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Democrats tout business investments from Intel, AT&T

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Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kelly speaks at an election watch party in Tucson, Arizona, U.S. November 3, 2020.

Cheney Orr | Reuters

Democrats are showcasing latest partnerships with corporate America in an effort to persuade voters that they’ll deliver jobs and safeguard the economy ahead of the midterm elections.

Most of the investments the party has touted are in key battleground states. In Arizona, Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly — whose reelection bid will help to find out Senate control — joined AT&T CEO John Stankey and Corning CEO Wendell Weeks last week to announce a latest fiber optic plant outside of Phoenix that may create a whole bunch of jobs.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen toured Ford’s electric vehicle plant in Michigan on Thursday and discussed the advantages of unpolluted energy. Later this month, she’ll travel to North Carolina, where Toyota is spending $2.5 billion to fabricate EV batteries. North Carolina may also host a critical Senate race in November.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen holds a news conference within the Money Room on the U.S. Treasury Department in Washington, U.S. July 28, 2022. 

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

Perhaps most importantly, President Joe Biden will attend the groundbreaking of Intel’s latest semiconductor facility within the swing state of Ohio on Friday – the beginning of an investment that may very well be price as much as $100 billion. Each company executives and lawmakers claim the project was made possible by laws spearheaded by Democrats.

“While you pass good laws, you get good results,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said this week as he ticked off a laundry list of business investments. “It has been a protracted time for the reason that American people felt that Washington is able to doing big things to satisfy big challenges.”

That tone represents a shift within the rhetoric that Democrats espoused a yr ago. Back then, they were focused on raising revenue from corporations and the rich to pay for a sweeping social spending proposal often called Construct Back Higher: increasing the company tax rate, crafting a minimum global tax on multinational businesses and imposing latest taxes on millionaires and billionaires, amongst others.

And when inflation spiked to 40-year highs, some Democrats pinned the blame on corporate profiteering.

But those proposals were blocked by the party’s moderates. Though many of the attention was focused on Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, centrists within the House similar to Reps. Stephanie Murphy of Florida and Kurt Schrader of Oregon also expressed discomfort. 

And as Democrats pared back their proposals, their message became more muted as well.

“It appears like a split screen sometimes,” said Jim Kessler, executive vice chairman of policy on the moderate think tank Third Way. “But there is a real opening here for Democrats on the economy and on its relationship with business.”

Now, Democrats are framing the newest investment announcements as evidence of their success on three other bills: the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act and the Chips and Science Act – each of which required Republican support – and the Inflation Reduction Act, which Democrats passed on their very own. 

Shaking hands with business leaders could help counter Biden’s low poll numbers. A majority of voters disapprove of his handling of the economy, including 57 percent of independents, in keeping with an August poll by NBC News.

The efforts to tout business investment come as inflation has also provided Republicans with a robust 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.

“The Democrats’ recent policies … hurt middle-class families across the country and have caused a recession whether or not they wish to admit it or not,” an NRSC spokeswoman said. “Democrats appear to be oblivious about solving inflation, continuing to harm our economy, and have to be voted out in November.” 

Democrats have not dropped their talking points on making corporations pay their justifiable share of taxes or holding big business accountable. The Inflation Reduction Act imposed a latest tax on stock buybacks and set a domestic minimum tax of 15 percent, though manufacturers won a key carveout from that provision. It also will give Medicare the authority to barter prescription drug prices, despite heated opposition from the pharmaceutical industry.

But for now, Democrats are highlighting their alliances with businesses fairly than their arguments. And even the left wing of the party is acknowledging that there may very well be political and economic advantages to working alongside the business community. 

“I believe there’s an understanding amongst progressive thinkers within the economy that we will not just concentrate on redistribution. We won’t just concentrate on taxes and transfers,” said Lindsey Owens, executive director of Groundwork Collaborative. “We also should concentrate on pre-distribution. We also should make the market into what we would like it to be.”

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