Biden wants to repair places that have been broken by previous economic strategies


MILWAUKEE — President Biden, speaking Wednesday in a community that he cited as a painful example of racist urban policy, highlighted a new economic strategy aimed at revitalizing places that for decades have been cut off from the nation’s growing prosperity.
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ArrowRight Biden spoke at a Boys and Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee in a largely Black and Latino neighborhood where 17,000 homes and 1,000 businesses were destroyed in the 1960s to make way for an interstate highway.
The president’s trip, which includes a stop in Michigan on Thursday, is part of an effort to court minority voters in states that are key to his political future.
In conjunction with the Midwestern swing, the White House unveiled $3.3 billion in federal grants to remove or retrofit highways that separate minority neighborhoods in many cities from jobs, entertainment centers, hospitals and other services.
Advertisement“Too many communities across America faced the loss of land, wealth and possibilities that still reverberate today,” Biden said.
“Today we’re recognizing that history to make new history.”Milwaukee is one of 132 communities in 40 states that will benefit from the Transportation Department program, which is among a number of new federal initiatives designed to aid places suffering long-term economic ills, officials said.
“For communities too often left behind, we’re rebuilding the roads, we’re repairing cracks in the sidewalk,” Biden said.
States such as Wisconsin are critical to Democratic hopes in November, and Biden’s appeal to Milwaukee’s large number of Black voters may decide his fate there.
If it succeeds, the effort could in theory help heal an economic divide that has fueled political resentment and convinced millions of Americans that Washington has abandoned them to decay.
“People and capital are trapped in places where the prospects are not that good,” said Simon Johnson, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“This is a big country with a lot of space.
Even its supporters acknowledge that Washington may struggle to sustain the decades-long effort that some distressed areas would require to heal.
“This is just not something that happens overnight.
We should be thinking of this in a multigenerational context,” said John Lettieri, chief executive of the Economic Innovation Group, a bipartisan think tank that, among other things, focuses on economically distressed areas.
The political stakes for Biden’s visit to Milwaukee were also evident.
AdvertisementBiden has made addressing racial inequity a key aspect of his presidency, and now his reelection bid.
He was elected in 2020, after the killing of George Floyd, amid calls for criminal justice, education and policing reforms.
Biden, facing energetic opposition from Republicans, has failed to push through several bills of widespread importance to Black Americans and other minorities.
There has been no sweeping police and criminal justice reform, and efforts to codify voting protections into federal law died in Congress.
Biden did sign an executive order in 2022 aimed at preventing and punishing police misconduct.
Biden has also said that equity is baked into individual provisions of laws like the Inflation Reduction Act.
On Wednesday, he stressed his initiatives that have disproportionately benefited Black Americans, everything from capping the price of insulin for Medicare recipients to increasing the Black employment rate.
Trump and his Republican allies, the president said, are trying to undo much of the progress his administration had made in recent years.
Even as he battles for political support, the president is also intent on cementing his economic legacy.
His industrial policies, including the place-based efforts, have reoriented Washington toward a more active economic role.
“This is a sea change,” said Mark Muro, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Many of the programs, especially those aimed at promoting domestic semiconductor production, enjoy bipartisan support.
But lawmakers have not always fully funded them.
But lawmakers ultimately appropriated just $500 million for the hubs.
In October, the Commerce Department named sites in 32 states as eligible to apply to receive the first implementation grants of $40 million to $70 million each.
AdvertisementEconomists long favored targeting people rather than places for government help.
But that began to change as the shared growth of the immediate post-World War II era gave way to a more uneven pattern.
Some hard-hit areas — like former coal-mining towns and factory communities in the Midwest — have now suffered for years with low employment rates and chronic social ills.
Wednesday’s presidential visit to Milwaukee was part of an all-hands-on-deck administration effort to promote Biden’s economic policies, as the president faces pressure to improve his poll numbers in coming months.
Treasury Secretary Jane

Speaking on Wednesday in Milwaukee, President Biden emphasized a new economic plan meant to revitalize areas that have been isolated from the country’s rising prosperity for decades. He described the community he spoke about as a painful example of racist urban policy. Every weekend, receive an email with ten of our best stories handpicked for you. In an area predominately made up of Black and Latino residents, ArrowRight Biden gave a speech at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee. In the 1960s, 17,000 homes and 1,000 businesses were demolished to make room for an interstate highway. The president is trying to win over minority voters in states that are crucial to his political future, and part of that effort includes a stop in Michigan on Thursday.

Amid the Midwestern upswing, the White House announced $33.3 billion in federal grants to eliminate or modify the highways dividing minority neighborhoods in numerous cities from employment, entertainment venues, medical facilities, and other amenities.


“Too many American communities experienced the loss of riches, land, and opportunities that continue to have an impact today,” Biden stated. We’re acknowledging that history today in order to create new history. “.

The Transportation Department program is one of several new federal initiatives aimed at helping communities suffering from long-term economic hardships; according to officials, it will benefit 132 communities spread across 40 states, including Milwaukee.

“We’re rebuilding the roads and fixing sidewalk cracks for communities that are far too often forgotten,” Biden remarked. “Safe spaces for play and living with clean air are what we’re building. “.

Biden’s support of policies meant to encourage development in particular areas represents a dramatic change in U.S. S. a measure with strong political overtones that constitutes the largest economic intervention by the government in at least 40 years. Democratic chances in states like Wisconsin in November may depend on Biden’s ability to win over the city’s sizable Black voter base.


The “place-based” strategy of the administration seeks to prevent blight in areas that would otherwise suffer during the transition to cleaner energy sources, rebuild communities devastated by the loss of factory jobs, and distribute prosperity more fairly through a combination of tax credits and spending.

In theory, if the initiative is successful, it may contribute to bridging the economic gap that has stoked political unrest and led millions of Americans to believe that Washington has abandoned them to deteriorate.

Economics professor Simon Johnson of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said, “People and capital are trapped in places where the prospects are not that good.”. “There is a lot of space in this large country. Let there be economic growth where the people desire it. “.

The very fact that the phrase “wrong side of the tracks” exists in American English tells you everything you need to know about our awareness in this country of how infrastructure can divide just as surely as it can connect, according to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who gave reporters a preview of the program earlier this week. “.


However, by attempting to concentrate federal power on revitalizing underprivileged communities, the president is taking a chance on a set of policies that have a patchy history. Washington might find it difficult to maintain the decades-long healing process that certain troubled areas need, even among its supporters.

Simply put, this takes time to happen. According to John Lettieri, CEO of the Economic Innovation Group, a bipartisan think tank that concentrates on economically distressed areas among other things, “we should be thinking of this in a multigenerational context.”.

It was also clear that Biden’s trip to Milwaukee had political ramifications. In an attempt to fortify the alliance that brought Biden Wisconsin’s victory by nearly 21,000 votes in 2020, his campaign said this week that it would be locating its Wisconsin operation in Milwaukee, the state’s most racially diverse city.


In his presidential campaign and now in his reelection campaign, Biden has made tackling racial injustice a top priority. Amidst demands for reforms in the areas of criminal justice, education, and policing, he was elected in 2020 following the death of George Floyd.

Several bills that are significant to Black Americans and other minorities have not passed because of Biden’s strong resistance from Republicans. Comprehensive reforms to the criminal justice and police systems have not been implemented, and attempts in Congress to incorporate voting rights into federal law were unsuccessful. In 2022, Biden did in fact issue an executive order designed to deter and penalize police misconduct.

Other achievements, according to his aides, have come from the administration’s historic court appointments, such as Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, and the choice of Vice President Harris, who is the first Asian American, Black, and woman to hold the position. Biden has further stated that certain parts of legislation, such as the Inflation Reduction Act, are designed with equity in mind.

He highlighted his policies on Wednesday that have disproportionately helped African Americans. These include raising the percentage of Black employment and capping the cost of insulin for Medicare beneficiaries. The president claimed that Trump and his Republican supporters are attempting to reverse a large portion of the advancements his administration has made in recent years.

The president is determined to establish his economic legacy in addition to fighting for political support. Washington is now playing a more active role in the economy thanks to his industrial policies, which also include place-based initiatives.


Over the course of the next five years, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Inflation Reduction Act, and the Chips and Science Act, which contain about 20 separate programs, are expected to disperse tens of billions of dollars throughout the economy. This is the largest such regionally concentrated endeavor in recent memory.

According to senior fellow at the Brookings Institution Mark Muro, “this is a sea change.”.

Both parties support a large number of the initiatives, particularly those that support homegrown semiconductor manufacturing. However, lawmakers haven’t always provided them with enough money.

As an example, the Chips Act authorized $10 billion in funding over five years to create 31 tech hubs in various communities across the nation, with the goal of fostering technology development outside of Silicon Valley and other established industry centers.

However, the hubs were only given $500 million by lawmakers in the end. The Commerce Department announced in October that locations in thirty-two states were qualified to submit applications for the initial $40 million to $70 million implementation grants.


For a long time, economists preferred to focus government assistance on individuals rather than places. But as the shared growth of the early post-World War II era gave way to a more uneven pattern, that started to change. Certain severely affected areas, such as the Midwest’s factory towns and former coal-mining towns, have long endured persistent social problems and low employment rates.

The president’s trip to Milwaukee on Wednesday was a part of an administration-wide push to support Biden’s economic policies, as the president is under pressure to boost his polling in the upcoming months. Treasury Under Secretary Janet L. Yellen went to Elizabethtown, Kentucky, for instance. , stopping by Advanced Nano Products, a manufacturer of materials for batteries for electric cars.

Biden’s strategy is set apart from what White House officials refer to as the previous unsuccessful “trickle-down” approaches. They claimed that growth was noticeably uneven as a result of stressing low tax rates and deregulation while relying on the market to distribute capital to deserving projects.


Instead, the officials argue that a strategy focused on utilizing the advantages of particular communities will reduce the regional disparity in economic outcomes. Due to the growth spurred by new technologies over the past few decades, certain coastal cities have seen an increase in the concentration of jobs and wealth, while other areas have stagnated.

Approximately 90% of all high-tech jobs emerged in five metro areas between 2005 and 2017, according to Brookings: Boston, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, and San Diego.

The high cost of housing in job-rich areas frequently made relocation prohibitively expensive for Americans who once frequently moved in search of opportunity, and as a result, they became significantly less mobile.

According to the Census Bureau, only 8 points 7 percent of Americans moved in 2022, nearly all of them at an all-time low compared to over 20 percent in the mid-1980s.

Promoting something.

Prior to the initiative’s official announcement, a White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, stated, “We think the market failure is pretty clear.”.

By updating antiquated roads, bridges, and telecom connections, luring private capital to invest alongside the government, and removing physical obstacles to opportunity—like the interstate highways that were plowed through numerous African American neighborhoods in the 1950s and 1960s—Biden’s approach aims to assist underprivileged communities.

Aiming to tackle deeply ingrained issues, officials say they plan to “stack,” or integrate, several federal initiatives in different places. Lael Brainard, director of the National Economic Council, mentioned Milwaukee and Allentown, Pennsylvania, in a recent speech. as proof of preliminary success.

The 1933 Tennessee Valley Authority Act, which provided electrification and flood control and sparked regional development, is one example of the historic moments that these place-based strategies evoke. The Appalachian Regional Commission aided in promoting highway development through one of the poorest regions of the country in the 1960s.

Both TVA and ARC functioned. Naturally, they were substantial resources, according to Tim Bartik, senior economist at the W. D. E. The Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.

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