Photo of Joe Biden

Remarks at the National League of Cities Congressional City Conference

March 14, 2022

The President. Hello, hello, hello. It's great to be back with you all, in person this time. Please, sit down. Please, sit down—if you have a seat. [Laughter]

Audience member. We love you, Mr. Biden!

The President. Mr. President, Mayor Vince Williams, thank you for your leadership of this organization and your leadership down in Union City, Georgia.

I wanted to come here because you're the people America looks to first for guidance and for leadership. And that's not hyperbole. City managers, mayors, councilpersons—when you have a problem, they're knocking on your doors. That's because their quality of life depends on you more than anyone else. And I'm not trying to be solicitous; I know from personal experience.

When I was a 27-year-old kid, I got elected to the New Castle County Council, which—we're like a miniature Illinois; one county has 60 percent of the population of the State. And so the councilman represents a district seven times bigger than the State rep and three times bigger than a State senator.

And fortunately, after 2 years—I was elected for 4 years—after 2 years, my—the Republican Party saw in me something I didn't see. They—so they reapportioned me to a 2-year term—[laughter]—from a district that was overwhelmingly Republican to over-overwhelmingly Republican. [Laughter] So I got put in the position—that old saying goes—"up or out." So I do appreciate what you all do. I really mean it.

You're there—you can't walk into a grocery store or gas station, you can't go into a supermarket without someone having a question for you, and—because you're the people they know, you're the people they depend on. You're out there every day on the frontlines of public service.

And that's why, when I took office last year in the midst of the worst health pandemic in a century, the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, I knew we had to design a Rescue Plan with your partnership to meet your needs.

Three days ago marked the 1-year anniversary I signed the American Rescue Plan. I'm—[applause]—I learned as a councilman, I never have anything that's intended to be shared by the cities and towns that has to go through a State legislature. [Laughter] No, I mean it.

The most significant investment in local government in all of history was in that plan. And frankly, you couldn't have gotten it done without your support and so many local officials around the country.

I don't need to remind you the situation you all inherited in 2020: the pain, the disruption, the stress of your local budgets requiring you to lay off cops, firefighters, teachers. So many people lost their jobs. And you remember the lines of cars stretching for miles in your communities, with families just waiting for a box of food to be put in the backseat or the trunk.

Because of this law, we were able to help 41 million Americans put food on the table for the better part of a year. Because of this law, we helped keep a roof over 4 million people's heads. And it gave what—families what my dad would call "just a little bit of breathing room" in a tough time.

And it worked. Because we took action, America added 6.7 million jobs last year, more jobs created in 1 year than ever before in American history. And it hasn't stopped. We're now well over 7 million jobs, 678,000 just last month. The unemployment rate is down to 3.8 percent. The economy grew at 5.7 percent last year, the strongest growth in four decades.

A leading financials team on Wall Street, Moody's, estimate that because of the Rescue Plan, 4 million more jobs were created and unemployment is lower by 2 percent than it would have been had we failed to act.

One year after signing this law, our cities, our towns, and our rural communities are roaring back. Before this law, State and local governments were still down more than a million jobs from before the pandemic. One year later, we had at least 1 year of State and local job growth, the largest in 20 years, adding 467,000 jobs: educators, firefighters, police officers back on the job.

Before this law, fewer than half our schools were open, putting an extraordinary strain on parents and teachers and students. One year later, more than 99 percent of our schools are open, and kids are back in the classroom. And, folks, you just had the strongest year of hiring teachers and educators on record.

But there's more to the story than that. America has had many recoveries in the past. But underneath those recoveries, there's also been a lot of lasting pain. Lots of folks never get back on their feet when they're knocked down so badly. And a whole lot of young people saw their futures dimmed from the previous recession. They never got back on their feet.

It's what economists call "economic scarring": chronic pain when the economy comes back, but some folks are still left behind, trapped in long-term unemployment, eviction, and foreclosure. Research shows that when you're stuck in that cycle, it has the worst impact on your emotional health than the loss of a family member, which sounds excessive, but it's true. And it's serious.

So when I came to office in the midst of this crisis, I was determined not to let that happen again. This time around, with the American Rescue Plan, we made a choice to bring everyone along, every single person in America.

So, not only has the unemployment rate dropped at a record pace, we've also seen the biggest drop in long-term unemployment ever recorded in a 12-month span: nearly 2.5 million people breaking out of that cycle of long-term unemployment and depression. Black unemployment fell by more than 30 percent. Hispanic unemployment fell from nearly 9 percent to 4.4 percent, the fastest drop ever recorded.

And we've seen—[applause]—it was something we should be doing again, but I'm having trouble getting it passed again, and that is the child tax credit. The lowest child poverty rate projected in 40 years—a 40-year decline.

Folks, we also have the lowest number of home foreclosures ever recorded, a record low of credit card delinquencies, because families had more money in their pockets.

The list goes on. But you all know it better than I do: A big part of the reason we're so successful is because the Rescue Plan went directly to you without having to pass "Go," without having to go to the statehouses.

Folks, we allocated $350 billion to State and local budgets, but we made sure $130 billion of that went straight to local governments. Straight to local government. Six thousand local governments never got a dime of the earlier relief package exact—enacted before I came to office. But we made sure that every one of you was dealt into the Rescue Plan. As a former local official, I know that it matters, having that flexibility and control to meet both the short-term and the long-term challenges you face.

One year later, the Rescue Plan is still delivering. So I urge you all to use the flexibility we built into the law to spend these funds wisely: to reduce violence in your communities, like members are doing in Baton Rouge and Baltimore and in New York City; to address homelessness and affordable housing, like you're doing in Tacoma and New York City; to expand high-speed internet, like Brownsville, Texas; or to train people for good-paying jobs, like you're doing in Oklahoma City.

And by the way, there are a lot of jobs coming to people that you're going to need to train up people, thanks to the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Everybody knew—and you heard from my Secretary a little bit earlier—America was falling behind on infrastructure. We used to be number one in the world; we're now number eight. But now, not only has Infrastructure Week finally arrived, we're talking about infrastructure decade, not week.

Folks, we've already authorized 4,000 projects all across the country, including 1,500 bridges in disrepair, and they're starting this year, not later—this year.

And the law is going to create millions of jobs rebuilding America's roads, bridges, highways, ports, and airports; getting rid of poisonous lead pipes in 10 million homes and 400,000 schools so kids and families can have clean drinking water.

And, folks, we're investing $65 billion to deliver high-speed internet everywhere in America: urban, rural, suburban, Tribal communities. We can't be a country where a mother has to take her kid to the McDonald's parking lot to do their homework over the internet. This is the United States of America, for God's sake.

And, folks, the law is going to put an end to that, obviously. And the only—it's only the beginning. Hundreds of billions of new investments are on the way.

Today Secretary Buttigieg announced $409 million in new grants, 70 new projects, 39 States—just the beginning, Electric buses to make bus service safer, more reliable, environmentally sound, helping folks in big cities, small towns get to work and get to school. Projects like a new $15 million bus maintenance facility serving Atlanta; $5 million to buy cleaner and more reliable hydrogen fuel cells for buses, replacing old diesel engines in south—in southern Nevada, and so much more.

It's now time for cities and towns to get ready. You don't have to wait until these infrastructure projects start. You're going to need more welders, pipefitters, advanced manufacturers.

And it takes training to get the job done well. And that's why all these programs—these apprenticeship programs, union programs—and by the way, when people talk about an apprenticeship program, we're talking like going to 4 years of college; it's 4 years. That's why they're the best workers in the world when they finish. Projects are cheaper because they last longer and they're better.

You can't—you can start by investing in those Rescue Plan funds now, in new pathways to better jobs through union-based apprenticeships and on-the-job training. Build the strong, diverse workforce you need to take on these infrastructure jobs so the families in your communities can deal themselves into this booming economy.

Look, we have an incredible opportunity ahead of us. But despite the progress we've made, we know that families are still struggling with higher prices.

I grew up in a family where when the price of gas went up at the pump—a gas station—we talked about it at the kitchen table. But let's be absolutely clear about why prices are high now. They're high for two reasons. One was COVID.

The way the global economy works: If a factory in Taiwan that makes computer chips shuts down due to a COVID outbreak, it causes a ripple effect to slow down auto manufacturing in Detroit—literally, not figuratively. So, because of the pandemic, we had significant disruptions in the supply chain. And our supply chain is so important with so many materials that come from other places.

At the same time, because the Rescue Plan boosted the strength and speed of our recovery, Americans had more money in their pockets. And during the pandemic, they wanted to spend that money not on restaurants and vacations—because of COVID—but on hard goods: home improvements, televisions, automobiles.

But the lumber factories weren't open. They weren't making 2-by-4's. Plywood wasn't available. I can go down the list. The very products that we needed for the things they wanted to buy are slowed down by disruptions in the supply chain.

So what happens? Prices went up significantly. Just look at automobiles. Last year, automobiles—new automobiles accounted for one-third of all the inflation in America. Because the auto companies couldn't get the computer chips, the price of an automobile skyrocketed.

And now, the second big reason for inflation is Vladimir Putin and gas prices. Not a joke. We've seen the price of gas go up over a dollar just since he put his troops on the border—on the border of Ukraine. It went up a dollar and 5 cents. A big part of that reason is, Putin began amassing troops along the border and then crossed.

And guess what? The world took notice. The market anticipated; prices went up. And then Putin invaded. Make no mistake: The current spike in gas prices is largely the fault of Vladimir Putin. It has nothing to do with the American Rescue Plan.

Back to Wall Street: Wall Street estimated that the—and the San Francisco Reserve—Federal Reserve said—analyzed it—said the Rescue Plan contributed only 0.3 percent to inflation—0.3 percent. That's coming from the Fed.

Rescuing our economy didn't cause this problem, but we're working to fix it. We're building this economy from the bottom up and the middle out. And something incredible is happening: We're seeing a manufacturing revival like never before, the pride that comes from stamping products "Made in America."

If they'd hold a minute—one of the things you should be aware of—there is a law I was unaware of when I was a Senator, to be honest with you. It's called "Made in America." As President of the United States, I get to allocate over $600 billion in spending on Federal projects. Any Federal project, the President for—since 1939 has been able to say, "That entire product has to be made in America before I'm going to pay for it."

Well, guess what? Fifty-three—if it was 55 percent of the product was made in America, it was thought to be made in America. I'm changing that. I'm changing that. It has to be a minimum of 75 percent and then—and then—[applause]—because where in the hell is it written saying we can't manufacture things in America again? I don't know where that's written.

And so, guess what? Intel came to me.

Audience member. Yeah!

The President. They're going in—yes. By the way, yes, the chairman of the board came. They're going to invest $20 billion to build a factory in Ohio to manufacture computer chips, semiconductors that will power the world and our everyday lives: smartphones, the internet, technology that doesn't even exist today. And they're prepared to increase that investment from $20 billion to $100 billion in the suburb of Cleveland.

So now it will create over 12,000 jobs, some of them just building the facilities, but the rest, blue-collar workers making an average of $135,000 a year in these factories.

And as soon as the Congress sends me the bipartisan innovation bill, a bill that will invest another $52 billion in computer chips—I might add, by the way, we invented the computer chip here in America. We advanced the computer chip here in America. Then we stopped making the computer chip here in America. And that's going to bring down prices of automobiles, appliances, and so much more.

And that's not just Intel; look at Ford. I had a long discussion with Ford and General Motors and the Detroit factories. Ford has committed $11 billion to build electric vehicles in America, the biggest investment they've ever made. GM has committed $7 billion to build electric vehicles. Just a few years ago, these companies might have built these factories elsewhere. Not now; they're building it right here in the United States of America again.

But look, we also know there's much more than one way to increase people's standard of living. You can reduce the cost.

Look, right now, what's the problem? Again, my dad used to say, "People just need a little bit of breathing room." My dad was a—not—my dad was just a wonderful, decent gentleman whose greatest regret was he never went to college.

My dad used to talk about how middle class folks, whenever given a chance, they'd never, ever, ever let the country down. Never let the country down. When they do well, everybody does well.

But look—so gasoline prices, home heating oil prices are going to continue to go up because of these embargoes on Russian oil and other things that he's brought on.

But what happened? There's other ways—they used—my dad used to talk about the standard of living. It costs a lot more money if you have to pay 5 bucks at a pump for a gallon of gasoline, and it affects families big time—or to heat your home.

But guess what? If you lower the cost of childcare, it affects your standard of living. And that's why we're going to make sure no one has to pay more than 7 percent of their income on childcare.

There are over 200,000 kids in America and many more adults with type 1 diabetes needing insulin every day. It costs 10 bucks to make a vial of insulin. The average cost: $647 a month, up to $1,000. Not going to happen on my watch. No one is going to be able to charge more than $35 a month for insulin. They'll still make a big profit.

The average family, when we passed the provision allowing for tax credit for homeowners to winterize their homes, can save an average of 500 bucks a month just by having doors that don't leak, windows that don't leak, and so on.

So, look, let me be clear: None of this will increase inflation. Seventeen Nobel Prize winners in economics wrote to me saying it would ease inflationary presence—pressures.

We can also do it without raising a single penny on tax of anybody making under $400,000 a year. If you make less than 400, you're not going to pay a penny in tax. We have to do this by asking the top and the biggest corporations to pay a little more.

Look, I'm a capitalist. If you can make a million or a billion bucks, good for you. But pay your fair share! Pay a little bit.

By the way, whether you're Democrats or Republicans, raise your hand if you think the tax structure is fair now.

Look, 55—I come from the corporate capital of the world.

Audience member. Delaware!

The President. You've got it. [Laughter] Well, you think I'm kidding. There are more corporations incorporated in Delaware than every other State in the Union combined.

And I got elected seven times in Delaware, notwithstanding the fact that I'm so "anti-corporate America." Give me a break. How long would I last if—but here's the deal: Fifty-five of the largest corporations of Fortune 500 paid zero in Federal taxes last year, and they made $40 billion in profits.

Audience members. Boo!

The President. Look, I said, "I'm a capitalist." That's not about punishing anybody. But why in God's name should a billion-dollar corporation pay a lower tax rate than a teacher or a firefighter?

So, folks—[applause]—I really mean it. We could raise the standard of living for hard-working families without raising tax, without raising inflation, without raising the deficit.

And let me remind everybody: I actually, last year, cut the budget $360 billion—cutting the budget. And we're on track now to be the first President in history to have a lower deficit by over $1 trillion in 1 year.

Look, folks, we can tackle these challenges, but we can't do it without you. You understand what families are up against every time you walk down the street in your neighborhoods. You understand the cost if we fail to act.

We need your voices, the voices of local officials who understand what your communities need. Your Senators and Congressperson will listen to you all. If you can get this done—we can get it done, there's no limit to what America can achieve.

So let's give working people the quality they deserve—the quality of life. Let's face the challenge ahead, and let's keep building a better America.

We can do this! Thank you for taking the time. Love you all. Keep at it. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Thanks, everybody. I really mean it. Thank you. Every time I'd walk out of my grandpop's house up in Scranton, Pennsylvania—his name was Ambrose Finnegan—he'd yell, "Joey, keep the faith." And my grandmother would yell, "No, Joey, spread it."

Go spread the faith. Let's get it done. Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 2:31 p.m. at the Marriott Marquis Washington, DC hotel. In his remarks, he referred to Mayor Vince R. Williams of Union City, GA, in his capacity as president of the National League of Cities; President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin of Russia; and Patrick Gelsinger, chief executive officer, Intel Corp.

Joseph R. Biden, Remarks at the National League of Cities Congressional City Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/354911

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