Biden to Appeal to Middle Class, With Promise to Raise Wages

(Bloomberg) -- Joe Biden aims to cut into Donald Trump’s appeal to middle-class voters with a speech Wednesday in which he’ll argue that the president has favored policies that benefit corporations and the super-rich.

Biden plans to return to his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, to deliver the latest in a series of policy addresses. Biden promised to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

“Donald Trump doesn’t know what it means to be part of the middle class. I do,” Biden said in a statement about the speech provided to Bloomberg News. It’s part of the former vice president’s argument that he’s best suited to take on Trump in the general election as other candidates, especially Elizabeth Warren, gain in public opinion polls of Democratic presidential candidates.

Biden will cite the Trump administration’s new overtime pay rule as an example of how the White House has “made it more difficult for low-income and middle-class workers to get what they’ve earned,” he said in a statement previewing the speech.

In September, the administration finalized a rule to raise the annual salary threshold for federally mandated overtime pay to $35,568, from the previous limit of $23,000 that was set during George W. Bush’s presidency. The Obama administration had sought to increase the threshold to about $47,000 before being struck down in federal court in 2017.

The Trump administration did not appeal that decision and instead promised concerned business groups that it would put forward a lower threshold.

The rule means that an estimated 1.3 million additional workers will get overtime pay, but that falls short of the additional 2.8 million workers who would’ve gotten overtime pay had the Obama proposal been enacted. “Trump is robbing hard-earned wages from millions of workers across the country,” Biden said in the statement.

Biden’s speech will also be heavy on biographical details that offer a stark contrast with Trump’s upbringing as the son of a multimillionaire real estate developer. Biden was born in Scranton and lived there until he was 10, moving to Delaware after his father lost his job in Pennsylvania.

Biden has often used his Scranton roots as a way to emphasize his deep connection to working-class issues and voters. He was spotted in Scranton in early April filming a campaign launch video, but his team ultimately chose to launch his campaign with a statement about what he believes is the threat Trump poses to American values.

Lackawanna County, home to Scranton, has traditionally been strongly Democratic, but Hillary Clinton eked out only a small win over Trump, winning 49.8% of the vote to Trump’s 46.3%.

Trump won Pennsylvania in 2016 by fewer than 45,000 votes out of nearly 6 million cast in the state. For two decades, the state consistently voted for Democrats in presidential elections, though it had become a battleground in recent cycles. Biden believes he can win over white, working-class voters in a way Clinton could not.

Trump tried to make an issue of the Biden family’s move during a campaign rally in central Pennsylvania in May. “Biden deserted you,” Trump said then. “I guess she was born here but he left you, folks. He left you for another state.” Biden dismissed the attempted attack, noting that has was 10 when the family moved.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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