Remarks at the Portland International Airport in Portland, Oregon
The President. Please have a seat if you have one. Thank you all very much. It's great to be back in Portland. It's great to—and, Lauren, thank you very much for that introduction.
And, Mayor Wheeler, thanks for the passport into the city. Being a mayor is the toughest job in American politics. They know where you live—[laughter]—and they—everything that affects them, they look to you for answers.
Governor Brown, thank you for welcoming me back to Oregon. And, Colonel, I want to thank you and the 142d Wing of the Redhawks of Oregon, the Air National Guard for hosting us at the base today. We're making a lot of work for you. I understand that.
I also want to thank Oregon's outstanding Members of Congress. Ron Wyden. Ron has been a leader in the Senate, fighting for clean energy and jobs for a long time. And now he's chairman of a finance committee, which makes him the king of the Senate. [Laughter] But we're going to make sure that teachers and firefighters don't pay a higher tax than billionaires, which, in many cases, they do. We're going to get it done, Ron. We're going to get it done.
And Senator Jeff Merkley, a leader on climate and foreign policy. And you know, we—we've been together—put together this bipartisan infrastructure bill. Jeff was key—a key leader in getting that done.
He made sure it included the money for wildfire prevention, help prevent and respond to fires like the thousands that burned a half a million acres—a half a million acres—across Oregon last year. All those major fires that took place since I've been in office with FEMA—I've been in a helicopter from—flying Northern California through these—all across the Northeast—the Northwest and into the State of Idaho. And it's just devastating what's happened, what continues to happen.
And Congressman Pete DeFazio, chair of the Transportation Committee. Pete has helped ensure that we're going to rebuild the country and we buy American—we buy American. And look, the union workers and U.S. steel, we're going to miss Pete. We're going to miss you, Pete. I don't know—I wish you weren't leaving.
And Congressman Earl—where's Earl? There—Earl, thank you. Earl had me ride here on a bicycle. [Laughter] But I don't mind. But I got a new one. I got a—it's really not—we'll race—anyway. A critical voice in Congress when it comes to investing in infrastructure, Earl helped bring together labor and business to help us get this done.
And Congressman Kurt Schrader, who—he's played a key part in the progress we've made as a nation on jobs, economic growth, and clean energy. Thank you very much, pal. And he's a strong and consistent voice to make sure we modernize our infrastructure and help Oregon and everyone all across America.
You know, the last guy that had this job talked about "Infrastructure Week." Every week, he'd talk about "Infrastructure Week." It didn't come for 4 years. Well, I gave you "Infrastructure Decade." This is for 10 years. One-trillion-four-hundred-billion dollars.
And, Suzanne, who works tirelessly to ensure that we have left out—no one is left out, you know, including women and people of color. We're not—we're building a better America.
When I got elected, I said—and I meant it—people weren't sure I really meant it, but I said, "I want my administration to look like America—to look like America." And it does. There are more women in my administration than men. There are more women in positions of consequence. There are more African Americans—judges that have been appointed than every other President combined has appointed.
Folks, I want to thank you all for everything you're doing for the people of Oregon. We're here today to talk about investments we're making to modernize this airport and this an economic engine for the entire region.
Though—through the bipartisan infrastructure law, we're investing $25 billion to upgrade and modernize American airports, out of the money that is—the over a trillion dollars we're spending on infrastructure.
Airports all across America are second rate. I used to tell the story that if, in fact, I dropped you in the middle of the night in an airport in China and an airport in the United States, took the blindfold off, and said, "Where are you? Where are you?", you'd think the one in China was in America. We are—we've fallen behind. We haven't invested in ourselves.
And I want to thank Ron and Jeff, Peter, Earl, Kurt, Suzanne for helping prove that America can do big things again. We can do anything we want to do. It bothers the heck out of me that there's this belief that we can't do big things anymore. But we can. We're proving we can. And we must build a better America. And a good place to start is right here in Portland.
Folks, look, Portland International Airport is a perfect example of both the need and the opportunity and the ability to make progress. I don't have to tell you that it's an essential economic engine for the entire region, not just Portland. A lot of folks may not know it, but this airport employs 10,000 people—10,000 people. Every day, they show up: airline workers, technicians, retail workers, maintenance staff, and more.
In addition, 20 million people travel from this airport every year, bringing 330,000 metric tons of cargo in and out of this State through this airport, in the air—shipping seafood from Oregon to fishermen all across America, all across the world, quite frankly; bringing goods from every corner of the country to Oregon homes and businesses.
But here's the deal. It's been much too big and too long since America has invested in our own airports, our ports, and our rail. We haven't done it. We used to have best infrastructure—rated the best infrastructure in the world. This is a fact. We are now ranked by the international community as 13th best infrastructure—13. The United States.
We've stopped investing in ourselves. We stopped investing in our people. We stopped investing in America. And I know people are tired of hearing me say it, but this time, we're going to lead the world and invest in ourselves, invest in the Nation, and invest in our people. That's the place to start. People kind of forget that America invented modern aviation. But like I said, we've allowed our airports to lag far behind our competitors.
I remember, when I was Vice President, I was flying into New York to make a speech. And I landed in New York on Air Force Two in LaGuardia Airport. As I was walking through the terminal to get out to the vehicles, there was a sign on an escalator going to one of the gates saying that: "Out of order. Fixed in 2 months." Not a joke. The United States of America, in one of the leading cities in the world, and it had a sign saying the escalator to the gate would take 2 months to be fixed.
At that time, I said if I took the average person, dropped them off, as I said, in LaGuardia or anywhere else, they'd wonder where in God's name they were. But look, they'd probably think—they'd probably think they weren't in America if they didn't know better.
But, folks, by the way, LaGuardia has—I caused a bit of a stir because I said it publicly, what was happening. And guess what? The Governor and Legislature decided they had to change things. And they invested $4 billion into one of the great destinations of the world, New York.
The whole point of telling this story is—and I realize I'm preaching to the choir—is we need to invest in American airports and here in Oregon.
As I said earlier, through the bipartisan infrastructure bill—which I might add, I wrote the original one with my own paw; I wrote it—sat down and wrote it—because I was convinced there was no other answer other than beginning to invest in our country again. And we're investing $25 billion this year to modernize American airports all across this country and across this State, not just here.
And that includes $211 million this year in Oregon, $42 million being delivered this year alone, not just to modernize PDX, but for 50 additional airports across Oregon, because you've got more than one, as you all know. And that's in addition to the $20 million we invested in PDX last year.
Look, here's just some of the—what we're—this investment will do. First, thanks to Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Earl Blum—and Earl—excuse me——
Audience members. [Inaudible]
The President. I know. You can call me "Bid-en." [Laughter] Joe Bid-en.
Helping deliver a more resilient, state-of-the-art runway.
You know, I don't have to tell you or anyone here in Oregon, it sits on a major earthquake zone. And in fact, you had a 4—a .4 [4.0]* magnitude earthquake strike not far from here just 2 days ago. Imagine what would happen if that earthquake struck closer to the airport. It wouldn't just threaten lives, it would threaten to shut down the local economy for a heck of a lot longer than the 2 months it takes to fix an escalator.
Folks, but your Senators and Congressmen are looking out for you. They fought to dedicate $3.75 million in the last month's omnibus bill to build a resilient runway here at PDX.
The project is being modeled on the engineering of an airport that I happened to visit in Japan that remained operational in the face of a devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2011, successfully evacuating families and moving lifesaving supplies because their runway was resilient. It was built resilient in the first place.
Best of all, extensive research shows that every dollar we invest in our resilience of your runway will save $50 down the road by keeping this airport operational, safe, and efficient. But that's not all we're doing. You're in the midst of a $2 billion renovation to build a cutting-edge main terminal.
I just saw an incredible—components of that terminal being constructed, 392,000 square feet of roof being built out of what's known as "mass timber"—advanced engineering wood design that you're pioneering right here in Oregon. And it won't just stay in Oregon.
Almost every single piece of wood being used was substantially harvested from local forests. You can point to any beam, and the folks building it can tell you where it came from. Best of all, this project will support more than 1,250 good-paying jobs constructing the terminal. Over 95 percent of the construction is being done by union workers. Union.
Someone criticizing me 2—I guess it was now 2 months ago, said, "You know, you—you were using the word 'union' more than all presidents combined." [Laughter] Well, there's a good reason for that: They're the best workers in the world. There's a reason why it makes sense to have a union worker. They trained like—it's like going to college to get that apprenticeship. Not a joke.
And in addition to that, they are the—they get it done on time and with the best possible results you can get. We already nearly have 280 contracts amounting to $80 million that have gone out to small businesses that are minority owned and women owned and veteran owned, lifting up the economy for everyone. And this is just the start. Because of the infrastructure law, we're going to see modern baggage claim area, improved taxi-ways, and yes, better escalators. [Laughter]
And you know, the investment all across Oregon is going to continue, like was mentioned earlier, by Coos Bay. You know, we've delivered nearly $33 million in January to modernize the main jetty, making it safer and more efficient for ships, boaters, and fishermen. And improving the capacity of that port is something Ron Wyden and Pete DeFazio in particular have been fighting for, for a long time.
All across Oregon, we're sending the message: These ports and airports are open for more business. And we're seeing—and we're sending the same message—the same message—about your roads and your bridges.
Right now there are nearly 400 bridges and about 1,300 miles of highway in poor condition just here in Oregon. It's estimated that driving on those roads that need repair costs Oregon drivers an extra $256 a year in gas, repairs, and longer commute times. That's a $256 hidden tax on Oregon drivers.
And thanks to the infrastructure law, we're making the most significant investment to modernize roads and bridges in the last 70 years since Eisenhower's Interstate Highway System.
This year alone, we're delivering $662 million to fix roads and bridges in Oregon, plus an additional $53 million in dedicated funding for bridges. We're also going to start replacing 100 percent—100 percent—of the lead pipes and lines that go into homes and schools in this country.
You've got an estimated 14,000 lead service lines here in Oregon. Because of the infrastructure law, we're getting rid of the poisonous pipes and delivering 92 million to Oregon—dollars to Oregon this year to provide clean and safe water, because every American, every child—should be able to turn on a faucet and drink water that's clean. And it will also create thousands of good-paying jobs for plumbers and pipefitters in the process.
Folks, Ron and Jeff and Earl and Kurt and Suzanne, we all share a core belief that high-speed internet is essential to success in the 21st century. But today, more than 1 in 10 Oregon households don't have high-speed internet. And the law delivers—this law delivers $100 million to Oregon to make high-speed internet affordable and available everywhere in the State—urban, suburban, and rural—creating jobs for union technicians laying down those broadband lines. Never again should a parent have to sit in their car, drive to a McDonald's parking lot, sit there with their child to get online so they can do their homework, which was happening during the pandemic.
The law also builds up our resilience to extreme weather. Over the last decade, extreme weather has cost the State of Oregon at least $5 billion in damages—$5 billion. Our infrastructure law upgrades modernizing and the strengthening of transmission lines, helping communities to deal with floods, droughts, wildfires that are only coming with more frequency and ferocity.
Folks, there's so much more in this law. We've made a lot of progress, and the fact is, we have an incredible opportunity ahead of us. But we also know that families are still struggling with higher prices. I grew up in a family where, when the price of gasoline went up, it was a conversation at the kitchen table because it made a difference to my dad. We felt it.
Let's be absolutely clear about why prices are high now. Two reasons. First, COVID. The way the global economy works: If a factory in Vietnam makes a computer chip and shuts down due to COVID in Vietnam, the ripple effect can slow down automobile manufacturing in Detroit. So, because of the pandemic, we've had disruptions in our supply of important materials, so prices went up.
Just look at automobiles. Last year, they accounted for one-third of all the inflation in America. One-third was because of automobile companies couldn't get computer chips, and the price of automobiles skyrocketed because there was fewer—significant demand because the economy was growing, but no availability.
So I'm calling on Congress to pass the bipartisan innovation bill to make more of these chips here at home and speed up the supply chains. And folks, with regard to supply chains, let me say one thing: There's a little outfit called Intel. The chairman of the board of Intel asked, can he come and see me in Washington. And he said he wanted to invest $20 billion in a computer chip factory he was going to build just outside of Cleveland—$20 billion.
It was going to create thousands of jobs building the facility and thousands of jobs running the facility. Average wage once the facility was built: $132,000. This is—and now he's—if you guys pass and get me that other bill on my desk, he's prepared to invest another $100 billion—$100 billion—in that same facility.
And what everybody forgets: We invented the damn thing. We invented the computer chip. Not a joke. And all the progress, all the change has come from American technology. We don't make them anymore, basically. But now we're changing that.
The second big reason for inflation is gas prices, and it's Vladimir Putin's gas price increase. Putin's invasion in Ukraine has driven up gas prices and food prices all around the world. We saw that in the most recent inflation data. Last month, 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 of our—from our Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and I worked with oil-producings [countries]* to ramp up production.
I coordinated the release with our partners all around the world, because I spent a lot of time with them. And they agreed—over 30 countries agreed to release 60 million additional barrels over the same period for another 240 million barrels over the next 6 months, the largest collective reserve release in history. Nations coming together to help deny ability to Putin to weaponize his energy resources against American families and families in Europe and around the world.
And Americans should be seeing some savings, which you've already seen in the price of gas coming down. But we need to do something else. We need to get off this rollercoaster of relying on oil. We need to declare America's energy independence. We need to accelerate our path to clean, renewable energy that includes adoption of electric—adaptation of electric vehicles, like cars, trains, schoolbuses, and transit. We found new battery technology that is just amazing.
Beyond the price—beyond gas prices, I've called on Congress to move immediately to lower the cost of families' utility bills, prescription drug costs, while lowering the deficit and reducing inflationary pressure.
Folks, I'll give you one example. There's over 200,000 children in America with type 1 diabetes. They need that vial of insulin all the time. If they don't get it—you know what the average cost for that is nationwide? Six hundred and forty-seven dollars. That's how much it costs them a month.
Not only is it a concern if you don't have the insurance, you don't have the income. Imagine being the parent robbed of your dignity, knowing you don't have the ability to help your child at all, and seeing what's happening. You know how much it costs them to make that one vial? Ten—T-E-N—dollars. Ten dollars.
With a little bit of help—and I know my colleagues support me—with a little bit of help and a few Republicans getting out of the way in the United States Congress, because none of them are helping, we can lower that price to $35 a month, and they'd still make three and a half times what they paid for it.
It would make a difference in families' lives. We can do it without raising taxes a penny on anyone making under $400,000. No one making under 400 grand would see a penny in their taxes go up. That's the best way Congress can address inflation right now: lower the cost of other things for people, everyday people working like hell just to keep food on the table.
Let me close with this: When I was running for office—I'm sure you've heard me say it a thousand times—I was going to build this economy from the bottom up and the middle out. Because when that happens, everybody does well. The wealthy do very, very well. The poor have a way up. And the middle class can grow, as my dad would say, and just have a little bit of breathing room. Just a little bit of breathing room.
So we're going to deal in the people and the places that have been left out and left behind. We're making progress. Over the course of my Presidency, our recovery has created 7.9 million jobs, more jobs created over the first 14 months of my Presidency than any Presidency in American history. Over 420,000 manufacturing jobs. Who says we can't manufacture our way through all of this? We have the best workers in the world. Not a joke.
Unemployment nationwide is at 3.6 percent, down from 6.4 percent when I took office 19 months ago, the fastest decline in unemployment at the start of a term of a President ever recorded. Oregon, you've just added 122,000 jobs, and unemployment has dropped from 6.4 percent to 3.8 percent.
Last year and during all this time—don't listen to my Republican friends in Congress—last year, we reduced—my budget reduced the deficit by $350 billion. Hear me? We didn't spend—we didn't increase the deficit a penny. We reduced it by $350 billion.
And the budget that I submitted—we're on our way to getting done—this year, in 2022, we're on track to reduce the deficit by more than $1.3 trillion—$1.3 trillion—the largest 1-year reduction in the deficit in American history.
This is particularly important now as we work to reduce pressure on inflation. Oregon and America have gone from being on the mend to being on the move. We just go to get the hell out of our own way.
So we're coming forward with challenges, challenges from strength, positions that we're in, not like we've been before. I'm more optimistic about America's potential today than I've been any time in my career—and I've been doing this job in national politics for a long time—because I see a future that is without limit.
I mean, this is the United States of America, for God's sake. We're the only nation in the world—this is a fact; look it up—the only nation in the world that's come out of every crisis stronger than when we went into the crisis—stronger every single time.
I was with Xi Jinping—I've traveled with 17,000 miles with him and spent more time with than any other world leader over a total of, I think—and we're up to 90-some hours of talking or meeting together over the last six, seven years.
And we were in the foothills of the Tibet. And he asked me—he said—I had a translator and he had a simultaneous translator. And he said, "Can you define America for me?" This is a true story; he repeats it. I said, "Yes, I can, in one word." And he looked at me and said, "What do you mean 'in one word'?" I said, "Possibilities."
Anything is possible in America. Anything is possible—and that's what we're—exactly we're going to do today: Do what we are capable of doing—stop feeling sorry for ourselves, get the hell up, and take this country back in a way that we lead the world again. Because we can do it, we're on the way to doing it, and with the help of your delegation, we're going to get it done. I mean it. There's nothing beyond our capacity.
God bless you all, and may God protect our troops. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Appreciate it.
NOTE: The President spoke at 2:35 p.m. at the Portland Air National Guard Base. In his remarks, he referred to Lauren Heitzman, apprentice electrician, O'Neill Electric, who introduced the President; Colonel Todd A. Hofford, USAF, commanding officer, 142d Wing of the Oregon Air National Guard; Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne M. Bonamici; former President Donald J. Trump; former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York; Patrick Gelsinger, chief executive officer, Intel Corp.; President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin of Russia; and President Xi Jinping of China. He also referred to S. 1260.
* White House correction.
Joseph R. Biden, Remarks at the Portland International Airport in Portland, Oregon Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/355517