With unemployment numbers at their worst level in 90 years, former vice president Joe Biden did not have to strain during his economic address on Friday to come up with a devastating argument against President Trump. Emerging from his basement, the presumptive Democratic nominee took off his mask — metaphor alert for the difference between Biden and the science-denying president — and pounded at Trump. His argument was three-fold:

First, rather than simply saying the president blew it on the coronavirus pandemic, consigning us to a shelter-in-place strategy that crashed the economy, Biden converts the covid-19 crash into an indictment of Trump’s wrongheaded priorities. Get ready to hear a lot about how Trump “hollowed out” the economy. Biden argues that the economy was less able to absorb the pandemic because Trump had systematically favored big investors, big business and his cronies. The president fixated on the Dow Jones industrial average (refusing to take quick action for fear of spooking the markets); spent $2 trillion on tax cuts favoring the rich and corporations; and lost sight of the “forgotten men and women” he promised to help by failing to pass infrastructure legislation, not addressing child care and not addressing off-shoring of jobs. “It always ends up the same way,” Biden claimed. “The rich get richer, the powerful get more power, and everyone else gets told they just need to work harder. We’ve heard it before — and we’re not buying it.”

Second, Biden attacks the idea that everything was swell before the virus. He argued that “if you need proof that Trump’s policies were a failure even before this virus hit, just compare the first 35 months of Trump’s presidency to the last 35 months of the Obama-Biden administration. Hiring was slower, and real wages grew more slowly too.” (That should drive Trump — who never achieved numbers comparable to President Barack Obama’s — nuts.)

Third, Biden goes after Trump’s approach to recovery — bailing out big business while resisting oversight, (“It turns out corruption is a feature of the Trump economic agenda, not a bug. He will pick his wealthy friends, his corporate cronies, over working families every time.”) At a time Trump is refusing to aid states and cities that employ police, firefighters and health-care workers, it’s a powerful class argument.

All of this sets the scene for a favorite Democratic argument — namely that Republicans are for the fat cats but Democrats look after the little guy. “It’s time we make sure everyone gets a fair shot at success, not just the Mar-a-Lago crowd,” Biden said. “Since the very first days of my campaign, I’ve had a simple message: Wall Street and CEOs didn’t build this country. The middle class built this country. Ordinary women and men who are capable of doing extraordinary things when given half a chance. They built the country.” We will see the list of pro-worker measures that actually do address the needs of voters to whom Trump sold a bill of goods, including paid sick leave and child care support, green energy initiatives, refashioning unemployment to keep people employed and “producing here at home the machines and equipment we need to fight the pandemic and ensure public health.” Throw in education and support for the Affordable Care Act, and you have a bread-and-butter economic message that goes beyond “just” the pandemic.

As the disastrous jobs numbers came out, the pro-Biden PAC Unite the Country came out with its first ad:

It all hangs together: Republicans wrecked the economy, and Biden can fix it for the benefit of the middle class. Aside from the pandemic, that’s pretty much the message then-candidate Obama used in 2008. There’s good reason to think it will work this time, too.

(Note to readers: A very happy and healthy Mother’s Day to all the moms. Enjoy your Sunday. I’ll be back on Monday.)

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