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Remarks Prior to a Meeting With Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen and an Exchange With Reporters

January 29, 2021

The President. Well, folks, I'm going to have a discussion here with Secretary Yellen and my economic team to discuss the economic consequences of the Congress failing to pass our American Rescue Plan. There is an overwhelming consensus among economists left, right, and center that this is a unique moment in this crisis, and the cost of inaction is high, and it's growing every day.

The crisis itself is accelerating. Nine hundred thousand more Americans filed unemployment—for unemployment insurance in this week alone. Thirty million Americans don't have enough food to eat this week.

And interest rates are at historic lows, and the return on smart investments in the economy have never been higher. And it's not just me saying this; as I said, it's the consensus among the vast majority of leading economists in the country—as I said, left, right, and center—including advisers to former President Trump and George W. Bush.

And so I've been meeting all morning with other folks as well. The notion here is the—we have to act now; it's—there's no time for any delay. And so we can end up with 4 million fewer jobs this year, according to Moody's, a Wall Street firm, and it could take a year longer to return to full employment if we don't act and don't act now.

We could see an entire cohort of kids with a lower lifetime earnings because they're deprived of another semester of school. Millions of parents and maybe some of you—millions of parents are—particularly moms—are forced to stay home, reducing the family wages. And if they're a single-wage earner, it's really difficult. And future job prospects that—they have no choice but to stay home and take care of their children. Millions of people are out of work, unemployed. Future millions of—are held back for no good reason other than our failure to act.

So the choice couldn't be clearer. We have learned from past crises the risk is not doing too much; the risk is not doing enough. And this is the time to act now.

And I've asked Secretary Yellen, who has been leading this effort, to come in, and we're going to go into some detail among ourselves, but I think she has a statement to make as well.

Secretary Yellen. Thank you very much, Mr. President.

The President. Thank you, Madam Secretary.

Secretary Yellen. Well, there is a huge amount of pain in our economy right now, and it was evident in the data released yesterday. Over a million people applied for unemployment insurance last week, and that's far more than in the worst week of the Great Recession. And economists agree that if there's not more help, many more people will lose their small businesses, the roofs over their heads, and the ability to feed their families. And we need to help those people before the virus is brought under control.

The President's American Rescue Plan will help millions of people make it to the other side of this pandemic, and it will also make some smart investments to get our economy back on track.

I want to emphasize—the President is absolutely right—the price of doing nothing is much higher than the price of doing something and doing something big. We need to act now, and the benefits of acting now and acting big will far outweigh the costs in the long run.

Coronavirus Vaccine Development/Coronavirus Relief Legislation

Q. Mr. President, what do you think of the Johnson and Johnson results?

The President. I'm waiting to hear from my team—I'm waiting to hear from the team on the detail of it. I saw the news reported this morning. I haven't had a chance to speak with Dr. Fauci.

One point I want to make that the Secretary made—now let's get this straight: It's not only that people will be badly, badly hurt if we don't pass this package, in terms of increased rate of death, in terms of poverty—a whole range of things—but we will also be hurt long term, economically—economically.

We need to make this investment so the economy can grow the remainder of this year and next year. The investments now will help the economy grow. It will not, in fact, put—be a—put a drag on the economy, us spending this money. It will do the exact opposite.

So thank you all very much.

NOTE: The President spoke at 11:21 a.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony S. Fauci.

Joseph R. Biden, Remarks Prior to a Meeting With Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/347901

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