Biden Labor Day Milwaukee
President Joe Biden speaks during an event at Henry Maier Festival Park in Milwaukee, Monday, Sept. 5, 2022. Biden is in Wisconsin this Labor Day to kick off a nine-week sprint to the crucial midterm elections. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Speaking at Laborfest, President Biden tells a Milwaukee crowd not to let America fall prey to “MAGA Republicans, the extreme right, and Trumpies.”

Reported by Cherita Booker

Speaking forcefully in favor of union jobs and trumpeting his legislative victories during his first two years in office, President Joe Biden reminded a Milwaukee Laborfest crowd Monday that Republicans—including Sen. Ron Johnson—had a chance to support his efforts to fight inflation, reduce the deficit, cap insulin costs, and make large corporations pay their fair share of taxes—and refused. But the president was equally forceful not to take November’s midterm elections for granted—and that supporters of former President Donald Trump could harm the country if Democrats lose control of Congress in elections this November.

“You would think if the Republicans really cared about reducing inflation, they’d vote for the Inflation Reduction Act,” Biden told the supportive crowd. “But every single Republican voted against lowering prescription drug prices, against lowering health care costs, against protecting your pensions, against lower energy costs, against creating good paying jobs, against a fair tax system. Every single one in the House and Senate.”

Biden singled out Johnson—who’s running for a third term—noting the senator praised a plan by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Florida) that would force Social Security, Medicare and other federal programs to face possible repeal every five years. He then reminded the crowd that Johnson went further, saying the programs that support tens of millions of Americans should come up for renewal annually, as discretionary spending rather than as a promised benefit to the nation’s workers when they retire.

“He wants to put Social Security and Medicare literally on the chopping block every single year,” Biden told the crowd, who booed at the mention of Johnson. “Treat it like any other appropriation. Let me remind you, you paid for your Social Security, Medicare, taken out of your paycheck from the time you’re 18 years old. He’s the same guy who said if Republicans get control of Congress, they’re coming after the Affordable Care Act again.”

“This guy never stops,” the president continued. “But guess what? I ain’t stopping either.”

Biden went on to praise the union workforce in attendance, telling them while the middle class built America, “Everybody knows that. But unions built the middle class.”

“I just appreciate him coming to Milwaukee just to show support for the union because without unions, America wouldn’t be America,” said Laborfest attendee Steve Farrington. “Workers built this country. We need more support. We need more Democrats. We need more democracy.”

“I think what Joe Biden had to say today was incredibly union affirming,’ said Laborfest attendee Lindsay Blumer. “Workers are incredibly important to this country. It’s a part of a great movement going forward, that we’re in this together, and we’re union strong. Especially here in Milwaukee.”

The president’s Milwaukee visit only reaffirmed Wisconsin’s national status as a bellwether state in fall elections that could determine control of both the US House and Senate. Biden then flew off to Pittsburgh and further reinforced Pennsylvania’s importance in November. Both states have highly contentious races for governor and US Senate. Biden touted the benefits of his infrastructure plan that passed Congress on a bipartisan vote and is expected to benefit both states for years.

“This is a once in a lifetime investment,” said Kent Miller, new president of the Wisconsin Laborers District Council, which oversees 9,000 union-represented construction trades workers. “We’re going to see in Wisconsin, probably an extra billion dollars over the next 5 years. That’s going to be anything from more roads and bridges, fixing our transportation infrastructure, the lead laterals, improving our water infrastructure, and broadband.”

The bill is paid for by closing loopholes in the tax code.

“I grew up in the Midwest. I live on the east coast now,” said attendee Curtis Gibson. “We have to make sure that corporations aren’t getting a free pass, we have to make sure that the tax-paying citizens get what’s coming to them. Mainly we have to invest in the future, like climate change and what’s happening there. We need more investment in green energy. “ 

“It was a great speech, the core of it was that the middle class is America, which was built by labor workers. That’s what we’re here for,” said attendee Seth Hardy.

Also there to support Biden was Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson and County Executive David Crowley, who made their way through the crowds, shaking hands and taking photos with attendees. 

The president was introduced by Gov. Tony Evers, who said that workers are keeping more of their paychecks thanks to a 15% income tax-cut that he signed. He also mentioned that he invested more than $150 million in filling jobs and expanding job training and apprenticeship programs.

Biden echoed a theme from his speech last week in Philadelphia when he tried to draw a clear line between Republican voters who don’t support threats to democracy and those who embrace 2020 election lies and conspiracies, calling them “MAGA Republicans, the extreme right, and Trumpies” who have “chosen to go backwards, full of anger, violence, hate, division.”

“But together we can, and we must, choose a different path forward,” Biden said. “A future of unity and hope. we’re going to choose to build a better America.”