Biden, in Michigan, pushes a jobs plan and tears into Trump’s virus response

By Thomas Kaplan, Katie Glueck and Jim Tankersley

Joe Biden tore into President Donald Trump on Wednesday over new revelations from a forthcoming book by journalist Bob Woodward that the president knowingly minimized the risks of the coronavirus, arguing that Trump had lied to the American public and put lives in danger.

Biden’s remarks came as part of a broader effort to take on Trump over protecting American jobs and to blame the president’s handling of the pandemic for the nation’s plunge into recession this year.

“He had the information,” Biden said during a trip to the critical battleground state of Michigan. “He knew how dangerous it was. And while this deadly disease ripped through our nation, he failed to do his job on purpose. It was a life-and-death betrayal of the American people.”

“It’s beyond despicable,” Biden added, detailing the crises the nation faces as a result of the pandemic that go far beyond the staggering public health costs. “It’s a dereliction of duty. It’s a disgrace.”

During an interview with CNN on Wednesday, Biden used even sharper language to criticize Trump’s contradictory message about the gravity of the pandemic.

“It was all about making sure the stock market didn’t come down, that his wealthy friends didn’t lose any money,” Biden said. “He waved a white flag. He walked away. He didn’t do a damn thing. Think about it. Think about what he did not do. It’s almost criminal.”

And in an exchange with reporters Wednesday evening, asked whether he blamed Trump for “thousands of deaths” given the knowledge the president had earlier in the year, Biden replied: “Yes, I do. I absolutely do.”

In his outdoor speech at the United Auto Workers Region 1 headquarters in Warren, Michigan, Biden assailed the president’s record on the economy, suggesting that Trump had not kept his promises to American workers on a range of issues. He also lashed his record on matters like job creation and keeping work in the United States rather than letting it move overseas.

The remarks represented an effort by Biden, the former vice president, to turn the focus of the campaign to the economy after weeks of attention on issues of civil unrest and a series of Trump-related controversies.

Biden’s speech was also another display of how he is trying to campaign in person during the pandemic: He spoke in a parking lot, with journalists and a small number of other attendees sitting at a distance in white circles.

A number of Biden’s allies had made clear in recent weeks that they wanted to see him focus more on Trump’s stewardship of the economy, something Biden tried to do in scathing terms Wednesday.

“He’s failed our economy and our country,” Biden said in his speech, in which he made direct appeals to autoworkers.

The former vice president, standing in front of a giant American flag and an array of gleaming automobiles, announced plans to change the tax code to discourage moving jobs overseas and to reward companies for investing in domestic production. He also promised to take a series of executive actions to ensure the purchase of American goods in the federal procurement process.

Biden, who has already proposed raising the corporate tax rate to 28% from 21%, would create a tax penalty aimed at American companies that move jobs to other countries, known as offshoring. The penalty would apply to “profits of any production by a United States company overseas for sales back to the United States,” bumping up the tax rate to nearly 31% on those profits.

That penalty would effectively serve as a new tax on American companies that make products abroad and sell them back to customers in the United States, but it would not apply to foreign-owned companies that operate in America and import products to sell. Conservative tax experts said on Wednesday that the disparity would disadvantage American corporations and possibly push them to sell their foreign operations to rivals.

“These kinds of rules are not going to bring real activity back to the United States,” said George Callas, who was a senior tax counsel for former Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and is now a managing director at Steptoe in Washington.

Biden’s plan calls for tougher federal rules against so-called inversions, when an American multinational merges with a foreign-owned one in order to shift its headquarters abroad and qualify for different tax treatment. He has previously announced plans to increase the rate on what amounts to a minimum tax on multinational companies’ income and to apply that minimum to income earned from each individual country that a company earns revenue in.

Liberal economists praised the plan, saying it would reduce incentives to move production and profits overseas. They also said Biden’s efforts could lead to more countries joining forces to impose a standard set of minimum taxes on multinationals in order to stop companies from shifting profits across borders in search of lower tax rates.

Campaign officials said Wednesday that they did not have an estimate to share of how the plans Biden announced would increase or decrease federal tax revenues, in total.

“Make it in Michigan, make it in America, invest in our communities and the workers in places like Warren,” Biden said. “That’s what this is about.”

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