moving some operations to India.”
Biden sees things differently, and he’s betting on increased efforts by government to Buy American will help manufacturers as well as small-and-medium-sized businesses bidding on contracts.
“Hardworking Americans are the ones who are going to make it happen,” said Biden. “We got to invest in you. We have the most productive workforce in the world here. Given half a chance, there’s not a single thing you can’t do.”