Photo of Joe Biden

Remarks at the New Hampshire Port Authority in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

April 19, 2022

The President. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Mr. Mayor. Please, take a seat if you have one. [Laughter]

I once, several years ago, said, "Everybody, take a seat." There were about—it was an evening—there were about 2,000 people out in the—in a football field, and it was towards the end of a campaign. I said, "Have a seat." And they all looked at me like, "We're standing—all of it." [Laughter] I couldn't see.

But anyway, thank you very, very much.

Look, it's great to be here in Portsmouth with your Senator, Maggie Hassan, who's been one of my friends for a long, long time, and to talk about investments we're making to modernize this port and create jobs and bring down the cost for families in this region of everyday life.

Maggie was a key player in the infrastructure law. And it's making a difference here in New Hampshire and, I might add, around the country. She made the case for high-speed internet everywhere in New Hampshire and, you know, protecting New Hampshire's coastlines from rising sea levels and extreme storms, and for the investments in New Hampshire's roads and bridges, ports and waterways.

And, Representative Chris Pappas, thank you for a passport into your district. Chris, where are you? Is Chris over here? Well, thanks for the passport, ole buddy, into the district. I appreciate it. And he's a member of the committee that got this bill across the finish line. Getting big ideas into an actual bill is hard work, requiring getting into the real nitty-gritty details and without losing the big picture.

[At this point, a baby babbled.]

I agree. I agree completely. [Laughter] By the way, kids are allowed to do anything they want when I speak—at all. [Laughter] So don't worry about it.

And—but, Chris, thank you for all the work you did. And you did a hell of a lot of work to get this done, and always making the economic case for how clean water, access to the internet, rebuilding a bridge, investing in this port matters to your lives, the lives of your families, and, quite frankly, to the entire region.

And Representative Annie Kuster, an old good friend of mine—it's good to see you as well, Annie. Thank you for everything. Annie and I have talked a lot about what we need to do to support New Hampshire's parents and give them just a little bit of breathing room because sometimes things get tight.

And even though she can't be here, I also wanted to recognize Jeanne Shaheen, who is well represented today by her husband Billy and the family. Billy, where are you? If I can only have one guy in the foxhole with me, I'd pick Billy. [Laughter] Good to see you, Billy.

And I want to thank—because she's sitting next to her. She doesn't hold any office, but a really good friend of mine. Her mom used to be a significant political figure up here. It's great to see you, kiddo. Thank you. Thank you, thank you for being here.

I also want to thank Chris and Maggie and Jeanne and Annie for all they did to prove that America can do big things when we work together. You know, we can build a better America. We're the only country in the world that, I believe, that has come out of every crisis we've faced stronger than when we went in—literally stronger than we went in. That's the history of the journey of this country.

And this port is a perfect example. A lot of important things come into these terminals and particularly this one—from salt to de-ice roads, to 85 percent of the home heating oil used in this State. And a lot of important things go out of this port as well, like the massive reactor assemblies for nuclear power plants that are manufactured by Westinghouse Electric here in New Hampshire.

Recently, this port has been an important link to more construction equipment and materials for a $2.3 billion project that I've authorized in Portsmouth Naval Shipyard—2.3 billion. But it wouldn't happen without you all and what you've done.

Now, I know they say the port is in Maine, but I've always thought it was in New Hampshire.

Audience member. Yeah!

The President. But—[laughter]. That's what Billy taught me. And where the Navy's nuclear-powered attack submarines are built as well and are stationed.

Look, all in, this port supports over 2,300 jobs—2,300 jobs—adds $275 million to this region's economy, and that's not even counting the more than 6,000 civilian contractors and jobs here at—over at the Navy yard. Jobs in Maine, New Hampshire, and all around the region.

But this port has even more potential than that. Until recently, the area in the harbor called the "turning basin" was only 800 feet long and often meant that pilots had to turn around a 765-foot ship in 800 feet. I call that tough parallel parking, man.

But seriously—and it meant that, you know, to be safe, some of the ships could only come in or sail out on high tide, they could only sail at night, or when there was—they couldn't sail when there was too much wind. They couldn't—and—because they'd get knocked off course.

And that—here's why it matters: When you keep a ship in dock after the cargo has been delivered, it can cost $90,000 a day when that ship is in port. And those costs get paid on—get passed on to you, consumers—whatever it happens to be.

It also has been a problem for decades. But with an $18 million investment from the Army Corps of Engineers and the help of Maggie and Chris, the port—and union labor—we widened that turning basin to 1,200 feet. We got it done. Now—[applause]—it's easier, faster, and cheaper and safer for ships to get in and out. And the port can welcome larger ships with more cargo, like the massive towers and hubs needed to—for offshore wind farms.

Look, we've also announced an additional $1.7 million investment to dredge—another tricky part of a shipping channel where the sands build up. Without that dredging project, the port might need more restrictions on what ships can and can't pass through this harbor. Instead of turning away business, we're sending a message: This port is open for business and will be for a long time. And we're sending the same message with our investments in roads and bridges here in New Hampshire.

Back in November, Maggie, Chris, and Annie were with me when I visited Pemi—the Pemi bridge in Woodstock, a couple of hours just northwest of here. The bridge opened in 1939. Not a big bridge, but it solved big problems. Local businesses depended on it. Schoolbuses crossed it every day. Without the bridge, the trucks on the other side of the river would have to take a 10-mile detour to get around to the other side of the river. Folks, when fires and emergencies—every single mile matters and counts how long it takes to get there.

Right now there are nearly 200 bridges deemed deficient in New Hampshire alone. There's about 315 such bridges in Maine. And many of these are fast-track—less trafficked bridges that are essential to small towns and rural areas, for farmers and small businesses.

Let me give you an example. I was just in Pittsburgh not long ago—I guess over—a little over a month ago. And I got there the morning that one of its bridges collapsed. The bridge was built in 1939, if I'm not mistaken, and had been put on a list of being dangerous. It was about a 12-story drop and—from the middle of that bridge down to a small creek. And it was in a—but it was a ravine that covered about 300 yards.

Had it not been—had it not been a snow day before, there would have been a lot of school buses on that bridge. A lot of kids would have been killed. I'm not joking. You probably saw it on the front page of every paper in America.

Well, guess what? It's happening all over the country. Fortunately, it didn't happen there. Fortunately, there was no one on the bridge. There were—actually, there were four vehicles. No one got killed.

And, you know, I was—when I was doing the Recovery Act in our last administration—Obama-Biden—I was in Pittsburgh—excuse me, in Pennsylvania, in Western Pennsylvania, in a small town. And in the process, I looked at a bridge, and they couldn't—their fire department was on one side of the bridge, and literally, from here to that holding tank outside here, was the other side—there was a shopping center and a school. Well, guess what? Their fire—you couldn't get across the bridge; you had to go 10 miles to get around, go up over the bridge, if—could work, and get back down. People dying in that 10 miles of the fire truck getting there in the middle of a fire.

This matters. So we're making a historic investments in fixing these bridges. This year alone, we're delivering $45 million to fix your bridges here in New Hampshire. This year alone.

You know, the last fella who had this job kept talking about "Infrastructure Week" for 4 years. [Laughter] Well, we not only took infrastructure—we have "Infrastructure Decade." This is going on. It's a billion—200 million dollars.

You know, we used to have the finest infrastructure in the world. We now rank number 13 in the quality of our infrastructure. China is ahead of us. So many other countries have moved.

Folks, this matters. It matters to our safety, our security, our health, and a whole range of other—not only that, about 700 miles of highway in New Hampshire are in poor condition. It's estimated that the driving on those roads—those 700 miles—roughly 700 miles—that need repairs costs New Hampshire drivers at least an average of $476 a year extra in gas and repairs and longer commute times. That's a $476 hidden tax on New Hampshire drivers.

Look, thanks to the infrastructure law, we're making the most significant investment in modernizing our roads and bridges since the Interstate Highway System was built with Eisenhower.

We're also going to start to replace the 100 percent—all 100 percent—of lead water pipes and service lines going into our homes and our schools. There are 10 million homes and 400,000 schools and preschools and daycare centers that have lead water pipes bringing the water in. Many of that causes mental illness, brain damage. It's really important.

We're also going to address what they call PFAS—it's a dangerous forever chemicals that are a threat to drinking water here in New Hampshire and other States—something that Senator Shaheen has championed.

Look, every American and every child should be able to turn on a faucet, drink clean water, which will also create thousands of good-paying jobs for plumbers, pipefitters, and the folks digging those channels. And by the way, thanks to the American Rescue Plan, New Hampshire is already seeing $150 million being put into drinking water, wastewater, and storm sewer projects in this State as I speak.

Maggie, Chris, and Annie, we share a core belief: High-speed internet is essential—essential—to success in the 21st century. But even today, 1 in every 10 people in New Hampshire—every 1 in 10 households don't have high-speed internet. That's a lot of place where there's no broadband or—infrastructure at all in New Hampshire.

It's not just New Hampshire families, but for New Hampshire businesses as well. This law is going to make high-speed internet affordable and available everywhere in New Hampshire, Maine, and the region—urban, suburban, rural. And it's going to create jobs. Thousands of union technicians are going to be laying down these broadband lines.

And never again should a parent have to sit in their car in a McDonald's parking lot—literally—so that their child can get access to high-speed internet to do their homework over the internet. Literally.

Folks, look, the law also builds up our resilience to extreme weather. Fifteen years ago this week, this State experienced its second 100-year flood in the space of 11 months. Cars submerged. Thousands of evacuations. People lost everything they owned, twice.

Our infrastructure law upgrades stormwater management systems, builds new transmission lines and towers so fewer will be flooded out of their homes or lose power days and weeks because of these storms. There's so much more in this law. I'm not going to bore you with the rest of it. But it's significant.

Look, we've made a lot of progress, and we have an incredible opportunity ahead of us. But we know what families are still struggling with higher prices. I grew up in a family where the price of gasoline went up at the pump, it was a discussion at the kitchen table. Because my dad—he was a good man, made a decent living, but always on the margins. Everything mattered.

So let's be absolutely clear about why we have such high prices now. There are two reasons. First was COVID. The way the global economy works: If a factory in Vietnam makes computer chips and shuts down in Vietnam because of a COVID outbreak, it causes a ripple effect to slow down manufacturing in Detroit where they need those semiconductors to build the automobiles.

So because of the pandemic, we had disruptions in our supply of important materials, so prices went up. As I said, just look at automobiles. Last year alone, they accounted for one-third of all the inflation in America because the price went up, because so fewer were being made. Automobile companies couldn't get the computer chips, and the price of automobiles skyrocketed.

So I'm calling on Congress to pass the bipartisan innovation bill to make more of these chips here at home and speed the supply. Intel came to see me—the chairman of the board of Intel. He said, "I want to be able to invest $20 billion to build a computer chip factories in—just west of Cleveland." If in fact we get this other piece of legislation, which is in—passed one House and not the other, we're going to—he's going to invest another $100 billion—$100 billion.

You know what the average job of—over 7,000 construction jobs and 3,800 full-time jobs. Average salary of the full-time jobs—and there—many of them are blue-collar jobs—are $126,000 a year. Things are changing.

And the second big reason for inflation is Vladimir Putin. Not a joke. Putin's invasion of Ukraine has driven up gas prices and food prices all over the world. Two major breadbaskets of wheat in the world were Ukraine and Russia. The United States is number three, and Canada number four.

Well, we saw the most recent inflation data. Last month, about 70 percent of the increase in inflation was a consequence of Putin's price hike because of the impact on gas and energy prices.

I'm doing everything I can to bring down the price to address Putin's price hike. That's why I authorized the release of 1 million barrels per day for the next 6 months for our—from our Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

And I know the press is always asking me, with good reason, why I'm always on the phone talking with other world leaders, trying to keep them organized. Well, one of the things I did—I went out and got a lot of other countries to agree that they would release petroleum from their SPRO reserves.

So we worked with the U.S. oil producers to ramp up the production, and we coordinated this release with partners and allies around the world. And shortly after I made the announcement, another 30 countries agreed to 60 million additional barrels a day on the market.

So now we have 240 million barrels a day for the next 6 months. That's the largest collective reserve release in history. Nations coming together to help deny Putin the ability to weaponize his energy resources against American families and families in Europe and around the world. But there's more that needs to be done. And Americans should already be seeing the savings. Although it's only gone down about 18 cents, the savings are starting.

Beyond gas prices, I've called on Congress to move immediately to lower the cost of family utility bills, prescription drug bills, and more, while lowering the deficit and reducing inflation. That would make a big difference for families. We can do a lot of these things without raising a single penny on taxes of anyone making less than $400,000 a year. Nobody making less than $400,000 will see a single penny in their taxes raised. It's the best way Congress can address inflation right now.

And, folks, look, the fact is that we are in a situation where the war in Ukraine is going to continue to take its toll on the world economy. It's going to take its toll on energy, and it's going to take its toll relative to food.

When I was running for office—you heard it a thousand times from me: that we're going to build an economy around you. I'm so tired of trickle-down economics. And I never found that trickle down on top of my head very much. [Laughter] I was listed—I was—had the great pleasure of being listed as the poorest man in Congress for 36 years. [Laughter] I still had—making a hell of a lot more money than anybody else because I was getting a Senator's salary. No kidding. I didn't think you should make money while you're in office.

But, at any rate, the point of it is this: An awful lot of people are hurting. It makes a big difference. It makes a big difference. The cost of a dozen eggs, the cost of a gallon of gasoline, it matters. It matters.

So I concluded, when I ran this last time, that we're going to build this economy from the bottom up and the middle out, because when that happens, everybody does well. The wealthy do very well and the poor have a ladder up, and the middle class has a little bit of breathing room.

I grew up in a household where we lived in a split-level home—three bedrooms, four kids, mom and dad, and a grandpop who lived with us. And I remember one night, you could—you know, the walls were kind of thin. I can—my dad was restless. The next morning, when he went to work, I asked mom what was the problem. She said, "He just noticed his company just said no more—they're not going to cover health insurance anymore." It matters. These things matter to people. They matter to ordinary people.

We can, in fact, provide for anyone who has type 1 diabetes or a child—or 200 million—200,000 kids who have it. They need that insulin every single day. Average cost is $647 a month, sometimes as low as $90 and as high as $1,000, depending on where you are. You know how—made—how much it costs to make one of those vials of insulin? Ten—T-E-N—dollars. Not a single change has been made in that insulin since it was first discovered.

And so we could set that price at maximum of $35. They still make a significant profit. And what they—what in God's name are we doing? Look, I'm a capitalist. I think people should be able to go out and make millions of dollars, even a billion if you can make it, but at least pay your fair share. Pay something. Pay something.

By the way, I'm being deadly earnest. You know, it's just—you know, there are—I come from the corporate capital of the world, Delaware. More corporations are incorporated in the State of Delaware than every other State in the Nation combined—combined. And I survived winning seven Senate elections in that State.

But here's the deal: The fact is, folks, that, you know, there are 50 Fortune—there are 50 of the top 500 corporations in America last year that made a total of $40 billion in profit. They didn't pay one single penny—not one. The average percent that billionaires pay—of the 790 of them—is about 3.8 percent. Just pay your fair share.

Audience member. [Inaudible]

The President. We can do all these things.

And by the way, one last thing: You know, the budget I submitted—my first budget that passed and became law, it cut the Federal deficit by $350 billion. We cut the deficit $350 billion. In the budget I proposed this year, if it comes to total fruition, it will cut the deficit by one trillion three hundred billion dollars. So when my Republican friends start talking about "big spenders" and the reason why there's inflation, take a look. Take a look. We've cut the deficit drastically.

So, look, we're making progress. Over the course of my Presidency, our recovery so far has created 7.9 million new jobs—more jobs—[applause]—more jobs created over the first 14 months than any President ever. Over 420,000 manufacturing jobs.

Unemployment rate is at 3.6 percent, down from 6.4 percent. In the State of New Hampshire, you're down from—I think it's 4.2 percent to 3.2 percent. Folks, in Maine you've added 28,000 jobs, and unemployment has dropped from 4.4 to 3.6. New Hampshire, 26,000 new jobs. Dropped from 4.2—I was—misspoke—to 2.5—2.5 percent.

Last year, as I said, we cut the deficit by more than 350 thousand—billion dollars. This year, we're on track for $1.3 trillion in cuts. And look, that would be the largest debt reduction in American history. And it's particularly important now we ask ourselves: How are we going to reduce pressure on inflation?

Maine, New Hampshire, and America have gone on the mend. They're on the—they're not on the mend any longer; they're on the move. And we're coming to—at our challenges from a position of strength.

But I'm more optimistic about America today than I've ever been in my whole career, because I see the future that's within our grasp. We can't be afraid though. We're the only nation on Earth, as I've said, that has always turned every single, solitary crisis we've had into an opportunity. And that's exactly what we're going to do today if we do it together.

It's about being together—the United States of America. When we do that, there's not a single thing we can't do.

But God bless you all, and may God protect our troops. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 2:53 p.m. In his remarks, he referred to Mayor Deaglan McEachern of Portsmouth, who introduced the President; Sen. C. Jeanne Shaheen; former President Donald J. Trump; Patrick Gelsinger, chief executive officer, Intel Corp.; and President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin of Russia. He also referred to his sister Valerie Biden Owens and his brothers James and Francis; and S. 1260.

Joseph R. Biden, Remarks at the New Hampshire Port Authority in Portsmouth, New Hampshire Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/355473

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