Brainard Pitches Biden’s Economic Efforts In Hard-Hit Regions

President Biden’s top economic adviser will argue on Monday that the administration is engineering a revival of economically disadvantaged communities across the nation, largely relying on anecdotal evidence and patterns of new federal spending in places like Eastern Pennsylvania and Milwaukee, Wis.

Lael Brainard, who heads Mr. Biden’s National Economic Council, will use a speech to the Brookings Institution in Washington to lay out a detailed blueprint of the administration’s efforts to bring jobs, investment and innovation to areas hobbled by the loss of jobs and industries.

Those “place-based” policies are often directed at former industrial strongholds that were battered by automation and foreign competition. They are a cornerstone of Mr. Biden’s economic agenda across several major pieces of legislation he has signed and a big part of his re-election pitch. Whether voters perceive them as successful could affect Mr. Biden’s chances in November, particularly in industrial swing states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Mr. Biden “came to office determined to invest in all of America, to leave no community behind. It is working,” Ms. Brainard plans to say, according to a copy of her prepared remarks. “Communities that had been left behind are making a comeback.”

Place-based efforts were included in several laws that Mr. Biden signed, including those aimed at infrastructure, climate change and clean-energy production and semiconductors and other advanced manufacturing, all of which Ms. Brainard plans to spotlight on Monday afternoon. The Commerce and Transportation Departments have launched pilot programs to support neighborhoods that have historically been cut off from opportunity.

Ms. Brainard will make case studies of two areas in particular: Allentown, Pa., and Milwaukee, both of which Mr. Biden visited recently.

After his Allentown visit, Mr. Biden told reporters that he was “really reassured that what we’ve done has had an impact not just here in Eastern Pennsylvania and — but — in the Northeast, but throughout the country. And we’re going to do more.”

Ms. Brainard does not plan to offer comprehensive national statistics to support the administration’s revival claims, other than a Treasury Department analysis that finds low-emission energy investments spurred by Mr. Biden’s climate law have disproportionately boosted lower-income areas and communities that have been historically reliant on fossil fuels.

Ms. Brainard will say that the Allentown area, for example, has experienced a “boom” in job creation and small business formation under Mr. Biden, after listing investments the administration has steered to the region’s roads, airports and more. But she does not explicitly link that spending and those trends.

Administration officials acknowledge that many of Mr. Biden’s programs to help hard-hit communities are still in their infancy, and that it may be difficult to assess their effects yet. But Ms. Brainard, in an interview ahead of the speech, said it was fair for Mr. Biden to claim credit for gains in areas like Allentown and Milwaukee.

“In many left-behind communities, unemployment rates have been well above the national average for years,” she said. “And what you’re seeing in those communities now is that unemployment rates have actually moved down below 4 percent, which are, in some cases, a level they haven’t seen in a very long time.”

The unemployment rate in the Allentown area was 3.9 percent in November, according to the Labor Department. That’s down from nearly 9.5 percent after the 2008 financial crisis and 4.2 percent on the eve of the pandemic in February 2020, when Donald J. Trump was president. In November, unemployment was 3.1 percent in the Milwaukee area, the same rate as it was in February 2020, and down from 10 percent after the 2008 recession.

Mr. Trump has long promised on the campaign trail and in the White House to revitalize hard-hit American communities. He is making similar promises as he attempts to defeat Mr. Biden this fall, a counterpoint that looms over the president’s place-based effort.

While Ms. Brainard will not mention Mr. Trump by name, she plans to cast Mr. Biden’s place-based policies as the antidote to what the administration calls the failed promises of “trickle-down economics,” including those practiced by the previous administration. That term has long been associated with Republican tax policies. By cutting rates on high earners and corporations, conservative economists have long contended, policymakers would stoke fast economic growth that would lift incomes for all workers.

The Biden administration has attempted to broaden that trickle-down phrase to include the outsourcing of jobs and factories to foreign shores.

Mr. Trump’s signature 2017 tax-cut law included deep cuts to corporate and individual tax rates, but it also featured a place-based program: a tax-based incentive called Opportunity Zones that sought to entice investors to put money into designated lower-income areas. The program has continued under Mr. Biden, even as his aides have debated whether to attempt to change it. Asked whether the administration judged that program to be succeeding, Ms. Brainard did not answer directly.

“I’ve been very focused on making sure the president’s policies are implemented and are having the effect of lifting up these communities,” Ms. Brainard said. “That’s been my focus.”

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