Democratic US Senate candidate Mark Kelly speaks at an election watch party in Tucson, Arizona, USA, on November 3, 2020.
Cheney Orr | Reuters
Democrats are showcasing new partnerships with corporate America in an effort to convince voters they can create jobs and safeguard the economy ahead of the midterm elections.
Many of the investments the party has touted are in key battleground states. In Arizona, Democratic Senator Mark Kelly, whose re-election bid will help determine control of the Senate, joined AT&T CEO John Stankey and Corning CEO Wendell Weeks last week to announce a new fiber optic plant outside of Phoenix that will create hundreds of jobs.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen visited Ford’s electric vehicle plant in Michigan on Thursday and discussed the benefits of clean energy. Later this month, she will travel to North Carolina, where Toyota is spending $2.5 billion to make batteries for electric vehicles. North Carolina will also host a critical Senate race in November.
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen holds a press conference in the cash room of the US Treasury Department in Washington, US, on July 28, 2022.
jonathan ernst | Reuters
Perhaps most significantly, President Joe Biden will attend the groundbreaking on Friday for Intel’s new semiconductor facility in the swing state of Ohio, the start of an investment that could be worth up to $100 billion. Both company executives and lawmakers say the project was made possible by Democratic-led legislation.
“When you pass good legislation, you get good results,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said this week as he ticked off a long list of business investments. “It has been a long time since the American people have felt that Washington is capable of doing great things to meet great challenges.”
That tone represents a change in the rhetoric that Democrats adopted a year ago. Back then, they focused on raising revenue from corporations and the wealthy to pay for a radical social spending proposal known as Build Back Better: raise the corporate tax rate, craft a global minimum tax on multinational companies, and impose new taxes on millionaires and billionaires. , among others.
And when inflation soared to 40-year highs, some Democrats blamed corporate speculation.
But those proposals were blocked by party moderates. While most of the attention was focused on Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, House centrists like Reps. Stephanie Murphy of Florida and Kurt Schrader of Oregon also voiced their discomfort.
And as Democrats scaled back his proposals, his message was muted as well.
“Sometimes it feels like a split screen,” said Jim Kessler, executive vice president for policy at the moderate think tank Third Way. “But there’s a real opening here for Democrats on the economy and its relationship to business.”
Now Democrats are framing the latest investment announcements as evidence of their success on three other bills: the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act and the Chips and Science Act, both of which required Republican support, and the Downsizing Act. of Inflation, which the Democrats approved on their own.
Shaking hands with business leaders could help offset Biden’s low poll numbers. Most voters disapprove of his handling of the economy, including 57 percent of independents, according to an August NBC News poll.
Efforts to promote business investment come as inflation has also provided Republicans with a powerful line of attack. The National Republican Senatorial Committee circulated a Gallup poll this week that showed 74% of low-income Americans had suffered financial hardship due to rising prices, up from 66% in January.
“Recent Democrat policies … hurt middle-class families across the country and have caused a recession whether they want to admit it or not,” an NRSC spokeswoman said. “The Democrats don’t seem to realize how to solve inflation, they continue to hurt our economy, and they need to be kicked out in November.”
Democrats haven’t stopped talking about making corporations pay their fair share of taxes or holding big business accountable. The Inflation Reduction Act imposed a new tax on share buybacks and established a national minimum tax of 15 percent, though manufacturers got a key exception to that provision. It will also give Medicare the authority to negotiate prescription drug prices, despite heated opposition from the pharmaceutical industry.
But for now, Democrats are highlighting his alliances with business rather than his arguments. And even the left wing of the party acknowledges that there could be political and economic benefits to working alongside the business community.
“I think progressive thinkers in economics understand that we can’t just focus on redistribution. We can’t just focus on taxes and transfers,” said Lindsey Owens, executive director of the Groundwork Collaborative. “We also have to focus on pre-distribution. We also have to make the market what we want it to be.”