Remarks During a Virtual Grassroots Event and Question-and-Answer Session of the Democratic National Committee
The President. Hey, Jaime. Thank you, Mr. Chairman—Chairman Harrison. I tell you what: Your introduction was great, a little exaggerated, but thank you for your leadership. [Laughter] And I want to special thanks to each of you, the grassroots advocates for—from all across the country. They tell me there's a whole bunch of you on this video.
Look, let me start with this: Kamala and I were sent here by the American people to deliver. And that's what we've done. After years of "Infrastructure Week," followed by another—just a—we just passed a monumental piece of legislation.
It's going to create millions of jobs—and that's not just Joe Biden saying it; that's everyone from Wall Street to labor saying it—creating millions of jobs to grow our economy, make us more competitive, and take a giant step—and I mean this sincerely—a giant step toward dealing with climate and the climate crisis.
It's the most significant investment in passenger rail in the past 50 years, roads and bridges in the past 70 years, public transit ever. And we're going to modernize our ports, our airports, our freight rail and make it easier for companies to get their goods to market and reduce the supply chain bottlenecks—backlogs that are out there and lower the cost for working families.
It will replace lead pipes in every American—so that every American can drink clean water and not have to worry. Every American will have access to high-speed internet. And we'll see new fleets of electric vehicle, schoolbuses, a national network of charging stations—over 500,000 of them all across America—so we can charge up and drive across the country without ever having to do anything other than know you can get to the next charging station and make it all the way without worry at all.
We're going to also take away those diesel buses, which are where our children inhale diesel exhaust, making it safe and battery-operated buses.
We're making sure bridges you drive over are safe, making sure the water you drink is clean, to making sure that our power lines and our levees are strong enough to withstand the next hurricane, the next flood, the wildfire, or superstorm.
Look, this legislation is going to change the lives of every American. And for 4 years long—for 4 years long, the last President told us we're going to get the infrastructure done, but he couldn't get it done. So it was left to us, and we got the job done.
By the way, we got some help from some Republicans whom we had to encourage to vote for it initially and vote for it in the House. And now we need to do it again with my Build Back Better plan. And I'm confident we're going to get it done, as we did in the past with everything else we've tried so far. And we're going to need your help; your help and your talking about it makes a difference.
And for those families struggling to afford childcare and eldercare, our Build Back Better plan will be lifechanging. For those 2 million women who can't get back to the workforce right now because of things like childcare, this will get them back to work. And that's going to be good for them, good for their families, and good for the economy.
But there's more. There's universal pre-K for every 3- and 4-year-old child in America. It's going to increase academic achievement in all children and give them an even start no matter what home they come from, no matter how little they've been taught to read or they've been read to. It's going to change everything.
More affordable health care and lower prescription drug costs. Tax cuts for working people and the middle class and are working their way into the middle class.
Together with the infrastructure bill, we're going to make the most significant investment ever to turn the climate crisis into an opportunity: new jobs. And all this is paid for by raising taxes on big corporations and the very wealthy. I'm not trying to punish anybody, but I'm insisting that they pay their fair share. It's fiscally responsible, and it's paid for.
Plus, one more thing: It extends the refundable child tax credit by putting the American Rescue Plan that we passed months ago. It's one of those things that I'm most proud of, because not only has this meant a tax cut for working families, not only has it helped some 60 million children in America. It has helped to cut child poverty in America by more than 40 percent. And that's something to really, really be proud of, in my view.
You know, we had some other big news just a few days ago: The COVID vaccine for children ages 5 to 12 was approved. That's going to give millions of Americans—millions of American parents peace of mind. And it means we now have all the tools to combat COVID-19. We have vaccine booster shots. Soon, an antiviral pill is going to prevent severe illness and death. And it's also—it's also been a long, tough fight, I know. We still have a way to go.
But we have every tool we need to get COVID-19 under control. And that's critically not only for the public health, but for our economy as well. I know you all know this.
Just last week, we reported over 500,000 jobs were created last month. In the 2 months earlier, it was raised by 250,000 jobs that had been underrated. And you know, it just—I think it was about 230—I think it might have—over 200,000 jobs.
But that means, over the course of my Presidency, with your help, we've created over 5 million new jobs just since we got sworn in on January the 20th. That's the biggest and largest number of jobs any President has ever created up to this point in their Presidency.
Now, I know that a lot of folks don't feel the progress we're making in the economy. I get it. I know the cost of gas, groceries, and rent seems to be harder and harder to handle. That's what—that's one of the most re—more reasons why we should have to pass my Build Back Better bill.
But if you'll hold for a second here. You know, when we passed the American—the first piece of legislation we passed, one of the reasons we did that—we knew people were in real trouble. So many people lost their jobs. So that's why you learned that we got everybody another $1,400 that would get them through. At the time, they got a check for $1,400.
It also made it easier for people to be able to—if you were—had a child, and we passed the child tax credit, it means if you had one child, you got to check for 300 bucks a month. If you had two—anyway, it goes on. So it really helped. But we had to do more.
You know, the Build Back Better plan is not going to cause inflation like people are talking about, because 17 Nobel laureates in economics have looked at my plans and said they will—it will ease inflationary pressure. So, for those Americans who are focused on the cost of living, it's even more important to pass this legislation.
Folks, I ran for President because, for too long, the working people of this Nation had been dealt out of the deal, and it was time to deal them back in. I ran to rebuild, as I said, the backbone of this Nation—working people, middle class folks—to rebuild the economy from the bottom up and the middle out.
That's why I wrote these bills in the first place. That's why it will matter so much when I sign them into law, because of you. And there's so much more to do: protecting the sacred right to vote, immigration, the courts, building on the Affordable Care Act, protecting a woman's right to choose, and so much more.
And my message is this: We need to remember what got us to the White House in the first place. We won in 2020 as a unified party, maybe more unified than ever. Now, as we look at 2022, we need to stay unified. We need to remember that the American people sent us here to deliver to make their lives better.
Let me close with this: This is no ordinary moment. This is truly an inflection point in the Nation's history. I truly believe that you and I are doing something—and some of the most important work ever—of meeting some of the most important challenges we've ever faced as a nation: We're putting out the pandemic—by pulling out of the pandemic that has—I hate to say it—lost 750,000 lives; pulling our economy back off the junk heap here and get us back on our feet; to rebuilding the backbone of this Nation, giving working people a fighting chance again; to confronting the existential crisis of climate change; to defending and protecting our very democracy and the right to vote.
There's no one else coming to do this work. It's up to us: our country, our planet, our democracy. They're all in our hands right now. So let's stay together.
This next phase is critically important. So let's stay engaged. Get involved. You already are if you're on this, but get involved and volunteer. Text "Volunteer" to 43367. Let me say it again: "Volunteer" to 43367.
We can do this. Let's believe in one another. As my grandfather would say, "Let's keep the faith." God bless you all, and may God protect our troops.
And I'm going to turn it back to Chairman Harrison. Jaime.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime R. Harrison. Thank you, Mr. President. And let me just take personal privilege here, Mr. President, and thank you. This weekend, I was able to take my 7-year-old to get vaccinated. And I can't tell you how emotional it was for me and his mom just to have that level of confidence and protection for him. So thank you for all that you've done to make that possible.
The President. Thank you, Jaime.
Infrastructure and Jobs Legislation
Mr. Harrison. Yes. We've got a few questions for you, Mr. President. The first one is: How will the bipartisan infrastructure bill help me and my family?
The President. Well, look, the bipartisan infrastructure deal is going to have a significant impact on families across the country.
The infrastructure deal is going to create good-paying jobs, union jobs—not jobs paying $7 and $8, $9, $10—and not even $15. And the good part about this: None of these jobs can be outsourced. It's building here.
These jobs will do the following: one, put pipefitters and plumbers back to work replacing lead water pipes so every child in America can drink clean water. All those lead pipes will be gone. Transform rail, roads, and bridges—public transit—and modernize our ports and our airports and freight rail, increasing the ability for goods to flow more quickly across the country and around the world.
Manufacturing solar panels, wind farms, batteries, and electric vehicles to grow clean energy supply chains, so we can export to the world as well—not just benefit our country, but export to the world. Build out the first-ever national network of charging stations. As I said, over 550,000 so families can travel coast-to-coast in an electric vehicle.
Make high-speed internet affordable and available for every American household, rural and city, and make it affordable.
Clean up the brownfields and the Superfund sites, as well as plug abandoned mine lands—mines that are still open—orphaned wells. And stop polluting and protecting—and start to protect public health. And by the way, capping these wells are going to pay the same ways wage that digging the well cost—reward the workers. It's going to be a union wage.
Build up our resilience to superstorms and droughts and wildfires and hurricanes that cost billions of dollars a day. I mean, just this past year, these weather events have cost $99 billion in America—$99 billion. And these investments are going to help families with their commutes and school dropoffs with safer roads and better transit options.
And everyone—you know, everyone can tell me what the most dangerous intersection in their neighborhood is, can't you? We're going to fix it. That—the money is there for that. And that's true all across the country. And this bill is going to help fix intersections, like those dangerous ones you know in your town and your city.
And it's going to help businesses, small and large, compete, getting their good—their goods, and the goods they make, to market faster, and enable to offer lower prices.
How long have you heard people in Washington talk about passing an infrastructure bill? A long time. But we got it done. And by the way, 19 Republicans helped us pass it in the Senate, and Democrats voted for this bill. So it's not just talk, it's action.
Mr. Harrison. Thank you, Mr. President. And I can tell you, particularly in rural communities, the broadband expansion is going to be big, and not only for jobs, but also for health care. A lot of our rural hospitals are closing because they are—they don't have access to broadband. So your help here is going to have a tremendous impact on many of those communities.
The President. And, Jaime, let me point out that it's not only that, it's going to—as you said, at all those rural hospitals, this is going to allow telemedicine.
Mr. Harrison. Exactly.
The President. It's going to make a big difference in people's lives. And how many people do you know, Jaime—whether it's in South Carolina or in Wilmington, Delaware, where I'm from, or wherever it is, and during this pandemic, where kids were out of school and they're being taught virtually—how many parents had to drive their kids to do their homework in a McDonald's parking lot because they could hook into their ability—they had internet that you could hook into?
But I mean, you know, this is just ridiculous in a country as great as ours.
I'm sorry to interrupt. Go ahead.
Education and Family Assistance Legislation
Mr. Harrison. No, no. I agree, Mr. President. We also got a question from an educator, and she said: "As an educator, I've been keeping an eye on the parts of the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the Build Back Better Act that would help our children. Can you explain how these bills would work together to help the next generations of students succeed in their education?"
The President. Well, first of all, I'm married to an educator. I think my wife Jill—or I'm Jill's husband, as we say in my house—she teaches fulltime in a community college and has taught for years in the public school system. And then, since I became Vice President, we moved to—before that, she worked as a community college professor in Delaware, and now she works as a community college professor in Northern Virginia and still does her duties as First Lady.
And she has an expression. She says, "Any country that outeducates us is going to outcompete us." The average cost of pre-K in the United States is $8,600. That's a tough squeeze for working families. Under my plan—and this now going to go into effect—under my plan, we're going to be able to provide free preschool for every 3- and 4-year-old in America when this next bill passes.
And the studies have shown that kids who go to pre-K are more likely to stay in school and do better over the course of their education, no matter what the background they come from. Some people come—kids come from backgrounds where, as you know, as a teacher—all the studies show where if you're from a middle class family or an upper middle class family, and there's books and parents read to you, and et cetera, et cetera, you start off having heard a million more words than a kid coming from a poor household or a household with a single parent that didn't have the time to do that.
This is one of the best investments we're going to make because it equalizes the playing field. The 3-year-old from the house that has been—had economic pressure on it and the 3-year-old from the house that doesn't, they end up being able to do the same thing throughout school.
Look—and we're going to make sure that education beyond high school is more accessible for those families who—[inaudible]—by raising the maximum in what they call Pell grants. And we've increased the amount of Pell grants, and we've invested in community college and workforce programs that will be able to be used for parents who can't afford it.
So it makes a big change in educational opportunity, plus so many other things I believe it does indirectly for kids, in terms of their overall education.
Mr. Harrison. Well, Mr. President, again, I'm married to a former—I'm married to a teacher, and I was a former teacher myself. And I can tell you this is a big deal for many, many working families, and it's going to be a big deal for our kids.
And we just want to thank you for everything that you have done to make this possible.
The President. Jaime, you know, the interesting thing is, what really got me focused on preschool and making sure it was available is, you know, of all the countries in the world, we rank number 33—I think it was—out of 44 of the leading countries, according to the OECD, of leading—the most advanced countries in the world—the United States—in early education. We rank at the bottom of the list—the United States of America. And it's long overdue.
And it also shows—all the studies that the great universities have done in the last 10 years demonstrate that if they have—if they go to preschool at 3 and 4 years old, it increases by something like 53 percent the ability of—the likelihood that that child will go all the way through all 12 years and go beyond high school.
So it's like you would say or your wife or my wife: Any country that outeducates us is going to outcompete us.
Mr. Harrison. Well, and, Mr. President, I think people should also understand that this isn't your first time investing in education. The American Rescue Plan got our schools back open. And that is something that you did, along with all the Democrats in the House and the Senate. And sad to say, not one Republican in either body actually voted for that plan. But it was you who helped to get our schools back open.
The President. Well, I'm hoping, Jaime, that we can get back to a place where there's more civility in politics. I really mean it. And I've never seen it this way.
You know, the Republicans who voted in the House of Representatives for the infrastructure bill—you've seen in the press the reports that the other Republicans are trying to strip them of their standing in their Congress. If they're a chairman of a committee, they're trying to strip them of that chairmanship. I've never seen it like this before. It's got to stop for the sake of America.
I know I get in trouble when I talk about "bipartisan," because people say, "Why the devil would I like any Republicans?" Well, it's important. We are—unless we get—generate consensus in America, we're in trouble.
And the one thing we generated consensus on and then the very people who voted for it initially—because it looked like the Democrats were going to be given credit for something—are now being threatened with their chairmanships. It's just not right. We're going to change it though.
Mr. Harrison. Well, thank you, for—Mr. President, for—from all of us. We really appreciate your visit, your leadership, and your heart. And you're the President we need at this moment. So, thank you again, Mr. President.
The President. Well, but what we need at this moment are the thousands of people you have on this Zoom here. And listen, I want to thank them all. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. It's who we are. Thanks.
Mr. Harrison. Well, thank you again for joining us this afternoon, Mr. President. And we look forward to seeing you all again—seeing you again soon.
NOTE: The President spoke at 4:49 p.m. by videoconference from the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Vice President Kamala D. Harris; and Marie C. Boyd, wife of Mr. Harrison. He also referred to H.R. 3684.
Joseph R. Biden, Remarks During a Virtual Grassroots Event and Question-and-Answer Session of the Democratic National Committee Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/353310