Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, accused President Donald Trump of “spiking the ball” Friday by celebrating improving jobs numbers when 20 million people are still unemployed.
“Donald Trump still doesn’t get it,” Biden said at Delaware State University, a historically black school, in Dover. “He’s out there spiking the ball completely oblivious to the tens of millions of people who are facing the greatest struggle of their lives. These folks aren’t feeling any less pain today than they were yesterday.”
His speech came on a day of improving job and unemployment figures that beat the projections of many economists. The unemployment rate fell to 13.3% in May, down from 14.7% in April. And the economy gained 2.5 million jobs, after 20.5 million were lost in April.
Trump celebrated the gains in a Rose Garden news conference Friday morning, saying the economy is making “a big comeback” after being decimated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden congratulated those who found jobs. But he said there were still 13 million fewer jobs than when he and former President Barack Obama left office. Hispanic unemployment is four times higher than “when Trump botched his response to the pandemic,” Biden said.
“It’s time for him to step out of his own bunker and look at the consequences of his words and his actions,” Biden said. “Let’s be clear. A president who takes no responsibility for costing millions and millions of Americans their jobs, deserves no credit when a fraction return.”
At the White House news conference, Trump said the U.S. is testing more than Germany and South Korea for coronavirus. But Biden noted that the United States has only 4% of the world’s population and more than one-fourth of the COVID-19 deaths at more than 108,000.
“The president did not act quickly when he was warned to act,” Biden said. “These are some of the sternest challenges our nation has ever faced and Donald Trump is patting himself on the back. He just has no idea, in my view, what’s really going on in this country.”
Biden noted that the country faced the pandemic at the same time as historic job losses that hit minority communities hardest.
“For an enormous swath of our country, their dreams are still on hold,” said Biden, who said he would release economic proposals “in the coming weeks.”
“We’re still facing devastating unemployment and still facing a historic health crisis,” he said.
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Biden’s speech comes after isolating for weeks at home amid the coronavirus pandemic. He met Monday with church leaders in Wilmington and gave a speech Tuesday in Philadelphia about George Floyd’s death in police custody.
At one point during Trump’s news conference, the president said: “Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying, ‘This is a great thing that’s happening for our country.’ It’s a great day for him. It’s a great day for everybody.” But Biden blasted Trump for the comments about a man whose final words were that he couldn’t breathe.
“He was speaking of a man who was brutally killed by an act of needless violence and by a larger tide of injustice that has metastasized on this president’s watch as he’s moved to split us based on race, religion and ethnicity,” Biden said. “For the president to try to put any other words in the mouth of George Floyd I frankly think is despicable.”
Nearly 1.9 million people filed for unemployment during the week ending May 30, which was 249,000 fewer than the week earlier, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Thursday. Biden said Thursday that black and Latino businesses had been shut out of recovery funds and he highlighted the need to prevent further income inequality. After 42 million people have filed for unemployment benefits, 11% of whites report having been laid off or furloughed, compared to 16% for blacks and 20% for Latinos, he said.
“Trump has failed to take seriously not just the scale of this problem, but also who is most impacted,” Biden said. “We must turn this moment into an opportunity to rebuild our country upon more just and equal foundations, not widen race-based wealth and income gaps.”