Last week, one day before the United Auto Workers launched a historic strike for higher wages, President Joe Biden delivered a speech outlining the “choice between Bidenomics and MAGAnomics.”
“Republicans have given us a failed plan of trickle-down economics that didn’t work,” he told students at Prince George’s Community College in Largo, Maryland. “My guess is, your story is just like mine: Not much trickled down that ended up helping y’all.”
Biden went on to detail the lowlights of the GOP’s trickle-down scheme in his view: shipping jobs overseas, hollowing out America’s main streets and middle class, and blowing up the deficit while producing anemic growth.
“And it stripped the dignity and pride and hope out of a community, one after another,” Biden concluded.
These are all important points. But does anyone even know the president gave that speech? Outside of event attendees, the White House press corps, and a subset of Beltway operatives, probably not.
Perhaps the biggest economy-related news of last week was the United Auto Workers union pulling the trigger on a walkout against all Big Three automakers: Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis (formerly known as Fiat Chrysler). On Friday, the UAW expanded that strike from three Midwest plants to include 38 General Motors and Stellantis distribution centers in 20 states. Ford was spared after engaging in what union leaders viewed as fruitful negotiations.
Former President Donald Trump, sensing a media moment, announced early this week he would visit Detroit next week to deliver a speech to autoworkers on Wednesday, Sept. 27, instead of participating in the second Republican presidential debate. Whatever one might think of Trump and his politics, he has a sixth sense for exploiting opportunities to generate news.
United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain, sensing that exploitation, immediately rejected Trump’s bid to co-opt the moment for his personal political gain.
“Every fiber of our union is being poured into fighting the billionaire class and an economy that enriches people like Donald Trump at the expense of workers,” Fain said in a statement Tuesday. “We can’t keep electing billionaires and millionaires that don’t have any understanding what it is like to live paycheck to paycheck and struggle to get by and expecting them to solve the problems of the working class.”
Trump is going anyway.
And so is President Biden—only one day earlier than Trump.
We learned late Friday, after Fain extended an invitation to the president Friday morning, that Biden would join UAW strikers Tuesday on the picket lines.
“It’s time for a win-win agreement that keeps American auto manufacturing thriving with well-paid UAW jobs,” Biden tweeted Friday evening with the news of his trip to Michigan.
Biden joining the auto workers will arguably be the most pro-union action ever taken by a sitting president.
“It’s very rare for a president to visit strikers,” presidential historian Jeremi Suri of the University of Texas at Austin told Reuters. “This would be a major, major shift for Biden to identify the presidency with striking workers, rather than siding with industry or staying above the fray.”
The moment gives Biden a high-profile opportunity to own the economy he’s cultivating while driving a stake through the heart of Ronald Reagan’s trickle-down economics.
As I argued last week:
Generation-defining moments are few and far between, and they usually come unexpectedly. President Ronald Reagan used his moment in 1981 to fire more than 11,000 striking air traffic controllers and suck the life out of unions for decades.
President Biden can use this moment to mark an end to the ruin Reagan wrought on the power of hard-working, middle-class Americans.
Next week will mark the first round of a potential 2024 rematch between Biden and Trump as all eyes turn to Michigan, where Biden will link arms with the unionized auto workers who built the state and Trump will be left trying to counterprogram a missed opportunity.
Biden just stole Trump’s thunder and Team Trump knows it. It augurs well for Biden’s reelection bid—as well as his place in history.
Add your name: Solidarity with United Auto Workers! #StandUpUAW