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Biden touts Scranton roots, takes aim at Trump's economic plans

President Joe Biden speaks at the Scranton Cultural Center on Tuesday.
Sarah Hofius Hall
President Joe Biden speaks at the Scranton Cultural Center on Tuesday.

President Joe Biden returned to the city where he was born Tuseday and used Scranton to sharply contrast the way he and ex-President Donald Trump grew up.

Speaking at the Scranton Cultural Center, Biden said he and Trump learned “very different lessons” as youths.

“He learned the best way to get rich is to inherit it,” Biden said as his audience chuckled. “Not a bad way. He learned to pay taxes was something people who work for a living did, not him.”

Biden arrived in the Electric City knowing he has to win Pennsylvania to have any chance of winning re-election. Scranton was the first of three stops planned in the state this week.

A Franklin & Marshall College poll late last month had him up 10 points on Trump, but most other polls before that had the race tight. There hasn’t been a more recent poll.

Tightly controlled audience

The cultural center audience was tightly controlled, with most of the 200 people invited Democrats or connected Democratic officials.

“Four more years, four more years,” they chanted as he departed.

The loudest heckling came from demonstrators outside who chanted opposition to Biden’s policy in the Israeli-Hamas war in Gaza.

Inside, Biden was supposed to give what his campaign billed as a speech centered on the economy, but the president relished bashing Trump.

Biden said people who live on Park Avenue in New York City or at Mar-A-Lago look at firing employees differently, referencing Trump’s palatial Florida home. On the television program he made popular, Trump loved telling people, “You’re fired.”

“But if you grew up in a place like Scranton, nobody handed you anything. You paid your taxes. You made sure being told you're fired wasn't entertainment. It was a nightmare that people worried about,” Biden said.

Biden said where you come from matters.

“When I look at the economy, I don't see it through the eyes of Mar-a-Lago, I see through the eyes of Scranton, and that's not hyperbole, that's a fact,” he said.

In Scranton, he said honesty, decency and faith matter and family is everything.

“Where we grew up, knowing in our bones that Wall Street didn't build this country,” Biden said. “The middle class built this country and unions built the middle class.”

He said Trump cut taxes for the rich again. He also predicted the former President would slash Social Security and Medicare and repeal the Affordable Care Act, known commonly as Obamacare.

“Folks, he’s coming for your money, your health care and your Social Security and we’re not going to let that happen,” Biden shouted. “Can’t let that happen.”

Biden noted America has about 1,000 billionaires who pay an average tax rate of 8.3%, far lower than most Americans. He proposes a minimum federal income tax on billionaires of 25% and said that would raise $500 billion during the next decade, but no one earning less than $400,000 would pay higher taxes.

“No billionaires should pay a lower tax rate than a teacher, a nurse, a sanitation worker,” Biden said.

The president said repealing the Affordable Care Act would mean 100 million Americans with pre-existing conditions potentially losing their health insurance and young people with no coverage until age 26 as they have now. Because a surtax on the wealthy pays for the act, millions of Americans would have to pay $6,000 more a year for health care while billionaires get another $3.5 million tax cut on average, he said.

"That's 70 times what a typical family here in Scranton makes him one year," he said. "You know, I have to say if Trump's stock in Truth Social, his company, drops any lower, he might do better under my tax plan than his."

'I'm already home'

As usual, the president dropped in references to his Scranton past. His family lived on North Washington Avenue for about five years, starting when he was 5 years old. The family frequently returned to visit his maternal grandparents and other relatives and he has come back frequently as an adult.

As he stepped on stage and the crowd chanted, “four more years,” Biden said, “I think I should go home now. Except I'm already home.”

“Scranton is a place that climbs in your heart. And it never leaves. I mean that sincerely,” he said. “That's a special thing that that's in your heart. For me, it was 2446 North Washington Avenue, just a block away from Amy's house."

Amy is Amy McNulty, the daughter-in law of Joe McNulty, who is the brother of the late Mayor Jim McNulty. She introduced Biden.

McNulty credited Biden for expanding the child tax credit, which “put an extra $600 in our pocket every month.”

“That meant a lot to us. Not only did it give us a little breathing room during the pandemic, it also led us glimpse of future where we could really start saving for our daughter's college education,” McNulty said. “Now, we're thankful that President Biden is fighting to make that child tax credit permanent. So families like ours can keep saving, and keep looking to the future.”

After the speech, Biden headed for the city’s Green Ridge neighborhood where his grandparents home was, then, a union hall in South Scranton. He was scheduled to stay overnight in Scranton and head for Pittsburgh tomorrow and Philadelphia on Thursday.

For more coverage and photos of Biden's visit tonight and Wednesday, check back here at WVIA.org.

Borys joins WVIA News from The Scranton Times-Tribune, where he served as an investigative reporter and covered a wide range of political stories. His work has been recognized with numerous national and state journalism awards from the Inland Press Association, Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors, Society of Professional Journalists and Pennsylvania Newsmedia Association.

You can email Borys at boryskrawczeniuk@wvia.org
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