Remarks on the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in Baltimore, Maryland
Thank you, thank you, thank you. We have an expression—we used to have an expression when I served in the Senate—Senator Van Hollen—they said—when they wanted to make some statement that was personal, they'd say, "A point of personal privilege."
You know, when you were talking about being a waterman, working on the water—my family is originally from Baltimore, came in the early 1800s. And the entire Biden family worked in the water—were watermen until probably 1906, -7, or -8. And my father was raised here in Baltimore. They don't say "Baltimore." They say "Bawltamer." And so, you know, although they never worked at the port, they did work in the bay and along here.
So, you know, this has been—this is one the oldest ports in the country continuously running and one of the best ports in the country.
And so, Tony, thanks for that introduction. And, Mayor Scott, thanks for the passport into the city. I appreciate it very much. And I want to thank Governor Hogan for being here and Members of the delegation.
I want start off with one of my best buddies and, I think, one of the most effective people in the United States Senate, Chris Van Hollen. Don't—if you need something, go to him, man. He knows how to get it done.
And also, Dutch Ruppersberger. And a guy who—I knew him when he was a kid. He doesn't remember me. I'm getting so old; I knew his dad, Senator Sarbanes. And Congressman Sarbanes, Congressman Brown, and all of this delegation. You've got a first-rate delegation.
And so I want to thank them for being here today and thank them for all the help in getting the Members of the House and getting the legislation passed. It's a big deal. It's going to make a big difference.
The reason I started calling this "Build Back Better" is, we're the only country in the world—we underestimate ourselves; we're sort of down on ourselves the last 10 years or so—we're the only country in the world, as a matter of history, that every crisis we've faced, we've come out better on the other side. We not only beat it—not a joke, think about it—we've come out better than we were before we went into the crisis.
And the economic and political, as well as health crisis we found with COVID—I was determined, when we got elected, we've got to build it back better than it was. Because the world is changing so rapidly—so rapidly, man. We've got to keep up. We're in competition to determine whether or not we can still remain the most powerful economic force in the world.
And so today I'm here to talk about one of the most pressing economic concerns of the American people—and it's real. And that is: getting prices down, number one; number two, making sure our stores are fully stocked; and number three, getting a lot of people back to work while tracking and tackling these two above challenges I mentioned.
Today's economic reports showing unemployment continued to fall, but consumer prices remain too high. Tell us—the American people, in the midst of an economic crisis, that recovery is showing strong results, but not to them. They're still looking out there. Everything from a gallon of gas to loaf of bread costs more. And it's worrisome, even though wages are going up.
We still face challenges, and we have to tackle them. We have to tackle them head on.
And on the good side, we're seeing the highest growth rate in decades, the fastest decrease in unemployment at this point ever since 1950. Jobs are up. Wages are up. Value is up. And savings are up. But we're—we've got problems too.
Many people remain unsettled about the economy, and we all know why. They see higher prices. They go to the store online, or they can't—or they go to the store—or go online, and they can't find what they always want and when they want it. And we're tracking these issues and trying to figure out how to tackle them head on.
My administration, with the help of the folks on my left over here, is—has a plan to finish the job at getting us back to normal from the pandemic and having a stronger economy than we've ever had before.
Let me explain the part that the ports play and why they're so critically important. It starts with a piece of good news: Infrastructure week has finally arrived. How many times did you hear over the last 5 years "Infrastructure week is coming"? [Laughter] Yes, uh-huh.
Anyway, but last week, we took a monumental step forward as a nation and we did something long overdue and long talked about in Washington, but almost never actually done: The House of Representatives passed my bipartisan infrastructure bill. Along with another—plans that I'm advancing, this bill is going to reduce the cost of goods to consumers and businesses and get people back to work, helping us build an economy from the bottom up and the middle out that—where everybody is better off.
You know, I'm tired of this trickle-down economy stuff. I come from Delaware—just across the line up here—and you know, we have more corporations in Delaware than every other nation in the State [State in the Nation]* combined. And so I understand big business. The fact of the matter is, it's time they start paying their fair share. The fact is, you have 55 corporations last year that, in fact, made $40 billion, didn't pay a single penny in taxes.
Nobody is going to—nobody is going to pay more—if you make less than 400 grand, you're not going to pay anything more in taxes at all. Period. Guaranteed. Including gasoline tax. Not going to—additional, from a Federal Government standpoint.
And so, look, this is a once-in-a-generation investment to create good-paying jobs, modernize our infrastructure, turn the climate crisis into an opportunity. When I talk climate to other world leaders, I say—think one thing: We're dealing with climate—think "jobs." Good jobs. Because that's how you beat the climate crisis.
Put us on a path to win the economic competition of the 21st century we face with China and the rest of the world. China is outspending us on research and development. China is outspending all these—these other countries are as well.
And here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to create good-paying union jobs—union. Not good jobs—not 12 dollars an hour, not 15 dollars an hour—45 bucks an hour and up with good benefits so you can raise a family on and build the middle class out. And jobs that cannot be outsourced; you can't outsource these jobs.
And I'm going to transform our transportation system with the most significant investment in passenger rail in the past 50 years; in roads and bridges—the most significant investment in 70 years; and investments in public transit that we've done over the period. You know, this is going to—it's going to modernize our ports with $17 billion in investment—$17 billion in investment.
We're going to reduce congestion. We're going to address repair and maintenance backlogs, deploy state-of-the-art technologies, and make our ports cleaner and more efficient. And we're going to do the same with our airports and freight rail.
We're going to create jobs replacing lead water pipes that are here in Maryland, as well as every other State in the Union, that are poisoning our kids and others.
We're going to make high-speed internet affordable and available to everywhere in America. Those of you who have kids in school when we we've been going to this hybrid thing—some in class, some out of class—how many times if you—if you don't live in an area where you have high-speed internet you can afford, how many times have you driven your kids to the parking lot of McDonald's and sat there going off the McDonald's internet so you could hear? No, I'm not joking. Think of this—United States of America, for God's sake.
So, folks, we're going to build the first-ever national network of electric vehicle charging stations all across the country. IBEW is going to put in 500,000 charging stations across the country.
And guess what? That's in the Recovery Act—excuse me, that's in the Build Back Better bill, which is not going to raise taxes 1 single cent. It's totally paid for—totally paid for—by making taxes work for people who make over 400 grand and just do their fair share. I'm a capitalist, man. You should be able to be a millionaire or billionaire if you can. But pay your fair share. Pay something along the line.
I'm going to get America off the sidelines on manufacturing—the manufacturing of solar panels, wind turbines, batteries to store energy and power the electric vehicles from schoolbuses to automobiles.
We're also going to make historic investments in environmental cleanup and remediation, rebuilding resilience against superstorms and droughts and wildfires and hurricanes. I traveled all over the country this year. You know, there's nine—literally, $99 billion in losses because of storms this year. Ninety-nine billion dollars.
You ever think you'd hear somebody stand up and say, "The Colorado River is being drained"? Did you ever think you'd see—you'd go out—more wildfires in the West than the entire—and lost—land lost, homes lost—burned to the ground—I've flown over in Marine One—than the entire State of New Jersey, from the Cape all the way to New York. That's how much we've lost in America so far—so far.
And according to the economic experts, this bill is going to ease inflationary pressures, lowering the cost to working families. Seventeen—excuse me, yes, 17 Nobel laureates in economics wrote a letter to me about 10 days ago saying this is going to affect—bring inflation down, not up.
Best of all, the vast majority of these jobs are going to create—that we're going to create don't require a college degree—don't require it. This is the ultimate blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America.
I'm not waiting to sign a bill to start improving the flow of goods from ships to shelves. Yesterday I announced a port of—a port plan of action. It lays out concrete steps for my administration to take over the next 3 months to invest in our ports and to relieve bottlenecks.
This builds on the progress we've already made. Last month, I reached a deal with two of the largest ports in America, the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach. And I met with you guys, with the longshoremen there, and we worked out a deal between the port owners and the longshoremen to move toward operating those two ports.
Okay, 40 percent of everything in the Pacific comes through those two ports. And they're lined up—ships are lined up 70-some lined up out as far as you could see. So they all agreed they're going to go 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
It's already paying off. Last week, the number of container ships in the docks for more than 9 days fell by over 20 percent. And now we're announcing steps to improve ports on the East Coast to provide support for the Port of Savannah, the fourth largest container port in the country, to help reduce congestion.
With our help, they now have the funds they need to set up five new inland port sites in Georgia and North Carolina so goods can get closer to their final destination more quickly. And other ports across the country will have the resources they need to make these kinds of immediate investments as well.
The challenge we need to meet here, and that my plan is going to help address, has to do with the supply chain. You hear a lot about the supply chains in the news, but frankly, not a lot of people are clear—have a clear understanding, whether they have a Ph.D. or they didn't go to school, about how a supply chain works. It's easy to talk about it, but what's the impact on the economy, let alone how to fix it? It's perfectly understandable because supply chains are incredibly complex.
And as long as goods and materials are getting where they need to go on time, there's usually no need to worry about the supply chains. But when global disruptions hit, like a pandemic, they can hit supply chains particularly hard. COVID-19 has stretched global supply chains like never before. And suddenly, when you go to order a pair of sneakers or a bicycle or Christmas presents for the family, you're met with higher prices and long delays, or they say they just don't have any at all.
And the reason for that, last year, was—has a lot to do with most companies make their product—how they make their products today. In simple terms, supply chain is just the journey that a product takes to get to your doorstep: raw materials plus labor, assembly, shipping—everything it takes to create the finished product. These supply chains are complex.
Even products as simple as a pencil can—have to use wood from Brazil, graphite from India before it comes together at a factory in the United States to get a pencil. It sounds silly, but that's literally how it happens. So if, all of a sudden, you've got a COVID crisis in Brazil, you can't get the product maybe because the plant shuts down. That's what's happening.
Products like smartphones often bring together parts from France, Italy; chips from the Netherlands; touchscreens from New York State; camera components from Japan—a supply chain that crosses dozens of countries.
That's just the nature of a modern economy—the world economy. But global supply chains have helped dramatically bring down the price we pay for things we buy. But they've also made us much more reliant on what happens in other parts of the world.
So if a factory in Malaysia shuts down due to a COVID outbreak—which they have—it causes a ripple effect that can slow down auto manufacturing in Detroit. Why? They can't get the computer chips they need. If a climate disaster closes a port in China, it can delay shipment of furniture or clothing, reduce worldwide supply, and driving up prices here in America.
And the irony is: People have more money now because of the first major piece of legislation I passed. You all got checks for $1,400. You got checks for a whole range of things. If you're a mom and you have kids under the age of 7, you're getting 300 bucks a month, and if it's over 7 to 17, you're getting $360 a month—like wealthy people used to when they'd get back tax returns. It'd change people's lives.
But what happens if there's nothing to buy and you've got more money? You compete for getting it there. It creates a real problem. So, on the one hand, we're facing new disruptions to our supplies. But at the same time, we're also experiencing higher demand for goods because wages are up, as well as—as well as—people have money in the bank. And because of the strength of our economic recovery, American families have been able to buy more products.
And—but guess what? They're not going out to dinner and lunch and going to the local bars because of COVID. So what are they doing? They're staying home, they're ordering online, and they're buying product. Well, with more people with money buying product and less product to buy, what happens? The supply chain is the reason, and the answer is you guys—and I'll get to that in a minute—but what happens? Prices go up.
So we've got nearly 20 percent more goods coming into the country than we did before the pandemic struck. In 19 days—excuse me, COVID-19 has changed the way we spend our time and our money. More products are being delivered than ever before. That's because people have a little more breathing room than they did last year, and that's a good thing.
But it also means we got a higher demand for goods at the same time we're facing disruptions in the supplies to make those goods. There's a recipe—this is a recipe for delays and for higher prices, and people are feeling it. They're feeling it. Did you ever think you'd be paying this much for gas—a gallon of gas? In some parts of California, they're paying $4.50 a gallon.
That's why it's so important that we do everything in our power to stabilize the supply chain. And here's the good news: Yesterday I spoke with the CEOs—personally spoke with the CEOs of the major retailers—Walmart, Target—and the leading freight movers—FedEx and UPS. They assured me that the shelves will be stocked in stores this holiday because they signed on to 24/7 as well. They signed on to 24/7.
And they provide more avenues—they're getting more of their containers off the ports quicker than ever before. Because a lot of stuff on the ports, it was sitting around, staying there. Why? Because it no longer is the product they need at this moment. And it doesn't cost them anything to leave them sitting at the port, rather than in their warehouses. That's moving as well.
Part of the reason why is because my Port Envoy, John Porcari—who was the Secretary of Transportation here for two Governors—John has worked with the operators, the shippers—shipping companies and unions and retailers to speed commerce so they can get products to stores and to your doors and to get the shelves fully stocked this holiday season.
Instead of pointing fingers, we're seeing folks start to work together: railroads, ocean liners, labor, State and local governments. The progress has already begun. And now we passed the bipartisan infrastructure bill—the deal—it's only going to accelerate. You've heard me say it before: Infrastructure—infrastructure—used to be rated, in the United States, as the best in the world when I got to the Congress.
But today, according to the World Economic Forum, you know where we rank in infrastructure? Thirteenth in the world. Twelve countries in the world have more modern, efficient infrastructure than the United States of America.
By investing in our roads, our bridges, our ports, and so much else, this bill is going to make it easier for companies to get goods to market more quickly. Here in Baltimore, you've got a port that's older than America itself, and it's been operating for 315 years.
By the way, you've got any marines here—any former marines? Raise your hand. Well, if you're here as a marine, happy birthday. It's your 247th birthday—the United States Marine Corps. They deserve some applause.
Look, this port is connected to the Nation's oldest rail line, the B&O Railroad, which in turn relies on the tunnels that are about 126 years old, those tunnels. Okay?
The tunnel has become a major bottleneck to the port. Now, the Port of Baltimore will be getting a $125 million grant to upgrade that tunnel so freight trains can come double-stacked through that tunnel—double-stacked with these cars—with containers on top of them. Twice as much. They move out a hell of a lot more quickly if they're going—if they're imports going out, but if they're exports—going across the ocean. That means, in addition to more good jobs being filled, more products on shelves delivered faster and lower prices.
It's about taking a long-term view of our economy to deliver lower costs, more jobs, and ensure our shelves are stocked with product. And the longer term view means building greater resilience to withstand both the shocks and disruptions we can anticipate as the world continues to change: pandemics, weather extremes, cyber attacks, whatever else comes our way. And they're all going to come our way. You know it. We need to be ready.
We need companies throughout the supply chain to create and support good-paying jobs for people that are—that they can grow in, build skills in, join a union, make a decent living.
That's when disruption hits—so when disruption hits, companies can quickly adapt because they're invested in their workers, their skills, their training, and a strong foundation of what—when I always think unions and my family, I think of dignity and respect. That's what it's about: dignity and respect.
Taking the longer term view also means making "Buy American" not just a promise, but an ironclad reality. When I got elected, I said we're going to—I get to "spend"—quote, unquote—$600 billion of your money making everything from aircraft carriers to balloons. But guess what? So much of it has been going out and getting foreign contractors to do it. Well, this administration has been doing—we set new rules to strengthen our domestic supply chains with a new Made in America office within the White House.
Never again should our country be left unable to produce critical goods because we don't have access to the materials we need. Never again should we have to rely on one company or one country, particularly when the country doesn't share our values.
I've said it before: We're in a competition for the 21st century and who's going to own it. America still has the most productive workers in the world and the most innovative minds in the world. That's not hyperbole, that's a fact. But other countries are closing in. We risk losing our edge if we don't step up now.
This bipartisan infrastructure bill is a major step forward. It represents the biggest investment in ports in American history. And for American families, it means products moving faster and less expensively from factory floor, through the supply chain, to your home.
The bottom line is this: With the bill we passed last week and the steps we're taking to reduce bottlenecks at home and abroad, we're set to make significant progress.
We're already in the midst of a historic economic recovery. And thanks to those steps we're taking, very soon we're going to see the supply chain start catching up with demand. So not only will we see more record-breaking job growth, we'll see lower prices and faster deliveries as well.
This work is going to be critical as we implement the infrastructure bill and as we continue to build the economy from the bottom up and the middle out by passing the Build Back Better plan.
We need to unlock the full might and dynamism of our economy, guys, and of our people. I really mean it. And with this plan, we've set in motion what a—that's—what's—exactly what we're going to do: We're going to build a better America—not a joke. We're going to lead the world again—not a joke. We're going to be in a position where we once again own the 21st century, because when we own it, everybody does better. Everybody. Not only America, but around the world.
Sorry to take so long. And the Sun is down. You don't have any sweater on. You're going to freeze. I'm going to stop talking. [Laughter] A man with little—as little hair as mine just took his hat off. I'd put it back on. You're going to get cold if I don't step down.
But look, all kidding aside, I want to particularly thank the longshoremen. You guys—there's an old expression up in Claymont, Delaware, where I was from—y'all brung me to the dance, man. You've stuck with me from the first time I ran. And you've stepped up every time you've been asked—every time you've been asked. And I want to personally thank you while I'm standing in front of you.
God bless you all, and God bless all the workers that keep our economy going. And make God protect our troops. Thank you so very much. Thank you.
NOTE: The President spoke at 4:17 p.m. at the Port of Baltimore. In his remarks, he referred to Tony Revels, Sr., crane operator, International Longshoremen's Association AFL-CIO Local 33; Rep. C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger; C. Douglas McMillon, president and chief executive officer, Walmart Inc.; Brian Cornell, board chairman and chief executive officer, Target; Frederick W. Smith, chairman and chief executive officer, FedEx; Carol B. Tomé, chief executive officer, UPS; and former Govs. Parris N. Glendening and Martin J. O'Malley of Maryland. He also referred to H.R. 3684.
* White House correction.
Joseph R. Biden, Remarks on the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in Baltimore, Maryland Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/353341