Biden hits out at Trump in Labor Day speech focused on US jobs, economy

US president takes repeated shots at his predecessor’s economic record as 2024 election campaign begins to heat up.

Joe Biden standing in front of a US flag
'The great real estate builder - the last guy - he didn't build a damn thing,' US President Joe Biden says of his predecessor Donald Trump [Joshua Roberts/Reuters]

US President Joe Biden has hit out at the economic policies of his predecessor and likely 2024 election challenger Donald Trump, noting that the United States lost jobs under the former Republican president’s tenure.

In a speech in Philadelphia to mark the US Labor Day holiday on Monday, Biden repeatedly took shots at Trump’s record in the White House.

“It wasn’t that long ago we were losing jobs in this country,” said Biden, who is expected to make his administration’s employment and economic policies a central plank of his 2024 re-election campaign.

“In fact, the guy who held this job before me was just one of two presidents in history who left office with fewer jobs in America than when he got elected.”

When Trump left the White House in early 2021, the US and global economies were battered by the outbreak of COVID-19, which led to the loss of millions of jobs. But the Trump administration says it oversaw historically low unemployment prior to the pandemic.

Still, Biden on Monday argued that the American economy has been transformed under his watch, with his Democratic administration putting a focus on empowering workers and strengthening the US middle class.

“When the last guy was here, he looked at the world from Park Avenue,” Biden said, referring to a wealthy street in New York City. “I look at it from Scranton, Pennsylvania. I look at it from Claymont, Delaware.”

Biden’s comments underscore his ongoing rivalry with Trump, who maintains a sizeable lead in the Republican Party’s 2024 presidential nomination race and is widely expected to take on Biden in what would be a rematch of 2020.

Trump is seeking re-election despite facing four separate criminal indictments, including two cases in which he is accused of seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 vote that he lost to Biden.

The former Republican president has denied any wrongdoing in all the cases against him and accused US prosecutors of trying to derail his 2024 campaign.

On Monday, Biden talked up his own success in passing a $1.2-trillion infrastructure bill – again drawing a contrast with Trump.

“The great real estate builder – the last guy – he didn’t build a damn thing,” the US president said of Trump, a real estate mogul.

Trump had announced “Infrastructure Week” in 2017 to promote a plan to fix highways and bridges, but the push was derailed by political turmoil in Washington at that time. “Infrastructure Week” subsequently became a joke about the chaos that engulfed the Trump administration.

Biden on Monday also criticised the right-wing theory of “trickle-down economics”, which contends that deregulation and tax cuts for the rich produce economic growth that eventually benefits working people.

“Not a whole lot of ‘trickle down’ ended up on my dad’s kitchen table, and he busted his neck,” Biden said.

Overall, Biden voiced optimism about the future of the US economy, stressing that efforts to rein in inflation are working.

But public perception of the economy could prove to be a major hurdle for the 80-year-old president’s re-election bid.

Trump often bemoans soaring US inflation, saying the country is “going to hell” under Biden.

In a Reuters/Ipsos poll last month, 60 percent of Americans – including one in three Democratic Party voters – said they disapproved of Biden’s handling of inflation.

Public opinion polls also show that voters are concerned about Biden’s age.

But on Monday, the US president seemed to dismiss the issue. “The only thing that comes with age is a bit of wisdom. I’ve been doing this longer than anybody, and I guess what, I’m going to continue to do it with your help,” Biden said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies