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‘Scranton values or Mar-a-Lago values’: Biden makes his case for reelection in childhood hometown

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‘Scranton values or Mar-a-Lago values’: Biden makes his case for reelection in childhood hometown

Apr 16, 2024 | 5:47 pm ET
By John Cole Patrick Abdalla
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‘Scranton values or Mar-a-Lago values’: Biden makes his case for reelection in childhood hometown
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President Joe Biden greets attendees after speaking at a campaign event on April 16, 2024 in Scranton, Pennsylvania. President Biden, who grew up in Scranton, will be in Pennsylvania for three straight days of campaigning. (Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)

SCRANTON — President Joe Biden began a three-day swing in Pennsylvania on Tuesday by returning to his hometown of Scranton, delivering a speech that played up his roots in Northeast Pennsylvania and offering a stark warning should former President Donald Trump win the 2024 presidential election.

“Folks, where we come from matters,” Biden said during his nearly half hour address at the Scranton Cultural Center at the Masonic Temple. “When I look at the economy, I don’t see it through the eyes of Mar-a-Lago, I see it through the eyes of Scranton.” 

Biden spent the first 10 years of his life in Scranton before his family moved to Delaware. Despite only spending his first few years in Scranton, also known as the Electric City, he said the lessons he learned here have remained with him his entire life. 

“Scranton is a place that climbs into your heart and it never leaves,” Biden said. 

Biden said the competing visions facing the nation in the 2024 election were between “Scranton values or Mar-a-Lago values.”

Several public officials discussed the president’s speech as they made their way to the Masonic Temple on Tuesday. City Controller John Murray said a place like Scranton would greatly benefit from changes to tax law. 

“I think it affects everyday Americans,” he said. “The middle class is overtaxed.”

He pointed out that the city’s household income —  just under $49,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau — is lower than the national average and that the city is home to a lot of elderly residents. 

County Commissioner Bill Gaughan echoed that point, but he talked about families like his, with five kids. He blamed Republicans for cutting the child tax credit and wants to see Biden bring it back. 

“That was a game-changer,” he said of the tax credit. Biden’s $7.3 trillion 2025 budget request calls for expanding the child tax credit.

Five major takeaways from the Biden budget request

Vito Sparacio, owner of Pizza By Pappas, wouldn’t talk about specific tax policy, but said he supports anything that brings more tourists and residents to the area. The restaurant is a downtown Scranton institution, in operation since 1971. 

“The more people come, the better we are,” he said.

Biden’s main message on Tuesday was to paint a contrast between his vision for the economy and the tax code under Trump.

Biden said that he supports raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%. The current rate was set during Trump’s administration when he signed into law a tax code law. Prior to the legislation Trump signed into law, 35% was the corporate tax rate.

Biden’s budget would also raise the corporate minimum tax from 15% to 21% and establish a 25% minimum tax rate on people with wealth of more than $100 million. Biden claimed that nobody making under $400,000 a year will see a tax increase under his proposal.

“Does anybody really think the current tax code is fair?” Biden asked the crowd.  “Neither do I.”

He added that as a capitalist, he’s OK with people making a lot of money, as long as they pay their “fair share” of taxes.

Trump said at a fundraiser last week that if he wins the 2024 election he would extend provisions of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which are currently set to expire at the end of 2025. Bloomberg previously reported in January that Trump aims to make the individual tax cuts permanent and keep the corporate tax rate at 21%. 

While Biden was delivering his address in Scranton on Tuesday, Trump was in a New York City courtroom for the second day in a row. Trump is facing charges of falsifying business records to cover up payments of an alleged affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels in 2016. On Tuesday, the first six jurors were selected.

Beyond his economic message, Biden also touted the work his administration has done on lowering healthcare costs and protecting Medicare and Social Security. He claimed those issues are also on the line in November.

“He’s coming for your money, your health care and social security,” Biden said of Trump. “And we’re not gonna let it happen.” 

‘Scranton values or Mar-a-Lago values’: Biden makes his case for reelection in childhood hometown
President Joe Biden gives his remarks during a campaign event for re-election on April 16, 2024 in Scranton. (Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)

State Rep. Kyle Mullins (D-Lackawanna) credited Biden for leading the economy through the coronavirus pandemic, while pointing to his experience roots in Scranton as proof he’s the “perfect leader and messenger,” on improving the economy. 

“He hears those people who feel as though the economy is not working for them, but also that we have more work to do. He knows it, isn’t afraid to say it, but most importantly isn’t afraid to lead,” Mullins told the Capital-Star in an interview.

Gov. Josh Shapiro and Scranton Mayor Paige Cognetti were also on hand for Biden’s event on Tuesday and celebrated his roots in the region. 

“Folks here in Scranton want a fair shot for their children, for their grandchildren,” Cognetti said. “No one knows that better than our hometown President Joe Biden.” 

Following his speech, Biden visited his childhood home on Washington Avenue, where large, cheering crowds greeted the motorcade with signs reading “Welcome back President Biden,” and chants of “four more years.” There were also people further down the street waving Palestinian flags and chanting “free Palestine.” 

Danny Sheridan sat outside Hank’s Hoagies on Tuesday afternoon, sipping a Coke and hoping to get a chance to meet the president, who regularly visits the establishment when he is in town. 

On Tuesday, customers could watch Biden’s speech while standing next to a large cutout or a bobblehead of the Scranton native.

Sheridan had a specific message for the president. “He’s doing a good job,” Sheridan said. “Keep it up and beat Trump.”

On Wednesday, Biden will make his first 2024 appearance in Pittsburgh with a visit to speak at the United Steelworkers headquarters, followed by a trip to Philadelphia on Thursday. Tuesday was Biden’s fifth visit of 2024 to the Keystone State. 

Trump has visited Pennsylvania four times in 2024 so far, most recently on Saturday at a rally in the Lehigh Valley and a fundraiser in Bucks County. 

Northeast Pennsylvania will likely play a big role in helping determine who occupies the Oval Office next year.

The Cook Political Report rates Pennsylvania as a “toss-up” state for the presidential contest.