AILSA CHANG, HOST:
This morning we learned that 1.3 million people newly filed for unemployment in the U.S. last week. It adds to the bleak backdrop for the presidential election as the candidates pitch their plans to revive a pandemic-ravaged economy. Today Joe Biden went to Pennsylvania to announce his economic recovery plan, and here to unpack it is NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben. Hey, Danielle.
DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.
CHANG: Hey. So what is Biden proposing here?
KURTZLEBEN: So it's a plan, he said, to rebuild after COVID, after this recession we're having. He has said already, for example, that he wants to better aid local governments and extend the crisis unemployment payments people have now. But his speech today also laid out more. He took an optimistic tone amid all this bleakness, saying, yes, there are crises happening right now - multiple - but that those can also be opportunities.
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JOE BIDEN: But each of these also presents tremendous opportunity for the nation - an opportunity to prepare now for the future threats we know are just around the corner, an opportunity to address fundamental inequities of our nation, the growing gap between the very wealthy and everyone else.
KURTZLEBEN: So he has four big pillars to this plan he laid out today. One is boosting manufacturing. One is spending on infrastructure. One is boosting people's ability to get child care and provide care to their relatives. And fourth, racial economic equities - closing some very big gaps between different racial and ethnic groups in our country. So, yes, he's saying, here's how I want to get out of this crisis. But also, he was making the pitch that we can come out of this with better fundamentals underlying the economy.
CHANG: I mean, wow. When you lay out the four pillars like that, they're pretty ambitious ideas. What struck you in all of this?
KURTZLEBEN: Yes, it is ambitious. That is definitely a big thing. I mean, largely, what he put out there is just an outline with more concrete plans to come. But one is that this is a firmly Democratic - capital D - plan with a focus on unionization and racial equity and paid leave, very popular ideas among Democrats. So while some of the ideas are ambitious in size or scope, the what of these plans, like buying American goods and boosting unions - those are broadly agreeable among Democrats and...
KURTZLEBEN: ...Maybe some independents, too. But one other thing is we should also say that he did release more detailed plans in particular on one of those pillars - manufacturing. He wanted to make sure, for example, that the government buys American goods when it spends taxpayer money. And that is one of those big in size and scope things. He's proposing $400 billion in procurement from U.S. manufacturers. That's a lot.
CHANG: Yeah, it is a lot. I mean, on manufacturing, we do see politicians talk a lot about manufacturing. Like, President Obama did it. President Trump definitely does it. Tell me; why does manufacturing in particular - why does it so often get so much political attention?
KURTZLEBEN: That's - there's so much here. I mean, you can read both economic and political motives into it - economic because, yes, automation has eaten away at a lot of manufacturing jobs. But even then, manufacturing still employs a lot of Americans. And those can be good-paying, stable jobs, like Joe Biden often says. And by the way, we've seen during this pandemic that we've needed a boost in producing things like protective gear and ventilators. But aside from that, think about demographics. There are lots of white men in manufacturing. Trump has done very well with them, so Biden could maybe pick up some votes there. And super-importantly, manufacturing is big in swing states like Pennsylvania, where Trump - where Biden was today.
CHANG: That is NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben. Thank you, Danielle.
KURTZLEBEN: Yes. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.