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Biden calls for worker first economic policies

Sarah Mueller
Delaware Public Media
Biden greets UD students after jobs forum

Former Vice President Joe Biden turned to his father’s wisdom during a Biden Institute jobs forum Tuesday night at the University of Delaware.

He told the audience his father would say a job is more than just a paycheck. It was about dignity and respect.

Some tech CEOs argue mass automation will eliminate many jobs and suggest displaced workers get a government stipend to replace their wages.

But Biden said those workers need more than money - citing statistics that show increased deaths from drugs, alcohol and suicide in areas where job losses are significant. He argues a stipend doesn’t address loss of identity.

“Pay their rent, put food on the table, have their health care," he said. "What about their dignity? I think the defining notion of the idea of America was that everyone, I mean this sincerely, everyone no matter what their station, is entitled to be treated with dignity.”

Biden said Americans can be trained to fill the jobs of the future. The panel featured a former national Economic Advisor, the head of the union and a CEO. It included current Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. She was Secretary of Labor under former President George W. Bush.

Chao said while technological advances will eliminate some jobs, they’ll also create some new ones. But she notes middle aged whites are especially anxious about the changing economy.

“We have a responsibility to help those who are caught in the transition, to help them transition to either different kinds of training opportunities, different kinds of jobs,” she said.

Automation is expected to especially impact lower-skilled, lower-paid less educated workers.

Studies show areas with high blue collar job losses are also experiencing high death rates due to drugs, alcohol and suicide. And those areas have been hit the hardest by the opioid epidemic.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Chao was Labor secretary under Barack Obama. She was Labor secretary under President George W. Bush. We regret the error.

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