BOSTON (CN) — President Donald Trump is directly responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans, former Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday during a virtual rally aimed at the pivotal swing state of Wisconsin.
“The stock market is the single lens through which he sees the economy,” Biden said. “That’s why he irresponsibly downplayed and delayed action on the virus. Why? To protect the Dow Jones.
“That one reckless choice is directly responsible in my view for the loss of tens of thousands of American lives and millions of jobs.”
Biden also charged that Trump “wants a corrupt recovery.”
“Congress gave the Trump administration tens of billions of dollars for a Main Street lending program to help small and mid-sized businesses, and they haven’t lent a single dollar. Not one,” he said, claiming Trump instead improperly directed money to cronies and campaign donors.
Trump “spent the last three years undermining the basis of our economic strength” through tariffs and “inflicted incredible pain on our farmers,” Biden added.
On the novel coronavirus, he accused Trump of “denial, delay, distraction [and] bald-faced lies.” He said Trump “had months and months to take action … and this president can summon barely a word of empathy, responsibility or regret.”
Wisconsin is a key swing state in November. In 2016, Trump won the Badger State by a mere 22,748 votes out of nearly 3 million cast. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, famously didn’t set foot there during the general election.
Trump “thinks he’s a builder, but he’s a destroyer of everything he touches,” Biden said. “All he has ever done is hollow out what really matters and then slap a gold sign on a flimsy foundation.”
Biden was joined by Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin, who has been touted by some as a potential running mate. Baldwin said of Trump that since the pandemic “we have only seen his failure of leadership grow worse and worse” and that he is relying on “false television ads and other messages of hate.”
Also at the half-hour virtual rally were Wisconsin Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, and Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis.
Earlier in the day, Biden participated in a 90-minute virtual roundtable on rural issues that was also focused on Wisconsin.
Biden used the opportunity to repeatedly bash Trump’s trade policies, saying they had raised the prices of food, beer and clothing and prompted “disastrous foreign tariffs on the price of cheese.”
Noting that Wisconsin lost 800 dairy farms last year, he said the federal government should appoint a national food systems coordinator to buy milk directly from farmers and give it to food pantries.
Biden acknowledged that Trump’s trade policies were linked to problems with China, but he said the China issue “wasn’t about milk” and thus the tariffs missed the mark.
Biden proposed spending $20 billion to improve rural broadband. This idea was supported by Mari Freiberg, CEO of the Scenic Bluffs Community Health Center in Cashton, Wisconsin, who said telemedicine is increasingly helpful but it requires reliable broadband and “in a lot of rural areas it doesn’t exist.”
Biden also called for focusing economic recovery efforts on small businesses, saying “we have to focus on keeping Main Street open. Not one more penny should go to a Fortune 500 company. Period.”
He added: “I come from a rural state. Rural communities power our nation [and] we cannot withstand an economy that extracts value from them without letting them share in the reward.”
Biden called for a new pandemic testing board as well as a new public health service that would perform contact tracing but could later be refocused on opioid addiction.
The former vice president spoke from his home in Delaware. At one point he suggested that good-paying jobs could be created in factories that pelletize manure and turn it into nontoxic fertilizer. Currently “all that manure that’s out there in Delaware is a huge issue,” he said.
In addition to Freiberg, Biden was joined by Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis.; Darin Von Ruden, president of the Wisconsin Farmers Union; and Rob Grover, the Trempealeau County economic development and tourism coordinator.
Von Ruden complained that “our foreign markets have disappeared” due to the tariffs and that farmers want business income rather than government handouts. Grover said small businesses were being muscled out of bailout money by big corporations and weren’t getting enough guidance on how to reopen safely.
There were some technical glitches and both events started more than 20 minutes late. Baldwin spoke in front of a wall that was completely blank except for a single piece of copier paper with a Biden logo taped to it.