December 4, 2023

In an effort to bolster his standing with frustrated voters, President Joe Biden on Wednesday will use the backdrop of a union training center in Cleveland to tell workers that his policies will support funding the troubled pensions of millions now working or retired.

Politically battered by 40-year-high inflation and the damage caused by the pandemic, the president is entrenching his message to Ohio workers, the former election chief. Buckeye’s state has been trending hard for Republicans as Donald Trump easily carried her twice, and this is Biden’s fourth visit as president as he’s working to reverse that electoral tide in person.

Biden’s speech at the local 17th Iron Workers Training Center was timed to announce a final administrative rule linked to last year’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. The rule allows the distressed pensions of multiple companies to be made financially complete, ensuring the full benefits of 2 million to 3 million workers and retirees.

The 200 pension plans receiving assistance faced potential bankruptcy without government assistance. Without full benefits, workers and retirees may struggle to pay for housing, food, and other necessities. The financial support should help maintain the ability of pension funds to repay their debts for approximately 30 years, until 2051.

Details about Biden’s remarks were shared by two administration officials who insisted on anonymity to review his speech.

Multi-employer plans are created through agreements between companies and unions, and are insured by the Federal Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC). In 2014, Congress passed the Multi-Employer Pension Reform Act that allowed plans, for the first time, to cut benefits for workers and retirees in order to ensure that pensions expected to run out of money could still be met.

The US bailout approved in March 2021 included a special financial assistance program that would allow distressed multi-employer retirement plans to apply to the PBGC for assistance. The final rule unveiled by the Biden administration is designed to make it easier for pension investments to get a higher rate of return.

Efforts to highlight a program to support union workers come as Democrats hope for a seat in the US Senate in Ohio, where strong performance with working-class voters could play a pivotal role.

Republican Rob Portman is leaving the Senate after two terms. Democratic Representative Tim Ryan and Republican Representative J.D. Vance, author of the “Hilbilly Eligi” memoir, are vying for Trump’s endorsement during the primaries. Ohio voters supported Trump in 2016 and 2020, with his winning margin each time around eight percentage points.

While Biden boasts steady job growth – unemployment stands at 3.6% – Americans have been largely unhappy with the Democratic president’s handling of the economy as inflation continues to rise, interest rates rise and the stock market fluctuates. Only 28 percent approved of Biden’s stewardship of the economy, down from 51 percent a year ago, according to a poll by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research published last week.

Biden made broad pledges to boost Ohio’s economy. But his efforts suffered a setback recently as Intel postponed work on July 22 to build a computer chip factory near the state capital Columbus. The decision came after a planned investment of more than $50 billion in the semiconductor industry was halted in Congress.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said on Twitter last week that he would block the computer chip bill if Democrats in Congress continued to pass their budget and domestic agenda as planned in the face of Republican opposition.

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said she is working with lawmakers of both parties to get the final semiconductor bill, saying it is key to US economic competitiveness and national security.

“As is common in the legislation, there will be hurdles in the way, but no one benefits more than China from the delay in getting the bipartisan innovation law to the office of the president,” she said in a statement.

Biden highlighted the planned computer chip factory as a commitment to US manufacturing, as part of a message he hopes to underscore by helping pensions to factory workers.

His efforts to fund distressed pensions will extend the solvency of the government’s PBGC multi-employee insurance program from 2026 to 2055, and full benefits will be returned to 80,000 workers and retirees whose benefits have already been reduced.

Biden has long emphasized his administration’s efforts to support members of labor unions, who are a key part of his political identity. The president likes to declare that it was the middle class that built America and that “the unions built the middle class.” In an April speech to union workers in Washington, he supported Amazon employees in Staten Island, New York, who voted to form a union by declaring, “By the way, Amazon, here we go. Watch.”

In May, during the World Electric Workers Brotherhood Conference, Biden mocked Trump, calling him the “Great King of MAGA,” mocking the former president’s “Make America Great” campaign slogan that resonated with many blue-collar voters in the industrial Midwest. .

He strikes repeatedly in a politico-economic offensive against Republicans heading into the November midterm elections — the Republican Party for all its criticism of it has few tangible solutions to the major policy problems facing the country, including high inflation.

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