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Labor Secretary, Second Gentleman Promote Democrats' Economic Plans in Memphis

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Katie Riordan
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The Biden administration is promoting its multi-trillion dollar American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan in cities across the country. And on Thursday, that effort included a stop in the Mid-South for Vice President Kamala Harris’ husband, Doug Emhoff, and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh. 

They visited a federally-funded vocational school to talk up the spending packages, while holding a roundtable discussion with one student and several administrators at the Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks Job Corps Center in South Memphis. 

The corps' residential campus provides training for careers in fields like construction, healthcare and computer technology. 

Participants told the Washington delegation, which included Congressman Steve Cohen, that schools like the center need to reach a wider audience and be able to more quickly adapt their programs to changing industries. 

Secretary Walsh touted that Biden’s jobs proposal includes targeted workforce training initiatives, in addition to extensive funding for traditional infrastructure projects.

“People [are] saying there aren’t enough people skilled in the jobs that are available, well we have a major investment in workforce development and apprentices in the American Jobs Plan,” Walsh said.

The Memphis conversation also touched on the importance of affordable childcare, especially to  attract and retain women in the labor pool. The American Families Plan proposes assisting low and middle income parents pay for the cost of services. The accompanying jobs plan additionally earmarks billions to build new childcare facilities.

“Some people say it’s not infrastructure. Well it is, because if you don’t have a place to bring your children to get taken care of while you’re in school...or you’re going to work, that hurts the infrastructure of the county,” Walsh said.

Republicans have dismissed the expansive scope of programs called for under the umbrella of the White House’s infrastructure package. They’ve responded with a more restrained plan at about a fourth of the cost.

Conservative lawmakers also protest paying for it by raising the corporate tax rate to 28 percent as Biden is requesting. A GOP-led Congress and the Trump administration revamped the tax code in 2017, lowering the corporate rate to its current level of 21 percent.  

Walsh defended the strategy to hike it back up.

“I know nobody wants to pay higher taxes and no company does,” he said. "But the same companies that are benefiting from a strong economy will benefit from a stronger workforce, and a more prepared workforce, as well as a workforce that we can take care of our children and our elders.”  

Biden recently said he’s willing to negotiate on the tax rate