United States President-elect Joe Biden today outlined his plans to alleviate economic inequality and boost the US economy but said any structural reforms depend first on reining in the coronavirus pandemic.
"Once we shut down the virus and deliver economic relief to workers and businesses, then we can start to build back better than before," Biden said during remarks in Wilmington, Delaware.
He expressed frustration at the Trump Administration's attempts to delay the transition, warning that "more people may die" if it is further delayed.
Biden spoke about his plans to invest in infrastructure, technology and clean energy jobs, and create American manufacturing jobs by encouraging companies to make their products in the US.
Earlier, Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris held virtual meetings with business and labour leaders — including AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, General Motors CEO Mary Barra and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella — and said that despite their differences, they were able to "come together around the same table to advance areas of common ground."
The President-elect also said that unions would have more power under his administration, and he emphasised the contributions that unions have made to the middle class.
Biden, a Democrat, has vowed to spend trillions of dollars to reinvigorate US manufacturing, expand health care coverage and combat climate change, among other priorities.
But before he can pursue any large-scale reforms, Biden will first have to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, which is spiking across the nation and threatens to cause further damage just as the US economy was rebounding from the initial surge of cases.
The unemployment rate dropped a full percentage point last month to 6.9 per cent and those who still have jobs — many of them working from home — have stepped up their spending on cars, electronics and home renovations.
But much of the rebound was fuelled by US$2 trillion in stimulus funding that has largely run its course. And there are signs that the ongoing increases in confirmed virus cases are making Americans more cautious about traveling and shopping.
Consumers cut back on spending in early November, according to JPMorgan Chase, which tracks spending on 30 million of its debit and credit cards. Spending declines have been larger in some states with severe outbreaks, such as Iowa and North Dakota.
Most economists support another round of stimulus, including loans to small businesses, extended unemployment benefits, and support for states and cities. Congressional Democrats have previously backed another US$2 trillion in aid.
But Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader, has pointed to the falling unemployment rate as evidence that much less stimulus is needed. Senate Republicans have backed just US$500 billion in new spending.
Since winning the presidency, Biden has not publicly weighed in on his priorities for a Covid-19 stimulus, but he said during the campaign he favours a broader package like the one Democrats have proposed. Biden spoke about the need for the stimulus during a joint call with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer last week.