Joe Biden

Remarks in Kansas City, Missouri

December 08, 2021

Well, I tell you what, I don't know where that phrase "It's a big deal" came from. [Laughter] If anybody remembers that—which you seem to all remember—after the President spoke, and I spoke after then-President Obama—he was back to my right. And I went back, and I made sure I was talking on his left ear, because it was—all of—he was down the hallway. And I whispered what I said. [Laughter] How in God's name anybody heard it, I have no idea. [Laughter]

And I shouldn't waste your time and tell you this, but we were going to go from there over to the Department of Transportation—no, excuse me, the Department of Education. And I walked out the back and got in the Presidential limo on the driver's side, in the back seat, and the President, he was already in there, and he was laughing like the devil. He was almost hysterical. I said, "What's so damn funny?" And he told me. And I said: "You're just lucky my mother is not alive. I'd be one dead man." [Laughter]

Death of Former Senator Robert J. Dole

Look, before I begin, I'd like to say a word about a friend of mine who we lost this weekend, a man a few hours west of Russell, Kansas. Came from an hour—not far from here—in Russell, Kansas.

A lot of Americans today remember Bob Dole as a Presidential candidate. But for the families he represented across the border, he represented Kansas for 36 years. And for those like me who had the honor of calling him a friend, Bob Dole was an American giant; a man of extraordinary courage, both physical and moral courage; a war hero who sacrificed beyond measure, who nearly gave his life for our country in World War II; among the greatest of the great generation; a leader of honesty, decency, and good humor—the same qualities that made him such a cherished friend to me and my wife Jill and to so many others through the years.

We didn't agree on everything. But I always admired and respected him and his willingness to work with anyone, any party when it mattered most. And our Nation owes Bob Dole a debt of gratitude for the remarkable service and a life well lived.

And being here this week reminds me of another great American giant or, rather, an American monarch: Buck O'Neil of the Kansas City Monarchs. A great ballplayer, the first Black coach in the Majors, one of the game's greatest ambassadors, and finally—finally—a Hall of Famer. Now, if the Sun shined a little brighter on Kansas City this week, it's because Bob and Buck are up there sharing a laugh with one another. [Laughter]

I also want to acknowledge Mayor Quinton Lucas. Mayor Q, you've done an amazing job, both in terms of economic justice as well as economic progress. And I want to thank County Executive Frank White. He lived the life I had hoped to live. He started off as a laborer; he helped build the Royals Stadium. As a player, he was one of the best to ever play there. And now he's a county executive in Jackson County—resident of the business—to—as well. You know, I mean this guy has done it all. I thought maybe I could make it in the pros, but look what happened. [Laughter]

I actually was foolish enough to ask Floyd Little whether he could get his—he was a friend of mine in Syracuse—if he could get his agent to see if I could walk on. You know, 50—every year, they allow 50 folks to walk on. [Laughter] Well, guess what? He said—he came back to me, laughed, and he said, "My agent said they're afraid if they let you walk on, they'd have to just carry you off." [Laughter]

Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

Look, the infrastructure law I signed Thanksgiving would not be possible—and this is not hyperbole—without the leaders here today. Congressman Emanuel Cleaver was a great mayor——a significant leader in the House. Before he was both of those things, he was a pastor. And he saw—he saw a highway cut through the neighborhood many of his congregants call home. So he knows that we need to build our infrastructure the right way—not just build it, but build it the right way. He also is a big reason Kansas City is adding electric buses to this fleet. Zero fare, zero emissions. Congressman, great idea. Great idea.

And Congresswoman Sharice Davids—there's no stronger advocate for infrastructure investment in the United States Congress, that I've ever met anyway. And as vice chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, your leadership was key in getting this passed. So I want to thank—there you are. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And I also want to thank somebody else: Roy Blunt. He couldn't be here today, but he was an important part of the bipartisan effort to get the infrastructure passed. And that's what this—we're here about. And we're here talking about rebuilding America, investing in America, building a better America.

In the coming weeks, I'm going to be traveling all over the country, and so will Vice President Harris, my Cabinet, and folks throughout our administration. Our "Building a Better America" tour is going to give us a chance to meet people where they work—where they work—and hear what the communities that they live in, what they need—hear firsthand—and showcase how our bipartisan infrastructure law, which has changed their lives for the better, came about because we worked together. We can learn more about this law and what it means for your community. Go to

Look, the better part of the 20th century, we led the world by a significant margin in our willingness to invest in ourselves—in ourselves. We invested in our infrastructure. We invested in research and development, in our roads, highways, bridges, ports, and airports—the arteries of the Nation that allow commerce to function smoothly and move swiftly.

And we invested in our people. We gave opportunity. We were among the first to provide access to universal education and high school education at the beginning of the 20th century, which put us in the forefront of leading the rest of the world. We invested to win the space race, and we won it. We led the world in research and development that led to the creation of the internet.

But we know that China and the rest of the world are catching up and, in some respects, actually moving beyond us.

We're also going to reinvest in our country and our people to reclaim our leadership to create millions of jobs by building a better America, with the best infrastructure in the world, built overwhelmingly with prevailing wage, union—union, union.

There's a lot of good and decent people in the financial industry, but they didn't build the middle class. Unions built the middle class. No, not a joke. Not a political statement. It's a reality. It's a reality.

And look, this infrastructure bill—which, without the unions' support behind me to get this done, would have never gotten done—it starts with the most significant investment in roads and bridges in America in 70 years—fixing many of those 3,500 bridges, nearly 10,000 miles of roads in Kansas and Missouri in poor condition, like the Central Avenue Bridge, which was closed earlier this year for a "fear of failure."

A similar bridge not far from here, going to Kentucky, there was "fear of failure"; it collapsed, killing a whole heck of a lot of people. But this created a whole lot of headaches and wasted time for 8,500 people who used to drive it every single day. The decaying roads cost Missouri and Kansas drivers more than $500 per person per year—the drivers—in additional gas and repairs and longer commute times and more than $500 in hidden tax on Kansas and Missouri families.

And speaking of the cost of living: Two weeks ago, I announced the largest ever release of the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve to increase the supply of oil to help bring down prices. And I met with our friends around the world; other countries joined us. And those savings are starting to reach drivers.

Now, today, the average price you're paying here in Kansas City is below $2 dollars a gallon—$3 dollars a gallon. It's down to $2.90 a gallon. Twenty percent down from—cents—from a month ago. Nationally, prices are down 7 cents a gallon and continue to fall. We're making progress, and we're going to keep at it to ensure the American people are paying their fair share for gas, not being gouged for gas.

And look—[applause]. Look, as Emanuel said, we're in a situation where we've known that our infrastructure had problems for a long, long time. I don't think I could take one more phrase that it's going to be "Infrastructure Week." [Laughter] But guess what? It's going to be "Infrastructure Decade" now, man. No more talking. Action. The law also includes the most significant investment in passenger rail in 50 years—$66 billion for passenger and freight rail.

You know, I was talking with the Members about improving cross-state, interstate passenger rail—something I know a little about. I've been doing it for a long time. You know, the fact is that you're looking at "Mr. Amtrak" here. [Laughter] I've traveled over—this is God's truth—I've traveled over 1,250,000 miles on Amtrak.

Everybody thought that—anyway—because I went home every single night after my wife and daughter were killed because I couldn't afford a home in Delaware and in Washington, so I commuted every day.

I remember, one day, the—as Vice President—the Government keeps fastidious records of how many miles you travel on Government planes. And so there's a big headline: "Biden Travels"—I forget what it was—"a Million Miles on Air Force Two"—and so on and so forth.

And I was getting on the train to go home with the Secret Service—they're great. They're with me here today, all 800 of you. But all kidding aside, they're wonderful. And I was getting on the train—because they didn't like me getting on the train, Congressman, because there's—it's a more dangerous circumstance. You can stop people with things on tracks, et cetera. And—but I was going home to see my mom, who was sick.

And one of the conductors I've known for years walked up and grabbed me. He said, "Joey, baby!"—grabbed my cheek. [Laughter] And—not a joke. [Laughter] And I thought that he was going to get shot. [Laughter] True story. And I said—I said: "No, no, it's okay. We've known each other." He said, "Joey, big deal—a million miles"—or wherever it was—"a million miles on Air Force Two. Come on, Joey. You know how many miles you traveled on Amtrak?" I said, "No, Ange. I don't know how many miles."

He said, "We calculated it at the retirement dinner." He said, "36 years, 119 days a year, back and forth." "Then as Vice President," he said, "we figure you've done x number of trips; it adds up to 1,200,000 miles on Amtrak." And I said, "If my dad were here, he'd call it 'a misspent adulthood.'" [Laughter]

But all kidding aside, you know, back in the early seventies—probably '74, I think it was—there was a guy named Charlie Wheeler who talked about this, your mayor. Seriously. There's no reason why it should be 2 hours faster to drive from Kansas City to St. Louis than take a train. No reason.

All the data shows that if you can get from point A to point B at a faster rate by rail than by automobile, you'll take the rail. And guess what that does? First of all, it's safer. But secondly, it's going to save, over time, millions of barrels of oil—millions of barrels of oil—because it's electric.

Look, folks, we have the largest investment in public transit ever in this legislation. Imagine replacing buses that are past their useful life, switching from diesel to electric, getting more people where they're trying to go more safely, faster, and cleaner, like what you're doing here with your "zero-fare, zero-emission" buses.

Electric buses you're adding to the fleet, it's a win-win-win. They're manufactured here in America, creating good union jobs. They're good for the environment. And they're making them free for all riders. Mayor, you're helping regular riders save about 2,000 bucks a year. That's a big deal for someone making 50, 60 grand a year.

And our infrastructure law means more projects like the extension of the Kansas City Streetcar so we can connect Union Station with KM—excuse me—UMKC, and everything in between. It means students can easily get to internships and jobs in the downtown core.

It means families can get to restaurants, stores, the plaza, to the riverfront to catch a Kansas City Current game at the new stadium—the first stadium, by the way, I might specifically point out, specifically built for women's soccer. I was able to see them win the Olympic—anyway, it's a long story, but—[laughter].

It means more jobs, opportunity, economic development. The law invests $42 billion to modernize our ports and airports in America, like the new terminal you're building at Kansas City International or improvements to the island [inland]* port on the Missouri River, helping get agricultural products from the Midwest to the rest of the Nation. And this bill has $16 billion in it to improve ports like yours. These investments make it easier—easier—for companies to get their goods to market, reducing supply chain bottlenecks, lowering costs for families.

Here in Kansas City, the possibilities are unlimited. You've got the fastest growing port in the Midwest. You're in the heart of the Heartland for freight rail, for transforming your airport. You're building a national hub, creating a cycle of jobs and growth that will be felt for decades, making the right investments. And you have the money to do it now.

Of course, that's not all the law achieves. Under the leadership of mayors like, you know, our mayor here, KC Water has—is going to replace all known [lead]* service lines in Kansas City, but there's more work to be done in the region. The law starts by replacing all 100 percent of the Nation's lead pipes and service lines so every child in Missouri and Kansas and across America can turn on that faucet—in the 4,000 schools you can't do it—44,000, I should say—and drink clean, decent water.

We're going to need—you're going to need tens of thousands of plumbers and pipefitters making a union wage to do this and get paid a prevailing wage—with benefits, the ability to build a middle class life.

I grew up like a lot of you did. I grew up in a nice, three-bedroom, split-level home in a development of about 70 other homes like it, with four kids and a grandpop living with us. But I remember every time something would happen, my dad—I remember when he lost his health insurance—his company. You could tell—the walls were thin—how upset he was that night, just rolling in bed. I remember asking my mom, "What's the matter?" She said, "We're not—Dad doesn't have—we don't have health insurance for a while, honey." And my dad used to say, "Everybody deserves just a little bit of breathing room. A little bit of breathing room."

This law is going to make high-speed internet affordable and available everywhere in America, creating jobs deploying those broadband lines. Across the high-speed internet on—access to high-speed internet unlocks opportunity everywhere. It allows farmers in Kansas to use precision agriculture to improve their yields or a doctor in St. Louis to have a remote checkup with a home-bound cancer patient.

Today, roughly one out of every four Missourians, and one out of every three—six in Kansas, don't have high-speed internet in their home. In some places, there's no broadband infrastructure at all. This law will make high-speed internet affordable and available everywhere in Missouri and Kansas, urban, suburban, and rural. In the 21st century in America, no parent should have to do what many had to do last semester, and that is sit in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant so their children could use their internet to get their homework done. This is the United States of America, for God's sake.

This law also builds out a resilience against extreme weather events fueled by climate change. Nationally, last year, extreme weather events cost this country $99 billion. And I toured most of it. I was out in California—you know, more forest burned to the ground—burned to the ground—than the entire square mileage of the State of New Jersey from Cape—the Cape all the way up to New York City, on Long Island. That's how much we lost, and it goes on. And Missouri and Kansas are no stranger to these effects. In fact, Missouri and Kansas were both in the top 10 States in the U.S. last year for power outages.

Then Texas saw the massive blackouts last winter. Because you're on the southwest power grid, you lost power too. This summer, you saw heavy storms close roads in Waverly, Kansas; caused flooding in St. Joseph to Columbia to Jefferson City. And when you think about the impact of more intense weather, more severe storms, none of us are ever going to forget the devastation in Joplin.

In 2014, I went there to help reopen the rebuilt Joplin High School. On that day, I told the people of Joplin: "We never break. We never stop. We Americans always rebuild." And we will rebuild this country.

And this law builds back our bridges, our water systems, our powerlines, electric grids better, stronger, and more resistant to the negative effects of climate change. Because, by the way, it used to be—as the elected officials here can tell you—if you had storm damage and you qualified for Federal aid, you got them—just the amount of money to get you back to exactly what it looked like before.

But you can't do that, because now that highway gets flooded out. It's never going to go back to less rain because of global warming. Pray God it won't get worse. So you've got to build that highway a couple feet higher. It costs more money. You've got to build back better.

There's so much more in this law. Most of all, the law does something truly historic. The law helps rebuild what I—when I announced for office, I said I was running for three reasons: one, to restore the soul of this country, a sense of decency and honor. Two, to rebuild the backbone of this country—working-class and hardworking middle-class people. That's the backbone of this country. And thirdly, to unite the country, which is turning out to be one of the most difficult things, but we're going to get it done.

Look, the fact of the matter is that we've been able to do an awful lot. We've built America, and we've left behind so much for so long. We're going to help rebuild the economy, this time from the bottom up and the middle out. You know, a blue collar—this bill is a blue-collar blueprint for working Americans.

Ninety-five percent of the jobs created in the infrastructure bill don't require a college education. The only way this works is if blue-collar Americans do the building—and the only way it ever worked. And we're going to do it again. Mark my words: We're going to do this again.

And the same goes for my plan to build back better for our people. This bill is going to deliver, for example, universal pre-K for every 3- and 4-year-old in America. One study—[applause].

Great universities have done a lot of studies in this in the last decade. One study shows that low-income children from poor homes participating in preschool are 47-percent more likely to go on to earn an associate's degree or higher after high school.

They start off at a great disadvantage because their mom or their dad, their single parent doesn't have the education, doesn't have the training. But at 3 years old, the brain is rapidly developing so quickly. It matters. We have to build that foundation for the future for success.

My wife Jill is a first—is a full-time teacher. And you know, she says any nation that outeducates us is going to outcompete us. That's simply a fact. And guess what? Hold it here. Every nation—of the 38 most advanced nations, we rank 34 in the world—34 in the world—in early education for children—the United States of America.

My Build Back Better plan—which is passed in the House of Representatives, thanks to my two colleagues that are here today—Representatives—will also ensure that parents can afford childcare. Childcare gets workers the raise—and childcare workers get a raise they deserve.

Folks, look, in Missouri and Kansas, the average annual cost to send a toddler to childcare is $6,500 a year. If you live in Chicago, it's more like $22,000 a year per child. Okay? It means that the average family with two young children is spending roughly 20 percent of their after-tax income on childcare—$20 out of every $100 dollars they have.

Our Build Back Better bill is going to make a giant difference in your life because your childcare costs will be capped at 7 percent of your income. Period. That's 7 percent of your income.

It's going to make a huge difference for millions of workers who've had to drop out of the workforce not because they didn't want to work, but because they couldn't find affordable care. Look at all of the women who are totally qualified who had to drop out of the workforce because they can't afford the childcare and still work.

Look, folks, you know, it's not the same, but I started—about commuting—one of the reasons I started commuting was, when I got elected and my family was killed—my wife and daughter were killed—I couldn't afford to leave Delaware. Because I had a sister—who is my best friend—my brother, my mother, my father helped me raise my kids. I was making good money. I was making $42,000 a year as a Senator. I could no more afford full-time childcare than fly.

We're going to make college more affordable. Right now the cost of a 2-year degree in Missouri is over $4,000 a year. In Kansas, it's over $3,000 a year. There are about—140,000 students in these two States rely on what we call Pell grants. They make less than $50,000 a year. Pell grants to help cover the cost. This plan I have also is going to increase Pell grants by $550 a year. It makes it easier to stay in school. It makes a big difference.

We're also—we're also—going to lower prescription drug prices. This week, I spoke to a young woman who told me the cost of insulin for her diabetes—just to stay—type 1 diabetes—meant having to choose between rent, groceries, and medication, she said, "relentlessly, without relief, every day."

So she couldn't do it, so she began to ration her supply of insulin. She ended up in a coma and almost died. Think about that: The difference between nearly dying and thriving is the cost of one drug that cost $10 to make years ago—nothing has changed in it—that can cost consumers now $1,000 a month.

Well, so, if you're one of those Americans that are paying too much for insulin, my Build Back Better plan is going to change that too, because we're going to guarantee you pay no more than $35 a month. It'd be different if they invested another 1,500 bucks in research; they did nothing to change it.

That will make sure parents of the 200,000 children in America with type 1 diabetes have the ability to parent—have the ability to say to a child, "Honey, it's going to be okay." Can you imagine the dignity you'd be deprived of as a parent knowing your child has type 1 diabetes and you can't afford their insulin? You can't afford it because you don't have insurance and your State doesn't have Medicare [Medicaid].*

Look, it's all about what working and middle class people have to pay to get by, to get ahead, and to get, as my dad said, that "little bit of breathing room." My whole plan is designed to bring down the costs you face. For example: Lower costs for childcare, making sure you don't pay more than 7 percent of your income, means a family making 50,000 bucks a year will save $3,000 a year on child costs; lowering the costs of prescription drugs, making sure you pay no more than $35 a month for insulin, not $100—not $1,000 a month; saving $600 per person, per year, for health care premiums.

The list goes on: eldercare, housing, meeting the moment on climate change. That's what this plan does. All in, a study found that my plan would mean the equivalent of $7,400 in tax cuts and savings for the typical family of four with two kids. And guess what? Let's talk about inflation. It's real. There is inflation.

But Nobel—17 Nobel winners of the—in economics have written a letter—just about 3 weeks ago to me—affirming that this bill would ease long-term inflationary pressures in the economy. Two of the leading rating agencies in the world—the Wall Street Journal—confirmed my plans do not add to inflationary pressures. Not liberal think tanks—Wall Street, Moody's, and—anyway.

Look, I have also proposed—well, what I proposed is, in a way, to lower some of the difficult costs families have to pay every month by asking corporations and the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share for a change.

Look, right now—[applause]. Everybody talks about the price tag for this legislation: $1,750,000,000. It will not cost the taxpayers a penny. If you're making less than $400,000 a year, you're not going to have your taxes go up one single penny. Not a cent. And guess what else? It also means that there is no increase—no increase—to your taxes and people are going to just pay a fair share.

For example, there are 50 corporations in America in the last 3 years of the Fortune 500 that made $40 billion that didn't pay one single, solitary penny—not one single penny in taxes. Come on, folks.

You have—it used to be during the last Bush administration the top rate for the top 1 percent paid 37.5 percent. It got lowered to 36 percent. It didn't have any impact; it just means whether or not they're going to have an extra swimming pool for the extra home. But all kidding aside, if you just take it from—down from 36 back up to 37.5, it pays for every bit of preschool, and it pays for every bit of what we're talking about in terms of insulin.

Now, what's better for American corporations? What's better for the wealthy, for a healthier nation: everybody being better educated or having that extra amount of money that they already have a great deal of?

I'm a capitalist. I always have—I'm a good friend of Bernie's, but we disagree. I'm not a Socialist, I'm a capitalist. You should be able to make a million or a 100 million bucks if you can, but pay your fair share.

Folks, look, there is so much we can do, so many things that are within our power. If you went to the average American family making $60 to $70 grand, or you went to a family where dad was a teacher and mom was a police officer, making $120 [grand],* they're paying at a higher tax rate than someone making a trillion dollars—I mean, a billion dollars. For real. How can that be fair?

Look, one of the reasons I feel so firmly in the proposals is because I know what this country can be. We've always been a nation of possibilities. We didn't become this Nation by thinking small; we've always thought big.

Throughout our history, we've emerged from crisis by investing in ourselves, in our people. During the Civil War, before it was over, Lincoln started to build the transcontinental railroad. It was built at the end of and during the Civil War. During the cold war, Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway System, transforming the way Americans lived. And now we're at work beginning and building the economy of the 21st century to build a better America.

I truly believe—and I promise you this—I believe that 50 years from now when historians look back on this moment, they're going to say this was the moment that America won the competition for the 21st century. Think about it: Most of you who are over 40 remember us always having the number-one infrastructure in the world, the most—best education, et cetera. We rank now number 8 in the world, in terms of investment in research and development; 14th in infrastructure—the United States of America.

And if you're a businessman out there or you work or you're a laborer, a union person working for a business—where is the business going to go? Where they can get the products to market fastest, safest, where they have access to get in and out, where they have access to move. That's why we're losing. That's why we're losing. But we're not going to lose anymore, I promise you. The time of losing is over. It's over, over, over, over.

God bless you all, and may God protect our troops. Thank you for your patience. I appreciate it. Thank you. Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 2:52 p.m. at the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority. In his remarks, he referred to Sens. Roy D. Blunt and Bernard Sanders; and Phoenix, AZ, resident Iesha Meza. He also referred to his sister Valerie Biden Owens and brothers James B. and Francis W. Biden; and H.R. 5376.

* White House correction.

Joseph R. Biden, Remarks in Kansas City, Missouri Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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