In Georgia, Biden begins his sales pitch for $4T spending package

A day after President Joe Biden outlined $4 trillion worth of proposals that would fundamentally reshape the federal government’s role, the Democrat embarked on a trip to Georgia that was part sales job and part “thank-you” for making his agenda possible.

Biden marked the 100th-day milestone in Georgia with an urgent plea to back an unprecedented expansion of the nation’s infrastructure, education system and social framework by raising taxes on the wealthy.

“America is on the move again,” he said at a drive-in rally in Gwinnett County, as car horns honked in approval. “We’re choosing hope over fear. Truth over lies. Light over darkness. We’re working again, we’re dreaming again, we’re discovering again.”

The visit came after Biden’s first address to a joint session of Congress, where he challenged Americans to harness a “great inflection point” to back a $1.8 trillion social spending package that would be the largest expansion of government’s role since Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society.

It follows a $1.9 trillion coronavirus aid package that has already been signed into law and a still-pending $2.3 trillion package to rebuild roads and bridges as part of a far-ranging infrastructure overhaul.

Biden’s visit to Georgia was designed to build momentum behind his push for a more muscular government to reorient the nation’s safety net.

But it also was meant to reward Georgia Democrats in a combustible new political battleground who fueled not just his narrow victory in November but also the U.S. Senate runoff sweep in January that flipped control of that chamber.

The roughly $6 trillion in combined spending wouldn’t even have a remote chance of passing a divided Washington without the upset victories by Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, who campaigned on a pledge to enthusiastically back Biden’s platform.

“We owe a special thanks to the people of Georgia. Because of you, the rest of America was able to get help,” he said. “If you ever wonder if elections make a difference, just remember what you did here in Georgia.”

Already, Republicans have fiercely resisted the proposals, which they deride as a “radical” blueprint ripe for waste. Savannah Viar of the Republican National Committee called it a “disastrous” first 100 days and criticized Biden for his opposition to Georgia’s new election law.

From Plains to the ’burbs

Before his swing through Gwinnett, Biden and his wife, Jill, rekindled a long friendship with Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter in the former president’s southwest Georgia hometown of Plains.

The two Democrats met for roughly 45 minutes in Carter’s house just outside of downtown Plains, putting a bow on a relationship that stemmed from a young senator taking a chance by endorsing a little-known peanut farmer-turned-Georgia governor to be president.

The motorcade route was lined with many of the town’s roughly 600 residents, some who waved Biden-Harris placards as the convoy rumbled by a sign that welcomed visitors to the home of “our 39th president.”

Former first lady Rosalynn Carter, center, walks U.S. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden out after their visit Thursday with former President Jimmy Carter in Plains. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

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The president’s approach to his first 100 days in office parallels Carter’s more liberal ideological view of government’s role in society’s safety net. And Biden’s assertion Wednesday that “trickle-down economics has never worked” was a rebuke to the philosophy of Republican Ronald Reagan, who trounced Carter in 1980.

The visit also underscored the growing importance of Georgia on the national electoral map ahead of a 2022 election cycle when Warnock will stand for a full six-year term and every statewide constitutional office, including Gov. Brian Kemp’s seat, is up for grabs.

Georgia will undoubtedly be one of the nation’s premier battleground states once again, and the national glare will focus once again on the Senate race and the contest for governor, which is expected to feature a rematch between Kemp and Stacey Abrams.

The beeline to Atlanta’s suburbs also sent a message about the importance of Georgia — and Gwinnett County — to ascendant Democrats.

Once considered a Republican stronghold, the diverse, fast-growing bedroom community is a cornerstone of the Democratic coalition in Georgia, and Biden carried Gwinnett with 58% of the vote.

“We played a very important role in 2020 in delivering Biden a governing majority,” said U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, whose flip of the Gwinnett-based 7th Congressional District was one of the few down-ticket bright spots for Democrats in U.S. House contests.

“It’s a slim one,” she said, “but it’s enabled him to actually accomplish things in a government that’s struggled with gridlock.”


Outside the rally, a small group of Republicans waved signs knocking Biden’s opposition to a rewrite of Georgia’s election law that includes new voting restrictions.

On a flag-festooned stage, Biden pronounced the new measure “wrong” and said it was a pressing example of why Congress needs to adopt a federal voting rights expansion that would override many of the changes.

As he started to speak, Biden was briefly interrupted by a small group of demonstrators who unfurled an orange banner and demanded that he close private prisons and overhaul his immigration policy. He urged them to give him more time to tackle the policy before they were removed by security guards.

Biden’s vision of a more activist government is already underway.

The coronavirus relief package, adopted over unanimous Republican dissent, financed direct checks of $1,400 to many Americans and a torrent of new aid for education, vaccine distribution and public health. Georgia’s state and local governments will receive more than $8 billion, along with $4 billion to school systems.

The social spending proposal Biden unveiled Wednesday, what he calls the American Family Plan, would be a more ambitious expansion, with calls for universal preschool, new incentives for child care and an expansion of free community college to bolster the middle class and uplift the poor.

“We need to invest in things our families care about and need the most,” Biden said, promising the new spending would be financed by increasing taxes on households earning more than $400,000 annually.

“It’s about time the very wealthy and corporations start paying their fair share,” Biden said. “It’s as simple as that.”