Joseph Zeballos-Roig
Joseph Zeballos-Roig
Feb 22, 2023, 1:53pm EST

The White House’s pitch to non-college workers


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The News

Joe Biden at the 2022 Detroit Auto Show.
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Top Biden administration officials tasked with implementing hundreds of billions of dollars in new tax breaks and spending on energy, infrastructure, and manufacturing say they plan to emphasize hiring more non-college workers.

“Most of these jobs won’t require a four-year college degree, so that everybody who does a hard day’s work can make a good living,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm wrote in a joint memo shared with Semafor ahead of its public release on the White House blog.

They estimate the federal government has incentivized “more than $350 billion in private investment for industries like clean energy and microchip manufacturing” through policies like the infrastructure law, CHIPS and Science Act, and Inflation Reduction Act, which they said would also benefit “women and people of color.”

“Too many Americans were left behind and forgotten through drastic economic changes over the last four decades,” the cabinet secretaries wrote. “To grow our economy, we need to make it as easy as possible for every American, especially those underrepresented in growing industries, to train and get these jobs in their communities.”

The White House previously launched an initiative to secure commitments from private companies, unions, and local community colleges to partner on apprenticeship programs and training for jobs in industries related to the administration’s agenda.

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Joseph's view

Faced with gridlock in Congress, the White House is tilting into a major theme of Biden’s recent State of the Union address: Selling Americans on the benefits of his already-passed economic legislation.

In that speech, Biden pledged those programs would generate high-paying jobs at home, particularly for workers without a college degree.

“We’re building an economy where no one’s left behind,” he said earlier this month, calling it “a blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America.”

Biden has eagerly touted new factory openings tied to electric vehicles and batteries, for example, where the IRA's tax credits appear to be having a stronger impact on private investment than some outside analysts like the Congressional Budget Office initially expected.

He has plenty of work to do, though: Polls show Americans are still sour on Biden’s economic stewardship after a stretch of decades-high inflation.

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Room for Disagreement

Former Vice President Mike Pence slammed new electric vehicle tax credits included in Biden’s health, climate and tax law on Wednesday. He argued the measure is a boon to China, since it’s the dominant power in battery production for now.

“Let’s do innovation here and not further subsidize the largest authoritarian nation in the world,” he told CNBC.

The administration is hoping incentives in the tax credits for companies who manufacture batteries in America and source minerals from free-trade partners will help eat into China’s lead.

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  • Outgoing National Economic Council Director Brian Deese gave a wide-ranging exit interview to The New York Times in which he expressed confidence that the White House is in a stronger position to explain the benefits of their agenda now that it’s past the chaotic legislative process that shaped it in a 50-50 Senate.