Photo of Joe Biden

Remarks on Infrastructure and Jobs and Education and Family Assistance Legislation

October 28, 2021

The President. Good morning. Today I am pleased to announce that after months of tough and thoughtful negotiations, I think we have a historic—I know we have a historic economic framework.

It's a framework that will create millions of jobs, grow the economy, invest in our Nation and our people, turn the climate crisis into an opportunity, and put us on a path not only to compete, but to win the economic competition for the 21st century against China and every other major country in the world.

It's fiscally responsible. It's fully paid for. Seventeen Nobel Prize winners in economics have said it will lower the inflationary pressures on the economy. And, over the next 10 years, it will not add to the deficit at all; it will actually reduce the deficit, according to the economists.

I want to thank my colleagues in the Congress for their leadership. We've spent hours and hours and hours over months and months working on this.

No one got everything they wanted, including me, but that's what compromise is. That's consensus. And that's what I ran on. I've long said compromise and consensus are the only way to get big things done in a democracy, important things for the country.

I know it's hard. I know how deeply people feel about the things that they fight for. But this framework includes historic investments in our Nation and in our people. Any single element of this framework would fundamentally be viewed as a fundamental change in America. Taken together, they're truly consequential.

I'll have more to say after I return from the critical meetings in Europe this week. But for now, let me lay out a few points. First, we face—and I know—I apologize for saying this again: We face an inflection point as a nation. For most of the 20th century, we led the world by a significant margin because we invested in our people. Not only in our roads, in our highways, and our bridges, but in our people, in our families.

We didn't just build an Interstate Highway System, we built a highway to the sky. We invested to win the space race, and we won. We were also among the first to provide access to free education for all Americans, beginning back in the late 1800s.

That decision alone to invest in our children and their families was a major part of why we were able to lead the world for much of the 20th century.

But somewhere along the way, we stopped investing in ourselves, investing in our people. America is still the largest economy in the world. We still have the most productive workers and most innovative minds in the world. But we've risked losing our edge as a nation.

Our infrastructure used to be rated the best in the world. Today, according to the World Economic Forum, we rank 13th in the world.

We used to lead the world in educational achievement. Now, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development ranks America 35th out of the 37 major countries when it comes to investing in early childhood education and care. And we know how our children start impacts significantly on how they'll finish.

We can't be competitive in the 21st century global economy if we continue to slide.

That's why I've said all along: We need to build America from the bottom up and the middle out, not from top down with the trickle-down economics that's always failed us. I can't think of a single time when the middle class has done well, but the wealthy haven't done very well. I can think of many times, including now, when the wealthy and the superwealthy do very well and the middle class don't do well.

That's why I proposed the investments Congress is now considering in two critical pieces of legislation: positions I ran on as President, positions I announced when I laid out in the Joint Session to Congress what my economic agenda was.

These are not about left versus right or moderate versus progressive or anything else that pits Americans against one another. This is about competitiveness versus complacency. Competitiveness versus complacency. It's about expanding opportunity, not opportunity denied. It's about leading the world or letting the world pass us by.

Today, with my Democratic colleagues, we have a framework for my Build Back Better initiative. And here's how it will fundamentally change the lives of millions of people for the better.

Millions of you are in the so-called "sandwich generation," who feel financially squeezed by raising a child and caring for an aging parent. About 820,000 seniors in America and people with disabilities have applied for Medicaid—and they're on a waiting list right now—to get home care. They need some help. They don't have to be put—they don't have to be kicked out of their homes. But they need a little help getting around, having their meals made occasionally for them.

They don't want to put them in a nursing homes, not because of the cost, but because it's a matter of dignity. They want to stay in their homes. But it's hard. You're just looking for an answer so your parents can keep living independently with dignity. For millions of families in America, this—this issue—is the most important issue they're facing. It's personal.

So here's what we're going to do. We're going to expand services for seniors so families can get help from well-trained, well-paid professionals to help them take care of their parents at home: to cook a meal for them, to get their groceries for them, to help them get around, to help them live in their own home with the dignity they deserve to be afforded.

Quite frankly, what we found is that this is more popular or as popular as anything else we're proposing, because the American people understand the need. It's a matter of dignity and pride for our parents.

Thirty years ago, we ranked number seven among the advanced economies in the world as a share of women working. You know where we are today? We rank 23d. Twenty-third. Seven to twenty-three. Once again, our competitors are investing, and we're standing still.

Today, there are nearly 2 million women in America not working today simply because they can't afford childcare. A typical family spends about $11,000 a year on childcare. In some States, it's $14,500 a year per child. We're going to make sure nearly all families earning less than $300,000 a year will pay no more than 7 percent of their income for childcare. And for a family making $100,000 a year, that will save them more than $5,000 on childcare.

This is a fundamental game changer for families and for our economy as more parents, especially women, can get back to work and work in the workforce. I'm looking at a lot of significant press people in front of me. A lot of them are working—working mothers. They know what it costs.

I remember when I got to the Senate. I lost my wife and daughter in an accident. My two boys. I started commuting 250 miles a day because I had my mom and my dad and my brother and my sister to help me take care of my kids because I couldn't afford childcare, and I was getting a serious salary, $42,000 a year.

We've also extended the historic middle class tax cut—that's what I call it—middle class tax cut for parents. That is the expanded child tax credit we passed through the American Rescue Plan.

What that means is, for folks at home, they're getting $300 a month for every child under the age of 6, and $250 for every child under the age of 18. We're extending that for another year.

The money is already a life changer for so many working families. This will help cut child poverty in half this year, according to the experts.

But that's not all it does. It changes the whole dynamic for working parents. In the past, if you paid taxes and had a good income, you could deduct, under the Tax Code, $2,000 per child from the taxes you owed.

But how many families do you know—of cashiers, waiters, health care workers—who never got the benefit of that full tax break because they didn't have that much to deduct? And it wasn't refundable, so it either came off of your tax bill, or you didn't get full credit.

Why should somebody making $500,000 a year or $150,000 or $200,000 a year get to write it off their taxes? And the people who need the help even more, they don't have that much tax to pay; they don't get the benefit, and they have the same cost of raising their children.

Eighty percent of those left out were working parents who just didn't make enough money. That's why, in the American Rescue Plan, we didn't just expand the amount of the middle class tax cut, we also made it refundable. This framework will make it permanently refundable, making sure that the families who need it get a full credit for it, in addition to those who are already getting full credit.

They're going to make sure that every 3- and 4-year-old child in America will go to high-quality preschool. That's part of the legislation I just brought up to the Congress. Studies show that when we put 3- and 4-years-old in school—school, not daycare; school—we increase by up to 47 percent the chance that that child, no matter what their background, will be able to earn a college degree.

As my wife Jill, who's in the back here, always says: Any country that outeducates us is going to outcompete us. We can finally take us from 12 years to 14 years of universal education in America.

We also make investments in higher education by increasing Pell grants to help students from lower income families attend community colleges and 4-year schools. And we invest in historically Black universities—colleges and universities—HBCUs, minority-serving institutions, and Tribal colleges to make sure every young student has a shot at a good-paying job of the future.

This framework extends tax credits to lower premiums for folks on the—who are in the Affordable Care Act for another 3 years. For 4 million folks in the 12 States that haven't expanded Medicaid—all the rest have—this framework will enable you to get affordable coverage. And Medicare will now cover the cost of hearing aids and hearing checkups.

This framework also makes the most significant investment to deal with the climate crisis ever, ever happened, beyond any other advanced nation in the world. Over a billion metric tons of emissions reductions, at least 10 times bigger on climate than any bill that has ever passed before and enough to position us for a 50- to 52-percent emission reductions by the year 2030.

And we'll do it in ways that grow the domestic industries, create good-paying union jobs, and address longstanding environmental injustices as well. Tax credits to help people do things like weatherize their homes so they lose less energy, install solar panels and develop clean energy products, and help businesses produce more clean energy. And when paired with the bipartisan infrastructure bill, we will truly transform this Nation.

Historic investments in passenger rail. I know everybody says: "Oh, Biden is a rail guy." That's true. But passenger rail and freight rail and public transit—it's going to make hundreds of thousands—take hundreds of thousands of vehicles off the road, saving millions of barrels of oil. Everybody knows and all those studies show: If you can get from point A to point B on electric rail, you won't drive your car; you'll take the rail service.

We also learned that in most major cities in America, minority populations—the jobs they used to have in town, they're now out of town. Roughly 60 percent of the folks, they don't have vehicles, so they need to have a means to get out of town to their jobs, to be on time. That's what—this will do that, like it did for Detroit.

Ninety-five percent of the 840,000 [480,000]* school buses in America run on diesel. Every day, more than 25 million children and thousands of bus drivers breathe polluted air on the way to and from school from the diesel exhaust.

We're going to replace thousands of these with electric school buses that have big batteries underneath and that will—are good for the climate. I went down to the—one of the manufacturing facilities—saw them, got in one, drive them. They do not expend any—they do not expend any pollution into the air.

We'll build out the first-ever national network of 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations all across the country. So, when you buy an electric vehicle, and you get credit for buying it—when you buy an electric vehicle, you can go all the way across America on a "single tank of gas," figuratively speaking. It's not gas; you plug it in. Five hundred thousand of them, these stations along the way.

We're going to get off the sidelines on manufacturing solar panels and wind farms and electric vehicles with targeted manufacturing credits. You manufacture, you get a credit for doing it. These will help grow the supply chains in communities too often left behind. And we're going to reward countries for paying good wages—for companies, I should say—for good wages and for sourcing their materials from here in the United States.

That means tens of millions of panels and turbines, doubling the number of electric vehicles we have on the road within just 3 years. And we'll be able to sell and export these products and technologies to the rest of the world and creating thousands more jobs because we are, once again, going to be the innovators.

We'll also make historic investments in environmental cleanup and remediation. That means putting people to work in good-paying jobs at prevailing wage; capping hundreds of thousands—hundreds of thousands of abandoned wells and—gas wells—oil and gas wells that need to be capped because they are leaking things that hurt the air; putting a stop to the methane leaks in the pipelines; protecting the health of our communities. It's a big deal.

And we'll build up our resilience for the next superstorm, drought, wildfires, and hurricanes that represent a blinking "code red" for America and the world.

Last year alone, these types of extreme weather events you've all been covering and you've all witnessed, and you've—some of you have been caught in the middle of have caused $99 billion in damage to the United States within the last year—$99 billion. And we're not spending any money to deal with this? It's costing us significantly.

I met—in Pittsburgh, I met an IBEW electrical worker who climbs up on those powerlines in the middle of the storm to try to put transformers in to keep the lights on when the storms hit. He calls himself "a hundred-percent union guy." His job is dangerous.

As he said, and I quote, "I don't want my kids growing up in a world where the threat of climate change hangs over their heads," end of quote. Folks, we all have that obligation—that obligation to our children and to our grandchildren.

The bipartisan infrastructure bill is also the most significant investment since we built the Interstate Highway System and won the space race decades ago.

This is about rebuilding the arteries of our economy. Across the country now, there are 45,000 bridges and 173 miles—thousand miles of roads are in poor condition. Some of the bridges you don't even take a chance of going across; they've shut down. They can't be built back to the same standard, because the weather is not going to get a lot better. We've just got to keep them from getting a heck of a lot worse. We have to build back better and stronger.

No one should have to hold their breath as they cross a rundown bridge or a dangerous intersection in their hometown. We're going to put hard-working Americans on the job to bring our infrastructure up to speed, good union jobs at prevailing wages. Jobs you can raise a family on and, as my dad would say, you can have a little "breathing room."

Jobs that can't be outsourced. Jobs replacing lead water pipes so families can drink clean water, improving the health of our children and putting plumbers and pipefitters to work. Jobs laying thousands of miles of transmission lines to build a modern energy grid. Jobs making high-speed internet affordable and available everywhere in rural and urban America, particularly including the 35 percent of rural America that currently goes without it right now.

This pandemic has made clear the need for affordable and available high-speed internet. The idea of a parent having to put their kids in the car for virtual learning, drive and sit in the McDonald's parking lot so that their child can access the internet when school is taught virtually is not only unnecessary, it's just wrong. It's wrong.

As I said before, these plans are fiscally responsible. They are fully paid for. They don't add a single penny to the deficit. And they don't raise taxes on anyone making less than $400,000 a year. In fact, they reduce the deficit. Here's how:

I don't want to punish anyone's success. I'm a capitalist. I want everyone to be able to—if they want to be a millionaire or billionaire, to be able to seek their goal. But all I'm asking is: Pay your fair share. Pay your fair share. Pay your fair share. And right now many of them are paying virtually nothing.

Last year, the 55 most profitable corporations in America, 55 of them, paid zero—zero—in Federal income tax on about $40 billion in profit. If they report big profits to their shareholders, they should be paying taxes. It's that simple.

That's why the Build Back Better framework will have a 15-percent minimum on the largest corporations—a minimum tax of 15 percent. The top 1 percent of the wealthiest Americans evade, it's estimated by the experts, $160 billion a year in Federal taxes. That's wrong. We're going to change that.

I want to emphasize what I said from the beginning: Under my plans, if you earn less than $400,000 a year, you won't pay a single penny more in Federal taxes, period. In fact, these bills continue cutting taxes for middle class: for childcare, for health care, and so much more.

Let me close with this: For much too long, the working people of this Nation and the middle class of this country have been dealt out of the American deal, and it's time to deal them back in. I ran for President saying it was time to reduce the burden on the middle class, to rebuild the backbone of this Nation—working people and the middle class. I couldn't have been any clearer from the very moment I announced my candidacy.

That's why I wrote these bills in the first place and took them to the people. I campaigned on them. And the American people spoke.

This agenda—the agenda that's in these bills—is what 81 million Americans voted for. More people voted than at any time in American history. That's what they voted for. Their voices deserve to be heard, not denied—or worse, ignored.

Because here's what I know: If we make these investments, there will be no stopping the American people or America. We will own the future.

I have long said it's never been a good bet to bet against the American people—I've said that to foreign leaders as well as everybody here in this country, which means it's always a good bet to bet on the American people. Just give them half a chance. And that's what we're doing. That's what these plans do.

They're about betting on America, about believing in America, about believing in the capacity of the American people. If you look at the history of the journey of this Nation, what becomes crystal clear is this—I'll say it again—given half a chance, the American people have never, ever, ever, ever let the country down.

So let's get this done. God bless you all, and may God protect our troops. And I'll see you in Italy and in Scotland. Thank you.

Q. Mr. President——

Q. Did Manchin and Sinema agree to this?

Q. Mr. President, are you relying on——

Q. Do you have a firm——

NOTE: The President spoke at 11:44 a.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to his sister Valerie Biden Owens. He also referred to H.R. 3684. A reporter referred to Sens. Joseph A. Manchin III and Kyrsten L. Sinema.

* White House correction.

Joseph R. Biden, Remarks on Infrastructure and Jobs and Education and Family Assistance Legislation Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/353121

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