The contrast in the messages that each party is offering to Americans could not be more stark. One party is out selling popular policies and promising to help ordinary Americans; the other is selling its soul to pledge fealty to the disgraced former president.

President Biden on Thursday visited Lake Charles, La., the site of multiple natural disasters that wreaked havoc on people and property, to speak about his infrastructure plan. Pointing to the Calcasieu River bridge on Interstate 10 behind him, which received a poor safety rating when last inspected, he explained that the “typical American pays a hidden tax of more than $1,000 a year in the time wasted and the fuel wasted due to traffic congestion because of the nature of our infrastructure.” He continued, "We rank eighth in the world in terms of our infrastructure. We used to be the leader in the world. All told, these delays cost our country, according to economists, an estimated $160 billion a year in waste, extra fuel, extra time, and the like.”

Biden, as he usually does, made a quick pivot to jobs. “Nearly 90 percent of all the infrastructure jobs that this is going to create won’t require a college degree. Seventy-five percent of them won’t even require an associate’s degree. These are jobs that can’t be outsourced,” Biden explained. “They just require something we’ve got in good supply here in Louisiana: hard work, grit and sweat. Like the workers that are here today, and like all of the people you know and grew up with.” Going right for blue-collar workers, the president declared it was an “easy choice” to invest in “workers wearing hard hats and doing the hard work of rebuilding the country and putting line workers, for example, to put line workers and electricians to work laying thousands of miles of transmission lines to build a modern energy grid.” And while Republicans would not call it infrastructure, Biden made the pitch that the bill will also “put people to work upgrading and [Veterans Administration] hospitals and put up for our veterans and our service members and military families.”

Explaining how he’s going to pay for it, Biden offered a message that Republicans looking for an actual populist agenda might want to consider:

I’m sick and tired of corporate America not paying their fair share. Their taxes used to be 36 percent. We all thought that was too high, even in our administration. And we wanted to reduce it to 28 percent, make it more competitive. Some thought 24. But it got reduced to 21 percent. Do you know what the result is? Of the largest corporations in America, 50 don’t pay a penny in tax. Made $40 billion, don’t pay a penny in tax.
If you’re a construction worker and your wife’s a school teacher, you’re paying at a higher tax rate than corporate America’s paying, not a joke. Not a joke. I don’t want to punish them.

Biden then denounced “trickle down” economics, arguing: "I’m looking to rebuild America as a world leader. I’m going to look to make sure we have the best and most significant infrastructure in the world. It’s time to grow this economy from the bottom up and the middle out.”

Corporations — after escalating salaries for their executives for years and using tax cuts to buy back stocks — will pay a little more. And Americans will get blue-collar, good-paying jobs. That’s the “Middle Class Joe” message on which Biden built a career and his 2020 campaign.

So what was the country hearing from Republicans on Thursday? Ron DeSantis, the Republican governor of Florida and a wannabe 2024 presidential candidate, signed a voter suppression bill behind closed doors, with Fox News broadcasting the event exclusively as the informal “state TV” for the right. (Disclaimer: I am an MSNBC contributor.) Meanwhile, congressional Republicans are planning to kick Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) out of her leadership position for refusing to lie about the insurrection incited by the disgraced former president. Her replacement almost certainly will be Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), who lacks the character needed to resist spreading the Big Lie that the election was stolen.

None of this has anything to do with making the lives of Americans better. None of it is a response to Biden’s economic message. Republicans are all about keeping themselves in power, even if it means perpetuating a lie that undermines democracy and suppressing the vote.

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