Biden says containing Covid-19 pandemic is vital to economic recovery

WILMINGTON, Delaware (BLOOMBERG) – US President-elect Joe Biden Monday (Nov 16) said containing the coronavirus pandemic is key to the nation’s economic recovery, calling for cooperation between business and government in his first remarks on the economy since being elected.

Biden met with the chief executives of General Motors and Microsoft, as well as key labour leaders, as he begins to outline how to contain the coronavirus pandemic and revive the economy during his administration.

“We’re ready to come together. The unity was outstanding,” Biden said of the meeting in Wilmington, Delaware. “It was really encouraging, quite frankly, to get people, business and labour, agreeing on the way forward.”

Biden lamented the lack of coordination with the outgoing administration as President Donald Trump’s refusal to accept the results of the election has blocked an official transition, including classified briefings.

“More people may die if we don’t coordinate,” he said. He noted that recent positive news about vaccine effectiveness needs to be paired with the “huge undertaking” of getting a vaccine distributed.

“If we have to wait until January 20 to start that planning, it puts us behind,” he said. The Biden administration’s economic plan is based on the “Build Back Better” proposals offered during the campaign. He said no government contract will be given to companies that don’t build their products in the US.

“We can make sure our future is made here in America and that’s good for business and that’s good for American workers,” Biden said.

Mary Barra of GM and Satya Nadella of Microsoft were among the business leaders who joined him for a video meeting on how business and labour can work together.

Labour officials participating in the conversation include Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO and Rory Gamble of the United Auto Workers, as well as a number of other labor leaders.

Trumka said in a statement he raised safety issues for workers during the meeting, telling the group that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been “totally absent during this pandemic” under the Trump administration, according to prepared remarks.

He called on OSHA to develop an “emergency temporary standard” to protect workers from contracting the virus when they return to their workplaces.

Brian Cornell of Target and Sonia Syngal of Gap participated in the meeting with Biden and Harris. Others included Mary Kay Henry, president of Service Employees International Union; Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers and Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Cecilia Munoz, a former top policy adviser to President Barack Obama who is now on Biden’s transition team, also joined. The campaign proposal included US$2 trillion in spending on clean energy and infrastructure. The goal is to create millions of jobs building the wind turbines, sustainable homes and electric vehicles needed to rapidly throttle US greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change.

Biden also laid out a US$700 billion “Buy American” manufacturing plan that would include $400 billion in additional federal purchases of products made by American workers over the course of his first term as well as $300 billion for federally funded research and development.

In all, the Biden campaign estimates that its proposals on manufacturing and buying American will create 5 million jobs. He has also said it is a moral and economic necessity for the government to better support those who care for children and the elderly, proposing spending $775 billion over 10 years that would add jobs and boost pay for caregivers, eliminate the waiting list for home and community care under Medicaid and provide preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds.

Moody’s estimated the total cost of Biden’s campaign proposals – including additions to the health care system – at $7.27 trillion over a decade and projected that the package would create 18.6 million jobs, seven million more than President Donald Trump’s economic plans.

Much of Biden’s plan would be funded through increased taxes on corporations and the rich, but his team also expects that a few trillion dollars would be characterized as stimulus spending and wouldn’t be offset by new tax revenue.

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