At home in Scranton, facing a fight in Washington, Biden presents his sprawling national program
SCRANTON, Pennsylvania – President Joe Biden took the stage on Wednesday in his childhood hometown, surrounded by vivid images of America’s infrastructure.
A retired Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority wagon sitting to its far right offered an example of the country’s infrastructure neglect. His letters were barely visible. The paint on the door was scuffed and faded.
Next door, however, was a renovated streetcar, adorned with patriotic pennants and “Build Back Better” signs.
Biden used his speech at the Electric City Trolley Museum in downtown Scranton to claim that his National Signature Program will make the country’s infrastructure look like the rigged cart instead of the rusty wagon.
This change will improve the country’s economy and environment, he said.
“Did you know that the Chinese are now building a train that will go up to 300 miles an hour? Biden asked. “You say, ‘What difference does that make, Biden? Well guess what? If you can take a train from here to Washington much faster than by car, you take a train. We will literally take millions of cars off the road, saving tens of millions of barrels of oil. “
After spending the first few months of his administration dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and getting the nation vaccinated, the president moved on to extensive infrastructure and economic plans.
They would include massive investments in transport, broadband, early childhood education and other areas. However, Democrats’ slim majority in Congress has resulted in a protracted and frustrating legislative struggle for the president.
He doesn’t give up.
“This was declared dead on arrival from the time I presented it,” Biden said. “But I think we’re going to surprise them because I think people are starting to understand what’s at stake.”
Earlier in the afternoon, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., And U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright, D-8th District, appeared confident the bills would eventually pass.
Just hours before Biden took the stage, NPR reported that the administration was abandoning its two-year tuition-free community college plan.
The goals Biden has set for himself are important, said State Representative Maureen Madden D-Monroe. They will take care of the basic needs of the people, she said.
State Senator Marty Flynn, D-Lackawanna, brought up the Child Tax Credit, saying it was a public policy that people could see immediately affect their finances. Biden wants to expand the program.
“I think it’s huge,” Flynn said.
Madden also said the possibility of a passenger train from Scranton to New York would make a huge difference to the region.
“I feel like we are closer than ever,” she told The Capital Star.
Larry Malski, president of the Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Railroad Authority, has been advocating for the return of rail to the region for decades and knows what it’s like to face empty promises.
Is he optimistic?
“More than I have been in 40 years,” he said.
Everyone is talking about the possible line. That the CEO and chairman of Amtrak attended Biden’s speech did not go unnoticed.
The president bragged about his ties to the railroad, noting that he had 2 million Amtrak miles to his credit. It comes from decades of commuting between his home in Delaware and Washington DC.
He also spent the first 10 years of his life in Scranton and recently returned to the narrative of pitting Scranton’s values against Wall Street interests as he struggles to pass his legislation.
This time, he didn’t just talk about the values he learned as a child in the 1940s in Scranton, but how the city grew in the late 1800s and early from 20e century can be repeated with different resources.
It’s a parallel to the nation for Biden.
“Coal built this city,” he said, “but we have to provide other avenues. “
Biden argued that the nation must return to the values of promoting and investing in education.
Scranton would benefit from green energy jobs in the region and many of its infrastructure programs and spending bills, he said.
Wilkes-Barre Mayor George Brown agrees.
Before the speech, he explained to the Capital-Star how his city is still grappling with the problems of the pandemic. Companies like Guard Insurance employ thousands of people, but still operate on a work-from-home system. This deprived downtown restaurants and businesses of much-needed revenue.
Meanwhile, the region is grappling with increasing damage from severe storms.
So the funds Biden advocates would take a lot of pressure off the city government, Brown said.
Brown advocated for the region, stressing that if this region succeeds it will be a boon to the state and a building block for the nation’s economic return.
Correspondent Patrick Abdalla covers northeastern Pennsylvania for the Capital-Star. Follow him on twitter @WhatTheFather.