Remarks on Efforts To Combat Inflation and an Exchange With Reporters
The President. Good morning. Today I'd like to talk about two potential paths forward to address the number-one challenge facing families today: inflation. This will not be my only speech on inflation, I'm sure.
But when you look at the economy today, it's clear we've made enormous strides. And our plans and our policies have produced the strongest job creation economy in modern times. In addition, 8.3 million jobs in my first 15 months in office, a record.
Unemployment rates are down to 3.6 percent, the fastest decline in unemployment to start a Presidential term ever recorded. And in addition, Americans have applied to start 3—5.4 million new small businesses last year, 20 percent more than any other year on record. And I see—and as I see it, everything across the country is—as I go across the country, our economy has gone from being on the mend to on the move.
But, for every worker I met who's gained a little bit of breathing room to seek out a better paying job, for every entrepreneur who's gained the confidence to pursue their small-business dreams, I know that families all across America are hurting because of inflation. I understand what it feels like. I come from a family where, when the price of gas or food went up, we felt it. It was a discussion at the kitchen table.
I went—I want every American to know that I'm taking inflation very seriously and it's my top domestic priority. And I'm here today to talk about solutions. And there's going to be more we're going to have to talk about as well. But first, I want us to be crystal clear about the problem.
There are two leading causes of inflation we're seeing today. The first cause of inflation is a once-in-a-century pandemic. Not only did it shut down our global economy, it threw the supply chains and demand completely out of whack, especially in countries where more effective recovery responses weren't available, especially in those sectors that rely on semiconductors. These supply challenges have been further hampered by the onset of Delta and Omicron viruses. And you've all seen it, and you've all felt it.
And this year we have a second cause—a second cause—Mr. Putin's war in Ukraine. You saw—we saw in March that 60 percent of inflation that month was due to price increases at the pump for gasoline.
Putin's war has raised food prices as well, because Ukraine and Russia are two of the world's major breadbaskets of—for wheat and corn—are, essentially, completely stalled. Ukraine has 20 million tons of grain in storage in silos right now. They're trying to figure out how to get it out of the country to market, which would reduce prices around the world. Normally—normally—we'd have already begun to export them into the market. But it hasn't because of Putin's invasion.
So we're working with our European partners to get this food out into the world so that it could help bring down prices. But it's difficult because, again, of Putin and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. And those two major contributors to inflation are both global in nature. That's why we're seeing historic inflation in countries all over the world.
But here's the good news: Because of the actions we've taken, America's in the stronger position to meet this challenge than just about any other country in the world. Some of the roots of the inflation are outside of our control, to state the obvious. But there are things we can do and we can address and we need to do.
That starts with the Federal Reserve, which plays a primary role in fighting inflation in our country. I've put forward a highly—highly qualified nominees to lead that institution. And I strongly urge the Senate to confirm them without delay. The Fed has a—dual responsibilities. First is achieving maximum employment, and second is stable prices. And while I'll never interfere with the Fed's judgments, decisions, or tell them what they have to do—they're independent; they're independent—I believe that inflation is our top economic challenge right now, and I think they do too.
I've built a strong—we've built a strong economy with a strong job market. And I agree with what Chairman Powell said last week that the number-one threat is the strength—and that strength that we built is inflation. So the Fed should do its job and it will do its job, I'm convinced, with that in mind.
Now, as I said when I came to what Congress and the President can do to fight inflation, Americans have two potential paths forward. The first is my plan, the Democratic plan. A plan put forward by congressional Republicans is a second alternative.
Here's how each of us would tackle inflation:
My plan is to lower employer—lower everyday costs for hard-working families and lower the deficit by asking large corporations and the wealthiest Americans to not engage in price gouging and to pay their fair share in taxes. The Republican plan is to increase taxes on the middle class families, let billionaires and large companies off the hook as they raise profits—raise prices and reap profits at record number—record amounts. And it's really that simple.
But let me explain why this choice is so important. Let me start with the Putin price hike: high gas prices and energy prices. My plan is already in motion. I led the world and other countries to join with us to coordinate the largest release of oil from our stockpiles of all the countries in history: 240 million barrels to boost global supply.
Here at home, U.S. oil and gas production is approaching record levels. In fact, we produced more oil domestically in my first year in office than my predecessor did in his first year. To further drive down prices, my administration is allowing the sale of gasoline using homegrown biofuels this summer, which wasn't allowed before.
And to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and reckless autocrats like Putin, I'm working with Congress to pass landmark investments to help build a clean energy future as well, from tax credits for businesses to produce renewable energy, to tax credits for families to make their homes more energy efficient.
I met with nearly a dozen CEOs of America's largest utility companies. And they, to a person, told me that—and including Southern Company, American Electric Power, and 10 others—they confirmed that if we pass the investments I'm talking about, we'll immediately lower families' utility bills by as much as $500 a year, according to their—one estimate. That's by—it's going to make their homes more secure in terms of heat not getting out and air conditioning not escaping, because they have good insulation.
Now, what's the congressional Republican plan with respect to energy? First of all, their plan is to give oil companies a free pass. For example, right now oil companies are sitting on 9,000 unused leases—oil leases—which are the property of the Federal Government—on the property of the Federal Government.
Under my plan, they would have to pay taxes and—if they don't use those leases to produce more oil. They just can't sit on it. Unlike—under the Republican plan, they'd be allowed to continue to sit on this land without producing while shipping record profits back to their investors.
The fact is, the average cost of a barrel of oil has been steady for weeks. So why do gas prices keep going up so high? Republicans have offered plenty of blame, but not a single solution to actually bring down the energy prices.
You know, we have no plan—they have no plan to bring down energy prices today; no plan to get us to a cleaner, energy-independent future tomorrow so, in the future, American families are no longer subject to the whims and—of dictators half a way around the world.
The next thing is: Let's compare our plans when it comes to lowering everyday costs. My plan is to make concrete, commonsense steps to bring down the biggest expenses that families are facing. Let's take drug prices. My plan would let Medicare negotiate prices for prescription drugs, like they do with the Department of—with the military as it relates to what the administration is able to negotiate for prices for military.
The cap—and I also call for a cap on the price of insulin, which 200 million—excuse me, beg your pardon—200,000 American children rely on because they have type 2 diabetes, at $35 a month—costs 10 bucks to make the insulin; they make a significant profit—instead of the average price of about $640 a month. Think of the difference it will make in millions of American families, like the family I met with in Virginia about 3 weeks ago struggling every day, every single month to afford their son's insulin.
And on this and other issues, I've laid out specific proposals to Congress to bring down the cost of—everyday costs all American—many American families face. And that's in addition to the work my administration has already done to lower prices.
Another reason why prices are up for products people need relates to whether or not the manufacturer has access to all the materials they need to build a product. Think of the materials you need to build a house. If you can't get the materials from the ship to shore, from the shore to the home, the prices are going to go up.
That's why we brought labor and industry together on the West Coast to improve operations at the ports to speed up the transfer of products from abroad to shore, from shore to the location where they're going to be used so that those products can move more quickly and cheaply. We haven't had enough truckers, for example, to deliver the lumber or other goods. That's why we are executing a plan to get more truckers on the job. It reduces the time it takes to move the goods quickly.
Another problem we face is: In some industries, there's just—there isn't enough competition. And I've often said that capitalism without competition isn't capitalism, it's exploitation. So we're promoting competition for everything from internet services to meat processing. We basically have four meat processors in the whole country. They process the meat that goes into the hamburgers you buy, so they set the price. When there's no competition, they can set the price higher and higher. So we're helping smaller companies get into the game to compete and help bring down the overall prices.
The bottom line is: Easing—easing—these bottlenecks and making our supply chains more secure is a major focus of my economic strategy so things move more quickly, prices go down, not up. You know, some parts of my plan I've been able to get done on my own—I mean, just without congressional approval. Some parts are being held up by Congress. But all of my plan is focused on lowering costs for the average family in America to give them just a little bit of breathing room.
Now, what's the congressional Republican plan? They don't want to solve inflation by lowering your costs. They want to solve it by raising your taxes and lowering your income.
I happen to think it's a good thing when American families have a little more money in their pockets at the end of the month. But Republicans in Congress don't seem to think so. Their plan has actually made working families—is going to make working families poorer.
You don't have to take my word for it; it's in writing. They've made their intentions perfectly clear. Senator Rick Scott of Wisconsin [Florida],* a member of the Senate Republican leadership, laid it all out in a plan. It's the ultra-MAGA agenda. Their plan is to raise taxes on 75 million American families, over 95 percent of whom make less than $100,000 a year, total income. The average tax increase would be about $1,500 per family.
They've got it backwards, in my view. I've proposed a minimum tax for billionaires. In recent years, the average billionaire has paid about 8 percent in Federal taxes. Congressional Republicans have proposed increasing taxes on teachers and firefighters.
Fifty-five percent of the largest corporations paid net zero in Federal taxes in 2020 on 40 million [billion]* dollars' profits. It just isn't right. That's why I've proposed a minimum tax for corporations. Their plan would also raise taxes on 82 percent of small-business owners making less than $50,000 a year. But it would do nothing to help—to hold big corporations and companies accountable.
Think about it. Republicans in Congress are so deeply committed to protecting big corporations and CEOs that they would rather see taxes on working American families and try to depress their wages to take on inflation. Never mind the fact that many of these companies are recording record profit margins, even as prices—as they raise prices records amounts.
Look, you've heard me say it before: I'm a capitalist. I'm not out to punish anybody. I have no problem with companies getting and generating reasonable profits. But in this moment of peril, with a war overseas and inflation surging around the world, the last thing we should be thinking about is rewarding companies for exploiting this situation.
While families struggle to pay their bills, some corporate executives are on earnings calls with investors on Wall Street, cheering their record profits and explaining how they're using this period of inflation to cover the rise in prices far beyond what they need to do to cover their costs. And all this time, they're not even paying for a fair share of taxes in the first place.
You want to bring down inflation? Let's make sure the wealthiest corporations pay their fair share. My plan asks those companies to pay their fair share in taxes. The congressional Republican plan? Let them off scot-free.
And if you [it]* weren't extreme enough, the congressional Republican agenda, they put it in writing. It also calls on Congress to put special—excuse me—put Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid on the chopping block every 5 years.
Now, if I hadn't seen it in writing, I'd think somebody is making this up. But their proposal is: Every 5 years, all those programs would cease unless they're revoted; that the Congress comes along and says, "Yes, we want to keep these plans," affirmatively voting for them.
Well, imagine what—the changes that are going to take place then, man. Imagine all the bargaining that's going to take place. "You Democrats want to maintain Social Security? You've got give up such and such."
Look, I want to give Medicare the power to negotiate drug prices, to make it stronger and lower your costs. Republicans in—[inaudible]—want to make—in Congress want to put Medicare's very existence up for a vote over and over again, along with Social Security and Medicaid.
Really, ask yourself: How well are we going to sleep at night knowing that every 5 years, MAGA Republicans—if they're still the Republican—as I said, this is not your father's Republican Party—if we're going to have to vote on whether you will have Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and what amounts you'll have in each of those programs?
You know what they're likely to do? Use them as hostages every 5 years to get their way on other things. Think about it: "Give us another tax cut for billionaires, or Social Security gets it." "Stop investing in clean energy, or you're going to—we're going to kiss your Medicare goodbye." It's outrageous. It's outrageous. I can't believe that the majority of Republicans buy on to Scott's plan. But that's a plan in writing, and he's in the leadership.
Finally, let's do one more comparison. Let's compare our two plans when it comes to the deficit. Republicans love to attack me as a big spender, as if that's the reason why inflation's gone up. Let's compare the facts.
Under my predecessor, the deficit exploded, raising—rising every single year under the Republicans. Under my plan, we're on track to cut the Federal deficit by $1.5 trillion this year. Let me say it again: $1.5 trillion by the end of this fiscal year. The biggest 1-year decline in all of history for America. And that's in addition to last year we cut the budget $350 billion—the deficit, not the budget. The deficit: $350 billion.
My Treasury Department is planning to pay down the national debt this quarter, which never happened under my predecessor. Not once. Not once. Because unlike my predecessor, the deficit has gone down both years I've been here. That is not an abstraction. It matters. It matters to families, because reducing the deficit is one of the main ways we can ease inflationary pressures.
Look, the bottom line is this: Americans have a choice right now between two paths, reflecting two very different sets of values. My plan attacks inflation and grows the economy by lowering costs for working families, giving workers well-deserved raises, reducing the deficit by historic levels, and making big corporations and the very wealthiest Americans pay their fair share.
The other path is the ultra-MAGA plan put forward by congressional Republicans to raise taxes on working families; lower the incomes of American workers; threaten the sacred programs Americans count on, like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; and give break after break to big corporations and billionaires, just like they did the last time they were in power, when their top priority was the reckless $2 trillion tax cut going—the majority of that going to the very wealthiest Americans, which ballooned the deficit, and not a penny of it was paid for.
Look, I know you've got to be frustrated. I know. I can taste it. Frustrated by high prices, by gridlock in Congress, by the time it takes to get anything done.
Believe me, I understand the frustration. But the fact is, congressional Republicans—not all of them, but the MAGA Republicans—are counting on you to be as frustrated by the pace of progress, which they have everything—they've done everything they can to slow down—that you're going to—will hand power over to them and enact—so they can enact their extreme agenda.
Look at their agenda. We'll put up on a webpage somewhere—I think I can do this—the "Scott plan," and it's in writing.
We need a government focused on what families actually need. So I urge all Americans to think about the path I've laid forward. We're going to have to do more beyond what I laid forward. But then, think about—the Republicans in Congress are actually proposing. Which path is right for you and your family and, quite frankly, for America?
Let's build on the extraordinary process and progress we've made instead of tearing it down. Let's focus on what matters. It—this really matters to average Americans.
I want to thank you all. God bless you, and may God protect our troops.
Q. Mr. President——
Q. Mr. President, will you drop President Trump's China tariffs?
Q. Mr. President——
The President. If you're going to ask me about what I spoke about, I'll try to——
Q. Mr. President, I have a question on tariffs, sir.
Inflation/United States Senate/Ukraine/Russia
Q. Mr. President, why do you believe so many Americans believe that your administration is not doing enough to combat inflation? And do you believe that you and your administration bear some measure of responsibility for the inflation that we're seeing across the country?
The President. The first is, we're in power. That's the first thing. And you—justifiably right, we control all three branches of Government. Well, we don't really. We have 50-50 in the Senate. You need 60 votes to get major things done. I've been pushing the things I've been proposing here, as you've heard me speak to today, since I got in office. And I have—I need to get 60 votes to be able to even pass them, number one.
Number two, I think that, you know, it's—they're not focused. They're—all they're focused on, understandably, is the problem they're facing. They get a 5½-percent raise—an average raise in their salaries, and yet inflation exceeds that. And they look around the world, and they know that a lot of it's extremely complicated. And so they're frustrated. And I don't blame them. I really don't blame them.
There's a lot we have to do. And but—you know as well—I shouldn't say "you." I think what I have to do is explain in simple, straightforward language what's going on.
Like, the reason why 30 percent of the inflation last year is because automobiles cost more. Why did they cost more? They couldn't get the computer chips to make them. People are making a lot more money. They wanted to buy the automobiles. They couldn't buy them because the costs went up so high because there were so few of them. The same way this year—the same way this year—the reason why prices are up.
They understand, but they don't—they're—look, most people—the vast majority of Americans are hoping that their Government just takes care of the problem and they don't have to think about it in detail at the kitchen table or at the dinner table. And that's understandable, no matter what their background.
But right now it's confusing. There's a war in Ukraine. And they're scratching their heads like, "What the heck is Russia doing? Should we be helping?" They think we should be helping the innocent Ukrainians. But what impact does that have? Do you think the average person, whether they have a Ph.D. or they are—have any other job, sits and thinks: "Wow, there's thousands of tons of grain in elevators in Ukraine that can't get out. And Ukraine is one of the biggest producers of corn and wheat. Huh, I wonder whether that's the reason my prices are up"?
Q. On tariffs——
Q. And do you take any responsibility for the inflation in this country? Do you take any responsibility—your policies?
The President. I think our policies help, not hurt. Think about what they say. The vast majority of the economists think that this is going to be a real tough problem to solve. But it's not because of spending. We brought down the deficit.
The bottom line is: How much does America owe? How much in the hole are we going? We're reducing that. So——
Q. Mr. President——
Q. On terrorism——
Q. One question on inflation?
Gasoline Prices/Public Transportation/European Dependence on Russian Oil/Republican Party
Q. Mr. President, today you have retail gasoline prices and diesel prices at record highs——
The President. Yes.
Q. ——yet you have yet to ask Americans to consume less. You're a train guy. Have you ever thought of your administration asking Americans to drive less, to take public transport?
The President. Well, if you ever raised a family like mine, you don't have to tell them. They're doing everything in their power to figure out how not to have to show up at the gas pump.
The vast—and that's why—for example, one of the things that's going to help a lot, but it's going to take time, is our infrastructure bill. The truth is, they don't have that many options, in terms of transportation, around the country right now.
If you live in the Northeast Corridor you do, if you're driving back and forth between Baltimore or Washington, New York, et cetera. But you don't have many choices. You don't have a whole lot of choices to deal with other aspects of transportation in terms of local transportation.
And so, what happens is—and unless they're electric, we find their selves—the cost of flying—getting—buying a ticket on a plane costs more because of gas prices. So this is a process, but it's a process that I've been consistent about: wanting to lower prices for—and shift to renewable energy so we're not as dependent.
I have conversations almost every—well, that's not—that's an exaggeration—at least twice a week with one of my European counterparts, heads of state, on what—how can we help them, in fact, wean themselves off of Russian oil, because they're so totally dependent. So we're liking like—we're working like the devil to help them transition. Because as long as Russia is able to make money selling oil, they're going to continue to be able to do the bad things they're doing.
So there's a lot. It's really complicated. I'm not suggesting the American people can't understand it. They understand it, but they have—you know, they're working 8, 10 hours a day just to put food on the table.
And so I think what's happened is, we have—in a sense, I never expected—let me say—let me say this carefully: I never expected the ultra-MAGA Republicans, who seem to control the Republican Party now, to have been able to control the Republican Party. I never anticipated that happening. I didn't.
[At this point, several reporters asked questions at once.]
Q. Sir, sir, will you drop Trump's China tariffs?
Q. Mr. President, a year ago, the administration was saying that inflation was transitory. That's obviously not the case now. How long do you think it will be until we see prices coming down?
The President. I'm not going to predict that. It ranges depending on which economists you're talking to. By the end of this year, and some say it's going to be—it's going to increase next year. But there's others who say by the end of this year you're going to see it come down—by the calendar year.
I don't know, but I know what we have to do to make sure that we can bring it down.
[Several reporters asked questions at once.]
Q. China tariffs, sir? Mr. President, will you drop Trump's China tariffs?
Q. Mr. President, do you support any restrictions on abortion? Or what limits do you believe there should be, as the Senate is taking that up?
The President. I'm not going to respond to anything because I don't want—I want this story to be about inflation. And I'll talk about that——
[Several reporters asked questions at once.]
Q. On China tariffs? Will you—Mr. President——
Senator Richard L. Scott
Q. You called out Rick Scott; you called out Rick Scott a little while ago in your remarks. Earlier today, anticipating your remarks, he said—and I'm just quoting here—that the best thing—"the most effective thing Joe Biden can do to solve the inflation crisis he created is resign. He's the problem." The Senator added later——
The President. Resign? That's a good idea.
Q. The Senator added later: "Joe Biden is unwell. He's unfit for office. He's incoherent, incapacitated, and confused." These are his words. Offering you a chance to respond to that.
The President. I think the man has a problem.
Q. Can I ask you about Trump——
Q. Will you drop—will you drop former President Trump's China tariffs?
The President. We're discussing that right now. We're looking at what would have the most positive impact.
Q. To lower them or to erase them?
The President. No, I didn't say that.
Q. I'm asking.
The President. I'm telling you we're discussing it, and no decision has been made on it.
Thank you all very much. Appreciate it. Thank you.
Q. Mr. President, how long should Americans be prepared to pay this much at the pump?
NOTE: The President spoke at 11:58 a.m. in the South Court Auditorium of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building. In his remarks, he referred to President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin of Russia; Jerome H. Powell, Chair, Federal Reserve System Board of Governors; and Midlothian, VA, resident Joshua Davis, and his parents Shannon and Brian Davis.
* White House correction.
Joseph R. Biden, Remarks on Efforts To Combat Inflation and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/355832