Rather than giving pride of place to manufacturing jobs, it would be better for economic policy makers to focus on how the middle of the labor market is changing. Mid-wage manufacturing jobs are shrinking as a share of total employment. But as I show in my new book, “The American Dream Is Not Dead: (But Populism Could Kill It),” a new middle is taking its place. Its fastest growing occupations include health technologists and technicians, heating and air conditioning mechanics and installers, computer support specialists, and self-enrichment education teachers, among others. It would be better for politicians to focus on connecting workers to new and growing opportunities, rather than trying to turn the clock back by promoting manufacturing.

Beyond industrial policy and showering manufacturing with special attention, Biden highlighted the need to make child care more affordable, along with lowering the cost of prescription drugs and finding a solution to surprise medical bills that insured patients often receive for services outside their coverage. All these issues are ripe for productive bipartisan cooperation with the right presidential leadership. Concern about China’s unfair trade practices — which Biden mentioned in his speech and would need to address if elected — now extends widely throughout the political right as well as among union supporters on the Democratic left. The U.S. needs to crack down on China with a sound, multinational strategy, competently executed.

There are key parts of Biden’s plan that would struggle to find support among either traditional or populist Republicans. For example, he called for an optional government health insurance program in addition to the subsidies for private insurance already offered by Obamacare. He wants to raise the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, a particularly terrible idea in an economy as weak as the U.S.’s will be in 2021. His plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour would be devastating to low-wage workers by slashing their job opportunities.

Biden’s variant of economic nationalism is both a challenge and a response to Trump’s flavor of populism. I had hoped that Biden would move the U.S. beyond populism. He still might, campaigning as a populist to win and then governing as a mainstream, center-left Democrat. But the vision he is offering voters suggests otherwise.

The fact that this vision harmonizes with conservative populism is far from a guarantee of bipartisan cooperation. The pressure on Republican lawmakers to oppose any Democratic agenda would be very strong.

But if Biden’s first year as president does bring bipartisan success, he will have Trump to thank.

This article was provided by Bloomberg News.

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