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Biden urges Congress to turn ‘crisis’ into ‘opportunity’

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden painted a nation on the mend, recovering from the pandemic but still in need of a boost from the federal government, in his first address to Congress on Wednesday as he seeks to shift his focus beyond the coronavirus pandemic nearly 100 days into his administration.

Biden said he was there to speak to Congress not just of “crisis” but of “opportunity,” pitching $4 trillion of ambitious investments in the American economy and social safety-net programs that he argued were necessary to compete on the global stage and would reduce deficits in the long run.

“Now, after just 100 days, I can report to the nation: America is on the move again,” Biden said.

“We’re in a great inflection point in history. We have to do more than just build back. We have to build back better,” Biden continued, echoing his campaign slogan.

Biden unveiled his American Families Plan, a roughly $1.8 trillion package that includes universal preschool, two years of free community college and expanded access to child care. It is the second phase of Biden’s two-part push to boost the economy, following the $2 trillion infrastructure and jobs package, which he announced last month.

Biden said he would ask corporations and the wealthiest Americans to “pay their fair share” in order to fund his economic agenda, arguing that the pandemic put a spotlight on inequality in the country as millions of people lost their jobs while CEO salaries continued to increase and billionaires saw their net worths rise.

“My fellow Americans, trickle-down economics has never worked,” Biden said, promising not to raise taxes on those making less than $400,000 a year. “It’s time to grow the economy from the bottom up and middle-out.”

“When you hear someone say that they don’t want to raise taxes on the wealthiest 1 percent and on corporate America, ask them: Whose taxes are you going to raise instead, and whose are you going to cut?,” he added.

Biden, who campaigned in part on a promise to restore public trust in government, touted the American Rescue plan, vaccination rollouts and his economic proposals as proof of a functioning democracy, adding that autocracies around the globe, including China, were betting that the U.S. would be too divided to pass his sweeping agenda.

“Can our democracy deliver on the most pressing needs of our people? Can our democracy overcome the lies, anger, hate and fears that have pulled us apart?,” Biden said.

“It’s time we remembered that ‘We the People’ are the government. You and I. Not some force in a distant capital. Not some powerful force we have no control over.”

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How Biden’s plan to tax the wealthy is playing in a bellwether battleground

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SAGINAW, Mich. — A hundred bucks usually covers a weekly grocery run for Melissa Miller’s family of four. On Wednesday, as she packed bags into the back of her car at a suburban Kroger’s here, Miller marveled at a $131.07 receipt — and worried about pandemic food-stamp benefits sunsetting at the end of the school year.

Miller, 38, couldn’t pick between the two candidates in last year’s presidential election, but she approves of President Joe Biden’s plans to raise taxes on corporations and the wealthiest Americans to help underwrite his agenda.

“Do it,” she said. “They should be paying a little bit more.”

That sentiment, familiar in Democratic messaging, is common among residents of this swing county in a swing state, where the unemployment rate — 6.8 percent in March — remains above the national average.

But the other side of the tax coin is represented here, too: GOP arguments that heftier levies will result in corporations passing costs to consumers, wealthy individuals finding loopholes and the economy slowing down.

“When they jack up the taxes on companies, the prices are going to go up,” said Orval Wolfgram, a retired General Motors engineer. “It’s going to be back on us.”

This county, almost evenly divided politically, will be a battleground for Washington’s prescriptions on the economy — including tax rates. In 2016, Trump won here by a margin of less than 1 percent, breaking a string of seven straight Democratic nominees taking the county. Four years later, Biden beat Trump by 303 votes, or less than three-tenths of a percentage point, on his way to flipping the state and the presidency.

He has said over and over, during the campaign and the first few months of his presidency, that the rich should “pay their fair share.” Surveys dating back decades show sustained majority support for that idea, and John Anzalone, Biden’s pollster, told Axios earlier this year that it polls better than most of the president’s proposals.

“The middle class is tired of carrying the tax burden for the country,” Anzalone told Axios. “They are pissed off. They aren’t anti-rich or anti-corporate. They are anti-not paying your fair share.”

In a national NBC News poll released late last month, 59 percent of adults said Biden’s “American Jobs Plan” — which would raise taxes to at least partially pay for $2 trillion in spending on roads, bridges, broadband, housing and other items — is a good idea. Just 21 percent said it is not, and 19 percent did not offer an opinion.

The true test of the popularity of Biden’s agenda won’t arrive until the midterm elections next November. He is coming to Michigan next week to campaign for his plans, but not to a politically competitive area like Saginaw County.

Instead, he’ll promote incentives for electric cars at a Ford plant in heavily Democratic Dearborn, a densely populated Detroit suburb in overwhelmingly Democratic Wayne County.

He’ll get more bang for his time in the more populous area, but he will also avoid the resistance he would get from some residents here. Some of them have information — and some have misinformation — about his plans.

“I don’t like what he’s doing to remove bridges for racial equity,” Cindy Brown, 59 and a Trump supporter, said in a mischaracterization of one of Biden’s proposals.

“The east side is divided by the river,” Brown, who is white, said of the predominantly Black section of Saginaw east of the city’s namesake river. “They’re coming across the river.”

While bridges connect communities, Biden has proposed taking out highways that have long effectively segregated cities.

Dolores Adkins, Brown’s 79-year-old mother, didn’t vote for Trump or Biden. She simply said Biden is proposing “too much money” for her tastes.

Waiting for a bus at the Rosa Parks Transfer Center in downtown Saginaw Wednesday, Craig Jones, 42, said that the federal government should be doing more for the public.

“It’s been helpful, but not enough,” said Jones, who recently landed a job at a Wendy’s fast-food restaurant. He didn’t vote in 2020, but he likes Biden’s approach to raising revenue.

“It’s about time someone is taxing the rich,” Jones said.

At the same time, according to several unemployed men who spoke to NBC News, benefits have been generous enough to discourage a return to work.

“They’re paying probably a little more than you would get at a regular job,” said David Abrams, 24, who had a job sorting and washing auto parts for two years before the pandemic. “Do I want to rush myself back to work?” he asked, rhetorically.

In the midst of tumult, Miller isn’t buying the notion that raising taxes on the wealthy will choke the economy and hurt lower- and middle-class families.

“On a serious note,” she said, “it’s bulls—.”

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Don't threaten us! Furious Boris Johnson lashes out at France over fishing blackmail

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DOWNING STREET has hit back at the EU for “issuing threats” against the UK amid an ongoing row over fishing rights.

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BBC’s Chris Mason erupts over criticism of Hartlepool interview ‘Get out more!’

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CHRIS Mason’s interview with ex-Labour voters has continued to cause a stir online, provoking a stern response from the BBC journalist.

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