WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is working to create a manufacturing revival — even helping to put factory jobs in Republican territory under the belief it can restore faith in U.S. democracy.
The latest development came Tuesday, when chipmaker Micron announced an investment of up to $100 billion over the next 20-plus years to build a plant in upstate New York that could create 9,000 factory jobs. It's a commitment made in a GOP congressional district that Biden and the company credited to the recently enacted $280 billion CHIPS and Science Act.
“Today is another win for America, and another massive new investment in America spurred by my economic plan,” Biden said in a statement. “Together, we are building an economy from the bottom up and the middle out, where we lower costs for our families and make it right here in America.”
Biden has staked his presidency on what he has called “a historic manufacturing boom,” hoping to succeed where past presidents, governors and hordes of other politicians have struggled for a half-century. His goal is to keep opening new factories in states such as Ohio, Idaho, North Carolina and Georgia — where Democrats' footholds are shaky at best. Administration officials say they want to spread the prosperity across the entire country, rather than let it cluster in centers of extreme wealth, in a bid to renew the middle class and a sense of pride in the country itself.
The push comes at a precarious moment for the global economy. High inflation in the U.S. has hurt Biden’s popularity and prompted recession concerns. Much of Europe faces a possible downturn due to the jump in energy prices after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while the International Monetary Fund just downgraded growth in China. The world economy is defined by uncertainty just as Biden has called for investments in clean energy and technology that could take years to pay off.
The president is hopeful that whatever good manufacturing can do for the U.S. economy also turns out to yield political benefits for himself and other Democrats in 2022 and beyond. He told Democratic donors on Friday that the manufacturing and technology investments mean “we have an opportunity” to strengthen the U.S. if Democratic governors and lawmakers are elected this year.
Going into the midterm elections, Biden is telling voters that a factory renaissance has already started because of him. The administration sees its infrastructure spending, computer chip investments and clean-energy incentives as helping domestic manufacturing in unprecedented ways.
Recent academic studies suggest that decades of layoffs due to offshoring contributed to the rise of Republican Donald Trump, with his opposition to immigration and global trade. But many of the authors of the studies doubt that Biden can make these demographic trends disappear through the promise of jobs for skilled workers.
Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna of California would like to see the president make a national tour of factory openings, so that his policies could stick better in voters' minds. Khanna recently attended the groundbreaking of a $20 billion Intel plant in Ohio and laid out his belief that factory job losses helped cause today's political schisms.
The Silicon Valley congressman reasons that too many Americans have lost faith in a government that seemed indifferent to their own well-being, leading them to embrace hucksters and authoritarians who thrive by exploiting and widening divisions in society.
“How do you get rid of people’s jobs and expect them to believe in democracy?” Khanna asks.
Factory jobs have risen during Biden's tenure to the most since 2008 at 12.85 million, yet the task of steadying the country's middle class and its democratic institutions is far from complete. The industrial Midwest has yet to recover the factory jobs shed in the pandemic, let alone decades of layoffs in which the economic challenges evolved into political tensions.