Remarks on Jobs and Infrastructure Legislation in La Crosse, Wisconsin
Good afternoon. Thank you, Laurie. Please, please, please sit down. I once said that to a big crowd; it was in the evening. I said, "Please, sit down." And there were no seats. They were out in a football field. [Laughter] And the press pointed out, "Biden is losing it." [Laughter] But I can see you all have seats. [Laughter]
Laurie, thank you very much. I told Laurie, when she was showing me the bus she's driving now: Back when I was in law school, I drove a school bus during the summers to pick up spending money. And from one bus driver to another, Laurie—[laughter]—I want to thank you for all you do to make this city run, to help folks get where they need to go. And you do it in a way that sometimes is not always easy.
I'm glad to be here with great Wisconsin leaders. Gov, I guess I landed at the airport just a few minutes before you did. Thank you for making the effort to be here. And my good friend, Tammy Baldwin—Senator Baldwin is here. And Congressman Ron Kind is—and, Mom, thank you for raising a good kid.
And Mayor Reynolds. I was telling the mayor—he just won reelection—he won election. And I said, "You know, I always wonder why everybody runs for mayor," because they—it's the hardest job in American politics. They know where you live. [Laughter] You can't go to the grocery store. "Why is that pothole still there?" I get it. You don't even control that. But anyway, Mr. Mayor, thank you for your service. Thank you for willing to serve.
I'm here in Wisconsin to celebrate a step forward for my country—our country—to talk a little bit about what it's going to mean for working families here in Wisconsin and across the Nation. When I was sworn in 5 months ago, I pledged to put my whole soul into bringing America together. I said I was running for three reasons, the last one of which I said is to unite America.
I admit it's difficult, and I think some of my friends in the press thought it was impossible. I still don't think it is, but—because I believe that there's nothing we cannot do if we bring—come together as a nation, Democrats and Republicans. And we're really divided on a whole range of things.
But if you look back across our history, from the transcontinental railroad to the creation of the internet, you can see the truth in that idea, about coming together. Because America—America—has always been propelled into the future by landmark national investments—investments that only the Government has the capacity to make; only the Government, working together, could make.
Today happens to mark—coincidental—but today is the 60th [65th]* anniversary of one of those significant investments to change the Nation. Sixty-five years ago today, President Dwight Eisenhower signed the bill that created the Interstate Highway System. Sixty-five years ago today. That was the last infrastructure investment of the size and scope of what—the agreement I'm about to talk about today.
It's time for us to write a new chapter in that story. After months of careful negotiation, of listening, of compromising together in a good faith, moving together, with ups and downs and some blips, a bipartisan group of Senators got together and they forged an agreement to move forward on the key priorities of my American Jobs Plan, and one of them is sitting in front of me.
As a result, this is a generational investment—a generational investment—to modernize our infrastructure, creating millions of good-paying jobs—and that's not coming from me, that's coming from Wall Street—millions of good-paying jobs that position America to compete with the rest of the world in the 21st century, because China is way out-working us, in terms of infrastructure.
And it's going to make the world of difference for families here in Wisconsin. Here's what it's going to do: This deal will put American workers to work in good-paying jobs, not minimum wage jobs, not 15-dollar-an-hour jobs. Prevailing wage jobs, good-paying jobs, repairing our roads and our bridges.
You all know why that matters. One in 5 miles of highway and roads in America are in poor condition—1 in 5 miles. Some States it's worse where the weather is tougher. Five percent—50 years—50 * percent of our bridges are over 50 years old. More than 1,000 bridges here in Wisconsin are rated as structurally deficient by engineers—1,000 just in Wisconsin.
And I'm not—that doesn't make Wisconsin better or worse; it's—all across the Nation, it's this way. The bridges—the 10 most traveled bridges in America need repair, and some need to be completely rebuilt. More than 600—more than 600 here in the State of Wisconsin—bridges have weight limits to prevent trucks from crossing. That means long detours for farmers heading to market.
It's more than just an inconvenience; it's about safety as well. In November 2019, a school bus in Arcadia, Wisconsin, tipped over going around a curve and went into a ditch with 20 students on board. It wasn't because of snow or ice; it was just an old country road. It was rough conditions. Thank God nobody was seriously injured at the time.
But this is a drain on our economy as well. Typical American—typical American—and it varies slightly from State to State—but the typical American pays a hidden tax of more than $1,000 a year in wasted time—wasted time—and fuel due to traffic congestion. Now, in the more the rural the areas, the less the congestion. But that creates other difficulties. You all know that feeling: losing time, sitting in traffic, or being rerouted because the bridge isn't wide enough or the road is poorly maintained.
This deal is going to put Americans back to fixing all of that and good-paying jobs. This deal will also put Americans to work replacing 100 percent of our Nation's lead water pipes. You know, there's 400,000—well, I won't get into the numbers; I get a little carried away—but it's really dangerous. Every single American child, at home or in school, will soon be able to turn on that faucet, and their moms and dads know that the water they're drinking is clean and safe.
I'll give you an example of why that matters. Just look at the city of Milwaukee. Milwaukee has more than 160,000 water service lines. More than 70,000 of them, nearly half, have lead service lines. And by the way, I'm not—it's not picking on Wisconsin, Gov. Every State is like this. But just to know what you're going to be doing for the State of Wisconsin here.
You know, we know that exposure to lead in drinking water can trigger a number of serious problems. Even low levels of lead can cause behavioral and learning problems in children, impairing their growth. There are up to 10 million homes with lead pipe service lines and pipes. Children in up to 400,000 schools—400,000 schools—and childcare facilities are at risk of exposure to lead. This deal contains the largest investment in clean drinking water and waste water infrastructure in American history.
This deal also provides something you're very familiar with in the Island. It provides funding to get dangerous chemicals out of our water systems, known as PFAs, or "forever chemicals." This is a problem all across the country, and I know that you're feeling it right here—right here.
Here in La Crosse County, just this spring, the State had to provide free bottled water to thousands of people on French Island because they were worried about those chemicals in the groundwater, which were linked to cancer and other illnesses. We'll pay for that. We'll get that done. We're also going to surge Federal resources to help address the forever chemicals not just here, but all across America. Unfortunately, Wisconsin is not unique in this problem.
This deal will also put Americans to work building transmission lines, the largest investment in clean energy transmission in American history. Power outages cost the U.S. economy up to—now, this is—now, we know this, but until you add it up, it doesn't seem to be that big a deal. It costs the economy, Congressman, $70 billion annually. You hear me? Nationally, $70 billion annually.
And as climate change induces extreme weather events more and more frequently, we need to make investments to build a more resilient grid to carry this electricity.
The majority of the Nation's grid is aging. Some components are over a century old. And 70 percent of transmission and distribution lines are well into the second half of their lifespans. You saw what happened in Texas this winter: The entire system in the State collapsed. The entire system.
That's why we have to act. This deal will modernize the power grid to be more energy efficient and resilient to—and resistant to extreme weather; resilient against bad actors who try to hack and attack the grid. Because I just spent a lot of time in Europe trying to work on that.
And it's going to strengthen and revitalize our natural infrastructure, like our coastlines and levees, while preparing our physical infrastructure for wildfires, floods, and other extreme weather.
Anybody ever believe you'd—you hear—turn on the news, and it will say it was 116 degrees in Portland, Oregon. A hundred and sixteen degrees. "But don't worry, there is no global warming. It doesn't exist. It's a figment of our imagination." Seriously.
When a severe storm rolls in, like you had in some parts of the State just recently, the power is going to be less likely to go out, the town water systems will be able to withstand what happens if we—once we make these investments.
And all—as all of you know, America has one of the highest road fatality rates of anywhere in the industrial world. Let me say that again: the highest road fatality rates of any industrial nation in the world. I lost a wife and daughter and almost lost two sons.
Look, our fatality rate is double the rate in Canada on a per capita basis. I bet every one of you here can tell me what the most dangerous intersections in your town are. I'll lay eight to five, no matter what the town is. Maybe you don't have many, but everybody knows what intersections are the most dangerous.
When you're teaching your kid to drive, what do you do? You tell them, "No, don't go down that road when you come home." I'm being deadly earnest. "When you come home, come home the other way." Well, guess what? We've got an agreement to invest $11 billion to help cities and localities reduce crashes and fatalities in the community, especially for cyclists and pedestrians, which are increasing significantly.
This deal is going to more than double the funding directed to State and local programs that improve the safety of people in vehicles, including highway safety, truck safety, pipeline and hazardous materials safety.
I won't even get into this now, but you know, we have thousands of miles of pipeline. The vast majority of those pipes are 60 years or older, some of them more than 80 years old. A lot of them are leaking.
This is the United States of America, for God's sake. What are we not doing?
This deal will also help high-speed internet and make sure it's available to every American home, including 35 percent of rural families who currently go without it.
As of last spring, more than 82,000 children here in Wisconsin, which prides itself on its education, didn't have reliable internet access at home. Think about that year—in a year of remote schooling. When so many of our needs and our connections were forced to move online, tens of thousands of Wisconsin kids got left behind.
Did you ever think, here in America, that kids would have to sit in a fast-food parking lot just to do their schoolwork and homework because they could connect online? Not a joke. Ask any mom who has kids in school or a dad who is taking care of them. No child should have to do that. And no farmer here in Wisconsin should lose business because they don't have a reliable connection to the internet: know when to buy, know when to sell, and know what's going on.
You know, back in 1936, the Federal Government brought electricity to nearly every home and farm in America, and it spread the opportunity out for cities in every part of the country. It changed the lives and fortunes of thousands and thousands of homeowners, thousands of hometowns, and millions of American families. And it set the stage for a massive, sustained economic boom that would follow World War II.
High-speed internet is the equivalent of that today. It's a similar—it's an equivalent of that. It isn't a luxury; it's now a necessity, like water and electricity. And this deal would provide for it for everyone, while bringing down the cost of internet service across the board.
This deal has also put Americans to work through a first-ever national effort to install electric vehicle charging stations, 500,000 charging stations nationwide along our highways and in rural and disadvantaged communities as well.
Think about what that can mean to the American autoworker and the future of electric vehicles. China is going full bore. They're providing more electric vehicles than any nation in the world. You know, it used to be, when I first got to the United States Senate, actually a couple of—actually, in the sixties, when I was getting out—the late sixties, when I was getting out of law school, what happened? We invested more in R&D and investment and manufacturing than any nation in the world. Now we're number eight in the world. China used to be number nine; now they're number two in the world.
And when you build a charging station, it spurs even more investment and more infrastructure around it: the local convenience store, the local hamburgers place. You know, think about—nobody is old enough, but my dad used to tell me—because he worked, back in the days, for the American Oil Company—they came along with automobile—the combustion engine. You needed to be able to put gas in the engine, I mean, in the car, the tank. Well, guess what? You had to build gas stations.
One of my dad's jobs and my Grandpop Biden's jobs was to go from city to city convincing them it was okay to bury these great big tanks with gasoline in them. And entire communities grew up around it.
Well, this is exactly what we have to do with regard to electric vehicles. This deal is also going to help our cities, our towns, our school districts deploy electric buses. Thirty-five thousand electric school buses that are accounted for. And there are about 475,000 school buses in this country, 95 percent of them like the ones you had here——
[At this point, a child fell off a chair.]
——is he okay, honey? You sure? He took a little bit of a tumble.
Ninety-five percent of them run on diesel. So, every day, more than 25 million kids and thousands of bus drivers breathe polluted air on the way to and from school. Diesel air pollution is linked to asthma and other health problems. It hurts communities. It causes students to get sick and miss time in school. We owe it to our kids to clean up the school buses, and this deal will help do just that.
I know that the city of La Crosse is getting two electric transit buses this fall; I think I saw them both. I was down in the Carolinas, looking at the bus company where you're going to buy them—charging stations to power them.
This bipartisan deal—by the way, you had half Republicans and half Democrats come along and present this deal and negotiate this deal. It's going to help advance that effort.
This deal also modernizes our outdated airports, ports, and waterways. That means fewer delays that drain away so much money from families and from businesses. There's no good reason why that zero—zero—of the top 25 airports in the world are in American. Zero. Not one in the United States of America.
This deal will put Americans to work through long-overdue national environmental cleanups. That means good-paying jobs, capping hundreds of thousands of abandoned oil and gas wells that need to be cleaned up and capped—methane leaks—protecting the health of our communities. Making the same money it took to dig that well. And there's thousands of them.
Not to mention, this deal represents the largest investment in American passenger rail and in freight rail since the creation of Amtrak.
Now, I know I'm "Mr. Amtrak." I've traveled over 2 million miles on Amtrak. I commuted every day. I get it. I know you think I'm nuts. But, after my wife and daughter were killed, I decided to commute back and forth to Delaware. It was a 257-mile roundtrip.
I'll tell you a real quick story. I shouldn't bore you with it. But you know, the Secret Service—they're the best in the world—doesn't like you taking Amtrak because it stops too many times—the train. They want me flying home in the small jets that were available as Vice President. And—but that cost a lot of money, so I would go home on Fridays, you know, because my mom was passing away. I'd go home on Amtrak. And they published—they keep fastidious record of the miles you travel in an Air Force aircraft as President and Vice President.
And toward the end of my term, a headline came out in all of the papers: "Biden travels"—I think it was 1.3 or 1.7 million miles on Air Force planes. And so I'm getting on the train on that Friday, and these guys who all became my family—all—the conductors. And a guy named Angelo Negri came up, and he goes, "Joey, baby!" Grabs my cheek like that. [Laughter] And I thought they were going to shoot him. I really did. [Laughter]
I said, "No, no, no, no, no, no, no. He's a friend." He was like, "What the hell." And he said, "Big deal, Joey. A million"—whatever it was—"three-hundred thousand miles. You know how many miles you've traveled on Amtrak, Joey?" And I said, "No, Ange. I don't." And he said: "At that retirement dinner, we calculated it. We estimated 127 days a year, 250 miles back and forth, three—36 years, then as Vice President. Joey, you traveled more on Amtrak." [Laughter]
Well, I—and when they named a station after me in my city, someone complained that Biden is using his influence. I said, "Hell, they should name the whole Northeast Corridor after me." I've—[laughter]—more than anybody else.
But all kidding aside, studies show that if you can get to your destination in the same amount of time or less on rail than you can by car, people will take rail. And, Gov, you know this better than anybody. Imagine if you could get from Chicago—from La Crosse to Chicago in 2 hours, instead of 4½. That's what this will allow us to build the capacity to do.
And besides, it will not only make your travel easier, not—I don't know why you'd go to Chicago, but—you know, all kidding aside—it would reduce the largest source of pollution in America: vehicle travel.
We're not just tinkering around the edges here. We're going to invest $66 billion in rail to eliminate backlogs, bring world-class rail service to areas outside the Northeast. Here in Wisconsin, we'll add new stops in Green Bay, Madison, and Eau Claire.
This deal also makes the largest investment in public transit in American history. A whole lot of people here in Wisconsin depend on public transportations, like the bus system here in La Crosse, to get to work, to school, and get around. Because of this deal, it will be safer, quicker, cleaner, more frequent, and more available—more reliable. More transit options mean more people can access good jobs as well. One study found that it leads to higher wages for workers because businesses can attract more customers with the rail.
This bipartisan breakthrough is a great deal for the American people—not just for folks in the cities, not just for red States or blue States, but for everybody. And this job—this jobs—the jobs that are going to be created here, largely, it's going to be those for blue-collar workers, the majority of whom will not have to have a college degree to have those jobs.
A lot of those folks are being left behind now. The guys I grew up with in Scranton and Claymont are being left behind. This is the answer for good-paying jobs. Jobs is—jobs not just in our biggest cities, along our coasts, but in small towns across the country so families can build wealth and opportunity in rural hometowns and don't have to leave when they're grown up.
I've said it all along: This is a blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America, and long before, families in Wisconsin are going to see the benefits firsthand. Look, I'm always quoting my dad because he was smart and I loved him. My dad used to say: "Joey, a job is about a lot more than a paycheck. It's about your dignity. It's about respect. It's about your place in the community." I mean he really would say this. When he lost everything in Scranton and we had to move down to Claymont, Delaware, a little steel town.
And he said—and the deal is going to deliver breathing room. All he said was, "All you want, as a middle-class person, is just to have a little bit of breathing room. Not—just a little bit of breathing room." That's why we've got to build this economy from the bottom up and the middle out, not trickle down, creating good-paying jobs with dignity and jobs that cannot be outsourced.
And critically, we're going to get it all done without raising taxes on a single American earning less than $400,000. Now, all of you making over $400,000, I love you, but I don't mind a little bit if your taxes go up a little bit.
But all kidding aside, I made a commitment: Nobody—I would not support anything that raised a penny in tax on someone making under 400 grand. And that means, in this bill, there is no gas tax. Working families have already paid enough.
Instead, we're going to pay for these investments, in part, by giving the Internal Revenue Service the resources it needs to collect taxes on the wealthiest Americans who owe, but are currently not paying under the existing tax rules. And by the way, it's not done by this—it will be done by conservative economists and liberal economists. It cracks down on tax cheats, not just hard-working, middle class Americans.
And there's a lot of important investments in this deal that are long overdue. Economists of all stripes agree that it's going to create good jobs and dramatically strengthen our economy in the long run. It makes it easier for businesses to seamlessly transport their goods, makes it easier for workers to more easily access job opportunities.
But the reason this agreement matters so much: It's about what it represents. This deal isn't just the sum of its parts; it's a signal to ourselves and to the world that American democracy can come through and deliver for all our people. We can be united.
I just met with the G-7. I just met with all of NATO. And I just met with Putin. The autocrats think that democracy can't keep up with autocrats. Not a joke. But it's living proof that we can still come together in this country and accomplish something big and transformational.
I know that neither Democrats nor Republicans get everything they want in this agreement. It's not all that I proposed. But that's what our economy is all about. That's what it means to compromise and reach consensus. And that's what every—in the heart of every democracy.
And we can't give up on what we—keep finding ways to come together. Because every time we negotiate in good faith and come together to get something big done, we break a little more of the ice that too often keeps us frozen in place and prevents us from solving the real problems people are facing.
Let me be clear: There's much more to do. And I'm going to continue to fight for more. I'm going to keep working with Congress to pass even more of my economic agenda so we can keep building an economy from the bottom up and the middle out.
As we bring home key parts of my American Jobs Plan, I'm going to make the case—and I've told this to the negotiators—I'm going to continue to make the case there are critical investments are still needed, including those in my Family Plan—American Family Plan.
Maybe the most important among them is extending the child tax credit, which will significantly benefit middle class and working folks. Let me explain what that is. Pretty soon, taxpayers in America are going to get a significant check back from the IRS. For example, if you are—if you have to pay taxes and you have a good income, you get to deduct $2,000 per dependent—per child. And that comes off the bottom line of your taxes, and you probably still owe more after that's cut off.
But for families who, in fact, don't have that big a tax bill, they don't get anything from this. So we changed the law this year, and it's cutting child poverty by 40 percent. And here in Wisconsin, by July 15, we're going to start—they're going to be picking up the phone and calling you to say, "Thanks, Gov." And they're going to get checks from the IRS.
Here's what they did: For every child you have under the age of 6, you're going to get $3,600. And for every child under the age of—between—over the age of 12, you're going to get $3,000. So you'll actually get a cash payment instead of just a credit against your taxes, because you don't pay that many taxes if you're—if you're making—if you're making the minimum wage or you're making $20-, $30-, $40,000 a year. And people say, "Well, that's a giveaway." Hey, guys, I think it's time to give ordinary people a tax break. [Laughter] The wealthy are doing fine. No, I mean it. I mean it.
Why is this not a tax break for working folks, when the stuff we give to the superwealthy are called "tax breaks"? Look, major action on clean energy, housing, caregiving, on child and paid leave, universal pre-K, free community college. The human infrastructure is intertwined with our physical infrastructure. It's going to help us create more good jobs, ease the burden on working families, and strengthen our economy in the long run.
And I'm going out—I'm going to be out there making the case for the American people until this job is done; until we bring this bipartisan deal home; until our human infrastructure, also, needs are met; until we have a fair tax system to pay for all of this.
And by the way, what I'm talking about in the Family Plan, let me tell you how I'm going to pay for it. And the American people, in the polling data, overwhelmingly support it. If we just raise the corporate tax to 28 percent—it used to be 35 percent. It was supposed to come down to 28; it's now 21. If you raise it to 28 percent, you know how much money that raises? One-point-four trillion dollars. If you have a minimum global tax, which we agreed to in Europe—that means so corporations can't avoid paying the taxes at home—that would generate, in America, $385 billion. If you end deductions for foreign corporations who ship their profits out of the United States, that raises $260 billion in these tax havens.
You know, there are 30 corporations in America of Fortune 500 making billion—I'm—I come from the corporate capital of the world, Delaware. Not a joke. More corporations are incorporated in Delaware than all the rest in America combined. Okay? Well, guess what? Fifteen of the Fortune 500 companies last year paid—I mean, 30—excuse me—paid zero taxes, and they made billions of dollars. Paid not a penny in tax, not a single cent.
I'm not trying to punish anybody. I'm just saying, "Let's be fair." If you just set up a minimum tax—you had to pay at least 15 percent of your earnings as a corporation—that alone would raise $230 billion.
The point is, I have never had a reputation of being someone who's out there trying to just out-tax people. But here's the deal, folks: I think it's about time there be fairness in the tax code. I don't want you paying more than your share.
But the tax cut that was passed under Trump—the $2 trillion, not a penny of which was paid for—where did it go? Over 80 percent of it went to the top one-quarter of 1 percent. I think you should be able to be a billionaire. I think you should be able to be a millionaire. But, for God's sake, at least pay. Pay your fair share. Pay your fair share.
Folks, there's a lot of work ahead to finish the job I've just outlined. There'll be more disagreements to resolve, more compromises to forge along the way.
But today, the American people can be proud of Democrats and Republicans; families here in Wisconsin can be proud; Congress can be proud, because this country came together, forged a bipartisan deal—which a lot of has to do with your State—your Senator—that delivers for everybody. We've shown the world, and just as importantly, we've shown ourselves that American democracy can come through. There's nothing—nothing, nothing—beyond our capacity when we come together as one Nation.
So thank you, Wisconsin. Thank you all for who you are and what you do. May God bless you all, and may God protect our troops. Thank you, Wisconsin.
NOTE: The President spoke at 12:58 p.m. at the Municipal Transit Utility. In his remarks, he referred to Laurie Nederlose, bus driver, Municipal Transit Utility, who introduced the President; Gov. Anthony S. Evers of Wisconsin; Greta Kind, mother of Rep. Ronald J. Kind; and President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin of Russia.
* White House correction.
Joseph R. Biden, Remarks on Jobs and Infrastructure Legislation in La Crosse, Wisconsin Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/350651