Remarks on the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in Woodstock, New Hampshire
Thank you. Thank you. Thanks. Before I officially start, Billy, you have something you have to give your wife—I've got to remind you. Okay? [Laughter] Okay? You've got it? Okay. You've got it. All right.
Folks, it's a great honor to be here. It really is. Commissioner, thank you for the introduction. And it's great to be with your—with Members of Congress here: Maggie Hassan, Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Representative Amy Kuster—Annie Kuster, as well as Chris Pappas. And you know, let me tell you: The infrastructure law signed yesterday—and this is not hyperbole—would not have been possible without this delegation. That's a fact.
No, I'm—Maggie, you did one hell of a job. Because, folks, you should know that Maggie was a clear player in every aspect of this law. She led by getting bipartisan support. She made the case for making sure the law delivers high-speed internet everywhere in New Hampshire, which, as you know from the pandemic, is badly needed.
And you know, we—and that will protect the New Hampshire coastline from rising sea levels and extreme storms. And she was always making sure New Hampshire roads and bridges, like the one we're standing on today, are safe. And this is one is not. And so thank you, Maggie.
You know, and, Jeannie—Jeanne, you know, I won't surprise anyone here, but you were the key member of this bipartisan group of Senators that negotiated the infrastructure deal. Your calm, common sense, as usual, always leads the way. And I mean that sincerely.
The fact is that you need that, being married to Billy—[laughter]—you know, be calm, common sense. And I shouldn't be so familiar, but anyway, I—and Billy is a friend.
But making sure New Hampshire water is safe to drink, upgrading pipes that are a hundred years old and helping eliminate PFAS chemicals from the waterways.
You know, you always made the case that developing the workforce and jobs that we're going to create is an issue that many small businesses here in New Hampshire focus on.
And I might add parenthetically—you know, one of the things that's going to happen: We have another bill that's coming along here that has money for education in it. And it has money for education to provide for money that's directly for community colleges and for apprentice programs and Pell grants to allow people—the colleges to train for what is needed in the workforce—to train for what is needed in the workforce, including major apprentice programs that deal—so you can hire New Hampshire folks to do this work.
And, folks, Annie Kuster is an old friend, and many times—how many times did we talk about New Hampshire's parents during the pandemic who are worried about having—not having high-speed internet at their home, children learning remotely, especially here in rural New Hampshire? And every time this issue came up, you were there—[laughter]—reminding us and making the case she did—as she did in every element of the bill.
And Chris, he was a key member of the committee that—that got this bill across the finish line. Because the truth of the matter is, getting big ideas into an actual bill is hard work, and technical data is required. And it requires getting into the nitty-gritty and details without losing the big picture. And that's exactly what you did, Chris.
He always remembered the big picture and always making the economic case for the investments and how they're going to matter to real people across the country, but particularly here in New Hampshire and how clean water, access to the internet, rebuilding bridges, and everything in this bill matters to individual lives of real people. This is not something abstract.
Folks, it's not hyperbole to say that your delegation is laser-focused on your needs—the people of New Hampshire—the concerns that are discussed around our kitchen tables. This isn't esoteric. This isn't some gigantic bill—it is. But it's about what happens to ordinary people.
Conversations around those kitchen tables that are both profound as they are ordinary: "How do I cross a bridge in a snow storm?" What happens—no, I—think about it. You know, you're in a situation—what happens if the bridge collapses and there's a fire on the other side? It's going to takes 10 miles longer to get to the fire. People can die. I mean, this is real. This is real stuff.
What does it mean if a schoolbus or water treatment trucks or logging trucks can't cross? It means jobs. It means time. It means energy.
More broadly, how do we emerge from this pandemic not just with a little breathing room, but a real fighting chance to get ahead? Those are the things that take place at the kitchen tables where I grew up and where all of you—where everybody is living. And Maggie, Jeanne, Annie, Chris, and me, we all ran for office to help answer those questions—the questions at the kitchen table.
I used to get kidded because I spent so much time commuting every day between Wilmington, Delaware, after my wife and daughter were killed, to—back to Washington every single day—260 miles a day. And I'd ride home, and I'd look out the window—this is the God's truth—just outside of Washington. And I'd go through a long stretch of residential neighborhood, and I could see the lights on in the kitchens and in the dining room, and I wondered: What is it they're—what are they talking about? What are they thinking about?
Because that's why I ran. That's why these folks ran. It's about building the—their—taking care of their legitimate needs and to make sure democracy delivers for everybody.
You know, we promised that we couldn't just build back what we had before. We had to build back better. And that's—that's an environmental requirement. If a highway gets washed out, you can't build it back to what it was before, which used to be the measure; you've got to build a couple of feet higher. Because even if we gain control of the climate, we're still—it's not going to go back to what it was before. It's not going to be that way.
And despite the cynics, Democrats and Republicans, we can work together. We can deliver real results. We can deliver real people—results that are going to affect their lives. And that we're—you know, we're taking a monumental step forward in building back better for this Nation.
My message to the people of New Hampshire is simple. It's this: Because of this delegation, New Hampshire and America are moving again. Your life is going to change for the better, and that's literal. For example, the Pemi Bridge here you just—I just walked across—opened in 1939—twenty—excuse me, 82 years ago. This may not seem like a big bridge, but it saves lives and solves problems.
Let me tell you why: Businesses depend on it, like the local propane company or the sand and gravel company or the logging trucks. The public services depend on it. Schoolbuses, waste water trucks cross it every day. It's essential to the Woodstock Fire station about a quarter mile away. Without this bridge, as I said earlier, it's a 10-mile detour just to get to the other side.
And I know, having had a house burn down with my wife in it—she got out safely, God willing—that having a significant portion of it burn, I can tell: 10 minutes makes a hell of a difference. It makes a big difference. Folks, every mile counts, every minute counts in an emergency.
And, folks, this is bridge that has been structurally deficient for years. I'm preaching to the choir here, I know. But the fact is: It used to be able to carry 40-ton trucks. Now the bridge is down to 20-ton restrictions. In a couple of weeks, it's going to be closed to put steel plates down over—excuse me, down and over the weekend and—for sections of this deck.
That steel plate is basically like putting a Band-Aid on a major wound. This is going to make it bumpy for drivers, difficult for snow plows, and it's still dangerous for bikers. And when that's done, the bridge may need even more weight restrictions.
The State has already spent a quarter of a million dollars in "Band-Aid" repairs on this bridge alone. And right now there are 215 bridges in your State—215 bridges—deemed structurally unsafe in New Hampshire alone.
Many of them are like the—are less-trafficked bridges; they're often overlooked when decisions are being made about where and how to invest and rebuild. But these bridges are essential in small towns, rural areas—farmers and small businesses—like in my State of Delaware.
Not only about 700—you have about 700 miles of highway in New Hampshire that is listed in poor condition. Driving on these roads that need repair costs New Hampshire drivers an estimated extra $476 every year, per person driving, in gas and repairs and longer commute times. That's $476 in hidden tax on New Hampshire drivers as a result of the deteriorating infrastructure.
But thanks to the infrastructure law, we're going to make the most significant investment to modernize our roads and our bridges in 70 years. The law is going to speed up replacement of bridges by the—at least—by at least a year and allow New Hampshire to invest in other critical infrastructure needs.
Thanks to the Congressional delegation, this law also represents the most significant investment in passenger rail in 50 years and in public transit ever. Here in New Hampshire, that means replacing about one-third of the transit vehicles—buses and the like—that are past their useful life. And what it means: You'll be safer to get where you're going faster, and you'll save money.
And this means jobs—jobs for folks making these upgrades. It's estimated it will create thousands—excuse me, up to two extra—2 million jobs extra a year, and up to 16 million jobs nationwide. Good-paying jobs. Union jobs. Jobs you can raise a family on. Jobs that can't be outsourced.
And that's not all. The bipartisan bill is going to mobilize our ports and our airports and freight rail to make it easier for companies to get goods to market, reduce supply chain bottlenecks we're experiencing now.
I just had to convince the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, where 40 percent of all products come into the western United States, to stay open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, because they're backing up ships and container vessels for miles and miles and miles, hundreds of them. And that's the reason why you don't have things on the shelves. Why? Because people were dying of COVID in the eastern part of the Pacific—or the western part of the Pacific, making the products that we're, in fact, buying here in the United States of America, or the products that go into the products we buy.
Folks, we're going to lower costs for you and your families.
This Congressional delegation—we're going to start by replacing 100 percent of the lead water pipes and service lines in the United States and address PFAS as the dangerous forever chemical that is a threat to the drinking water here in New Hampshire.
Every American and every child should be able to turn on the faucet and drink clean water, which will also create thousands of good-paying jobs for plumbers and pipefitters putting these—replacing these pipes.
You know, in every meeting about this law, this delegation made it clear that high-speed internet is essential—as essential as clean water and electricity. I don't know how many times you all told me that. But I think I already knew it, but you didn't let me forget it. [Laughter]
And now not just in New Hampshire—for New Hampshire families, but New Hampshire businesses as well. Today, 1 in every 10 New Hampshire households doesn't have internet subscriptions. And in a lot of places, there's no broadband infrastructure at all.
And the law is going to make high-speed internet affordable and available everywhere in New Hampshire: urban, suburban, and rural. It's going to create jobs laying down those broadband lines.
In the 21st century in America, no parent—no parent—should ever should have to sit in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant to connect to the internet so their kids can do their homework or they can get their job assignment. Really, think about it.
This law also builds on our resilience to extreme weather. Southwestern New Hampshire, there have been two hundred-year storms in recent years. Hurricane Irene hit New Hampshire really hard. And you all know that every winter, power will go out from ice storms.
Well, from 2010 to 2020, extreme weather events cost New Hampshire $500 million in damages. Nationwide, extreme weather events cost, this year—this year—$99 billion in damages. I can tell you because I flew over almost all of it. You know, more fires in the West burn to the ground homes, businesses, and forests than the entire State of New Jersey, from Cape May to New York City.
This is the United States of America, for God's sake. And why is it happening? Well, the severe storms that are knocking down all the wires—anyways, there's a lot going on.
We have to—this law builds back our bridges, our water systems, our powerlines, our grids, and—for better and stronger resilience. So fewer Americans are going to be flooded out of their homes or lose power for days and weeks after storms hit.
Look, there's much more to this law. But most of all, this law does something else that's truly historic. Maggie, Jeanne, Annie, Chris, we understand that it is time to rebuild the backbone of this Nation. It's the reason why I ran.
I left politics; I had no intention of running again until I really got upset when I saw those folks coming out of that field down in Virginia, carrying swastikas and torches and—White supremacists.
But you know what else, what really angered me? Take a look at what's happened over the last 20 years. The backbone of this Nation has been hollowed out: hard-working, middle class folks. If I hear one more person tell me how Wall Street built America, I think I'm going to—anyway. [Laughter]
But seriously, the middle class built—built—built this country, and they've been left out. Trickle-down economics does not work. To rebuild the economy from the bottom up and the middle out—and the middle out is what I wanted to do.
Of the listed billionaires in America, do you know how much money they made in the last 4 years? One trillion dollars. I'm a capitalist. You want to be a billionaire and a millionaire? That's great. Good for you. But pay your fair share. Four hundred corporations—550 corporations in the Fortune 500—guess what?—I misspoke. Fifty-five corporations in the Fortune 500 made $40 billion last year. Did not pay one single penny in taxes.
Who pays it? "Y'all" pay it, as they say in Southern Delly. "Y'all" do. For real. Think about it. This law—and so that's why this bill is paid for.
Look, this long-overdue promise creates better jobs for millions of Americans to let—and I'm going to be clear, especially here in New Hampshire: No one earning—no one earning in America—less than $400,000 will pay a single, solitary extra penny in Federal taxes. I wouldn't even let the bipartisan commission include a gas tax in this bill because that would mean people—working folks would be paying more money.
Look, this law is a blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America. It leaves nobody behind.
Now our focus moves on to implementing this infrastructure law and with some speed and discipline. I asked the former Mayor of New Orleans and former Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana, Mitch Landrieu—where are you, Mitch? Right there. He—by the way, Mitch loves the cold and snow. [Laughter]
What—Mitch is going to do what I had responsibility to do with the Recovery Act. I was asked by the President to make sure the $900 billion that was being spent was, in fact, used well. Well, guess what? We spent all that money. We built a whole awful lot of things and with less than one-tenth of 1 percent waste or fraud. That's going to be Mitch's job: making sure that everything gets out and it goes where it's supposed to go.
Look, we're at an inflection point in American history. This law—this law—meets that point. For most of the 20th century, we led the world by a significant margin because we invested in ourselves. But somewhere along the way, we stopped investing in ourselves. We've risked losing our edge as a nation, and China and the rest of the world are catching up and, in some cases, passing us.
Our infrastructure used to be rated the best in the world. Now, this is not a joke: the best in the world. According to the World Economic Forum, we now rank 13th in the world in terms of infrastructure.
Well, we're about to turn things around in a big way. For example, because of this law, next year will be the first year in 20 years that American infrastructure investment will grow faster than China's, for example. And we'll once again have the best roads, bridges, ports, and airports. And we'll be building again and moving again.
Folks, when you see these projects start in your hometowns, I want you to feel what I feel: pride—pride in what we can do together as the United States of America.
And as some—you know, I think the same goes if—I don't want to get into it in detail, because you're going to be freezing, but here—[laughter]—but my plan to build back better for our people, getting folks back to work and reducing costs of things like childcare, eldercare, housing, health care, prescription drugs.
Thirteen—13—excuse me, 14 Nobel laureates in economics said it will actually bring down the costs, it will reduce the deficit, and it will—it's totally paid for—and it's going to reduce inflation, and to meet the moment of climate change as well.
The leadership of this delegation, I'm confident that the House is going to pass this bill. And when it passes, it will go to the Senate. I think we'll get it passed within a week.
And it's fully paid for. It'll reduce the deficit over the long term, as I said. And again, no one making less than 400 grand will pay a single penny more in Federal taxes.
Let me close with this: Throughout our history, we've emerged from crisis by investing in ourselves. During the Civil War, we built the transcontinental railroad, uniting and connecting the East and West Coast—uniting America. During the cold war, we built the Interstate Highway System, transforming how Americans live and where they're able to live. And now, as we work to put the COVID-19 pandemic behind us, we will build an economy of the 21st century. It matters.
Last night I had an important virtual meeting for 3½ hours with the President of China, Xi Jinping. Years ago, when I was Vice President, he asked me—when we were near the Tibetan Plateau, he asked me if I could—I met with him more than any other world leader has. And he asked me if I could define America for him. This a God—true story. I looked at him, I said, "Yes, I can, in one word: possibilities."
Think about it: Of all the nations in the world, we're the only one—the only nation I can think of—that has come out of crisis stronger than when we went into it.
In America, we've always believed anything is possible. Anything is possible. We've got to reestablish that spirit. We've got to reestablish that sense of who we are. There's no limit to what our people can do. There's no limit to what our Nation can do.
If you think about this thing—it's never been a good bet to bet against America. Every world leader I meet with and he starts telling me—I said, "It's never been a good bet. Never." Give Americans half a chance—ordinary Americans half a chance—they have never, ever, ever, ever let their country down, not once.
Because of Maggie and Jeanne and Annie and Chris, this new law gives our people a real chance. It gives us a real chance; it gives everybody a chance. And that's why I truly believe that 50 years from now, when historians write about this moment, I think they're going to talk about this was the beginning of the time where America recaptured the competition of the 21st century; we reasserted ourselves.
That's exactly what we're going to do, what we can do, what we will do. I promise you.
God bless you all, and may God protect our troops. Thank you for your time. Thank you.
NOTE: The President spoke at 2:51 p.m. at the NH 175 Pemigewasset River Bridge. In his remarks, he referred to William H. Shaheen, husband of Sen. C. Jeanne Shaheen; and New Hampshire Department of Transportation Commissioner Victoria F. Sheehan, who introduced the President.
Joseph R. Biden, Remarks on the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in Woodstock, New Hampshire Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/353402