A term which most likely started as a pejorative is being embraced by U.S. President Joe Biden.
“The Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal have started to call my plan Bidenomics. I don’t think they meant it with a great deal of respect,” Biden said with a chuckle during comments Wednesday afternoon delivered at the Arcosa Wind Towers facility in the Rio Grande Industrial Park south of Rio Communities. “With all due respect for them, our plan is working. We’ve created 13 million brand new jobs in less than three years, 90,000 new jobs right here in New Mexico, 800,000 manufacturing jobs nationwide.
“Now, they’re tired of hearing me say this but where is it written that America can’t lead the world again in manufacturing, because we’re going to do just that.”
Biden paid a visit to Valencia County this week to tout the progress of his 2022 Inflation Reduction Act. Signed into law last August, the IRA makes a commitment to build a new clean energy economy, focused on American innovators, workers and manufacturers, with the priorities of creating union jobs and cutting pollution.
“Many of the clean energy tax provisions offer bonus credits to projects that are located in low-income communities or energy communities, pay prevailing wages and use registered apprentices, or meet certain domestic content requirements — all with the goal of creating good-paying, high quality jobs and shared economic growth that will last well beyond the Biden-Harris administration,” wrote John Podesta, the senior advisor to the president for clean energy innovation and implementation, in the introduction to the January 2023 guidebook to the IRA’s investments in clean energy and climate action.
The act promises $370 billion in investments that will lower energy costs for families and small businesses, accelerate private investment in clean energy solutions in every sector of the economy and every corner of the country, strengthen supply chains for everything from critical minerals to efficient electric appliances, and create good-paying jobs and new economic opportunities for workers.
Biden told the small crowd of invited local, state and federal officials and community members on Wednesday he had watched companies invest overseas due to cheaper labor for decades, which shut down factories across the country.
“I asked myself, ‘Why do we have to put up with that?’ We knew we could change it,” he said. “I just knew we could change it. We have the best workers in the world.”
Calling the act “significant climate legislation” and a way to move away from fossil fuels to clean technologies, Biden said there was no reason to not see that new technology developed and made in America.
“We’re growing the economy from the middle out and bottom up, not the top down. I came down determined to move away from trickle down economics and focus instead on the middle class,” he said. “Because the middle class built America. And guess what? Guess what? Unions built the middle class.”
During his comments, Biden asserted his administration has created more jobs in two years than any president in American history has in a four-year term, as well as claiming the sub 4 percent unemployment rate has lasted for the longest period of time in the last 50 years.
According to Biden, the act has resulted in more than 37,000 project in 4,500 communities across the country, with $3.6 billion dedicated to projects in New Mexico, including $25 million for improvements to Albuquerque’s uptown transit center and $160 million in eastern New Mexico for rural water systems for nearly 70,000 people.
“Right now, over 114,000 small businesses across New Mexico don’t have access to high speed internet,” he said. “We’re investing over $1 billion … to connect every corner of this state.
“America used to lead the world in manufacturing. We’re going to do it again. I’ve never been more optimistic about America’s future. We have never, never — when we work together — failed. Nothing’s beyond our capacity if we work together.”
Following the president’s comments, Belen city councilor Danny Bernal Jr. said it was amazing to see someone of such high office visiting Valencia County.
“What is says about investing in our community, providing jobs in our community for our youth, it sheds a light on the city and all of Valencia County,” Bernal Jr. said.
Saying he was obviously excited about a presidential visit to the county, Rio Communities Mayor Josh Ramsell said he was excited by the investment Arcosa has made in the community.
“They have orders for five years before even opening,” Ramsell said. “This legislation is a direct investment in the community. They will be hiring from all over the county and will provide growth to the county and Rio Communities.”
Rio Communities city manager Martin Moore said the municipality has seen increased interest from investors wanting to build homes in the county. Ramsell said people are looking for opportunities to “work, live and play” in one location rather than making long commutes for high paying jobs.
Royceann LaFayette, former Belen High School counselor and past NEA-Belen President, said she was thrilled for Valencia County and the projects Biden’s policy helped develop.
“This will really help our youth know they can get a good job in Valencia County,” LaFeyette said. “They can graduate from Belen High School and make a living wage here.”
Companies like Arcosa, which have been seen the benefits of the IRA, will give the community the opportunity to “grow our own,” said Tarla Hill, a science teacher at BHS and NEA-Belen president. “Our kids can work in their own community without having to go to Albuquerque or Santa Fe for a good job.”
During his opening comments and welcome of President Biden, Arcosa CEO Antonio Carillo said the new plant demonstrates the expected long-term, positive impact of the Inflation Reduction Act that is driving a transition to clean energy and job creation. The plant expects to hire
“When it’s completed, the plant will produce wind towers to meet the growing demand for renewable energy in the southwest region. At this time last year Arcosa Wind Towers, as well as the North American wind power industry, was facing significant challenges and uncertainty,” Carillo said. “Next week marks the one-year anniversary of the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act that is providing a significant, multi-year catalyst for our industry.
“Thanks to present leadership, with the passage of (the IRA) we have received over $1.5 billion in orders for wind towers. This is a great example of how policy has a direct impact on business.”
Carillo said shortly after the passage of the IRA in August 2022, the company received the largest order in the history of the company, which led it to expand operations to Valencia County, a project he says is a $60 million investment and will create 250 local jobs.
“We’re creating jobs. We’re ramping up production in another two facilities for Arcosa and I think we’re just getting started,” he said.
Prior to Biden’s visit to the Arcosa facility, state Sen. Greg Baca (R-Belen) issued a press release calling the Arcosa plant “a bright spot in an otherwise grim economy under President Biden. While I celebrate these new jobs, let’s not forget that good wages only go far in a strong economy. Under Bidenomics, working-class families are being gutted by inflation at the pump and the grocery store.
“I hope this presidential visit is more than just a politically motivated publicity stunt distracting us from the work needed to improve the lives of all New Mexicans.”
According to the press release from Baca, the Tax Foundation — which describes itself as the world’s leading nonpartisan tax policy 501(c) nonprofit on its website — estimates that the bill will actually worsen inflation and kill about 29,000 full-time equivalent jobs over the long term.
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.