Joe Biden

Remarks by the Vice President on the Recovery Act in Jefferson City, Missouri

April 16, 2009

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Folks, before I begin my formal remarks, since I have that bad reputation of telling it straight, I want to tell you something. I always feel good when I got the UAW behind me, in front of me, to my right and to my left. I wouldn't be in office without you all. (Applause.)

And now, thank you so much, Charlie. Look, the truth is I come from a state that was a UAW state. We're in tough shape, my UAW, my Chrysler local, my GM local. We're in deep trouble. We may not -- many of my guys and women may not survive this transitional automobile industry. But you know the standard that the President and I have used in terms of what constitutes recovery in this economy is not merely whether or not the economy grows again. It will grow again. We will lead again. But what we will not consider a success is if we grow and we lead again, but the middle class does not grow with that growth. (Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, the UAW and the union movement have built the middle class of America. But from 19 -- from 2001 to 2008, productivity in America grew by 20 percent, but the old bargain had been broken: Middle-class households actually lost several thousand dollars over that -- that 10 -- that eight years.

So, folks, the measure for us is, for those aspiring to and those in the middle class, when we grow out of this economic doldrum we're in, if we don't raise the standard of living for you all, then we haven't succeeded.

And ladies and gentlemen, you can still lead a decent life. You can still live in a good neighborhood. You can still have dreams for your kids. You can still be able to afford all the basic necessities if you have a decent wage and a decent job. And that's what we're about -- trying to preserve those.

I want to thank you all. I want to thank the management here who has been steadfast, innovative and, quite frankly, is part of the future; understands what kind of platform we have to build for a new economy in the 21st century.

I also want to thank former governor -- you can tell he was a former governor, he's so sure -- Secretary of Commerce Locke, for helping lead our country in a new era of innovation and progress.

Folks, it's not that this can't be done. This can be done. The first thing I started this morning was with President Obama. We started in what they call the Executive Office Building, making an announcement for what will amount to more than a $15 billion investment in -- what, $13 billion investment in high-speed rail -- good jobs, an economic future that understands our energy needs and how to save it and how to connect this country in a way.

And some people say it can't be done. The Gov knows it could be done. My friend from over 30 years, Ike, knows. All you got to do is go to France or China and get on a train and you'll go up to 300 miles an hour. And they say it can't be done in America?

Well, ladies and gentlemen, the President says there's nothing in the world we cannot do. We have the best workforce, we have the best people, we have the greatest ingenuity of any nation on Earth.

And ladies and gentlemen, Secretary Locke -- and he referred to the Secretary of Energy, the new guy -- not a whole lot of Nobel Laureates in physics who are Secretaries of anything -- this guy is the real deal, the Secretary of Energy; he's a Nobel Laureate. Science is back, folks, in the White House. And we're going to do -- is we're going to help, with your help, transform this country.

You know, as I walked around the plant and got a cook's tour of what you're doing and how you're doing it, it's clear you're going to help grow our economy. But I know as I walked around the plant today that what I saw was the future -- was the future. You guys are just right here at the beginning, you're in the ground floor -- the ground floor of what could be the economic engine that not only gets us out of this doldrum we're in, but literally, literally propels this nation to be able to lead the world in the 21st century the same way we did in the 20th century.

I'll tell you what I saw. I saw what I'm used to seeing at every UAW factory I go into. I saw hard-working people who are smart as heck, knew what they were doing, and took pride -- took pride in what they do. I saw you filling good jobs, creating not just transformers, but building a sturdy platform for the new economy of the 21st century, a new economy that's going to be built by the 643 of you here at ABB -- not just making transformers, but the many thousands more like you all around the country that will make, for example, 8,000 different parts that it takes to create a single wind turbine -- and by the millions around the country, assembling a better economic future for everybody.

As you heard, because of the investments from the Recovery Act -- and you all, we use these terms like the Recovery Act. That's where Barack Obama went to the Congress and did something no one has ever done before. He said, I need another $787 billion now -- now -- to go out now and invest in this economy, save jobs, to create jobs. We're not going to wait. We're not going to wait. Too many of your brothers and sisters are really in hard times.

And so we did something amidst -- in the midst of an economic downturn that had never been done before. And then he made a big mistake. He said, Biden, you're in charge. (Laughter.) And I'm proud to be in charge of how this money is going to be spent, and whether or not we spend it in an unusual way -- completely transparent for all the world to see; completely accountable so we answer for what we've done, and efficiently.

And ladies and gentlemen, you heard about this act, but let me tell how it works.

You have maintained jobs here because an outfit called Lost Creek Ridge Wind Farm, which was ready to put on hold its projects, was able, through this Recovery Act, to get the money to make its project happen.

We tried to do our part. One of the things they have been able to do is complicated stuff you all understand. It's almost boring, but it's important to understand, as they say, connect the dots, like the Secretary of Commerce connected the dots about why a Smart Grid is so consequential for people.

Ladies and gentlemen, we put in a tax system of financial incentive. It's called a production tax credit. It sounds awful fancy, which may not sound particularly helpful or innovative, but don't let that fool you. It invests about $14 billion -- $14 billion -- in precisely the kinds of projects that you're undertaking here -- exactly the same spirit, the same spirit we know that venture capitalists, those private investors, who put their weight behind projects and hoped to get a big return in. Those folks now are awful hesitant to invest their money, because they don't think much is happening in the economy right now. So we stepped in. We came up with an innovative way to say, okay, we're going to get companies like this windmill company to be able to move forward.

So our Recovery Plan not only provides direct money, but also provides key incentives, too. The Department of Energy has allocated $6 billion to underwrite, to guarantee, in effect, the ability to get investments up to $60 billion, it will generate, in loans for renewable energy projects, just like the one you're going to be a part of making sure gets built here. These guarantees give folks the confidence that they need to make a safer bet on a greener future.

So now with those efforts we've spurred the state's largest wind energy development, generating roughly -- electricity just in this one project. This is just one example around the nation to generate enough electricity to power at least 50,000 homes. Clean energy, clean energy. Renewable energy -- not needed to be imported. No one has to do anything except the wind blow.

Because the Lost Creek project is a go, there are around 100 wind turbines supplied by GE, and so are the transformers for ABB needed to bring that all to life. So the dots get connected, folks. It matters. It matters for your job. It matters for our future. It matters for my kids and my grandkids.

This, in a nutshell, is a story of the Recovery Act. Every way we can use the money to leverage other money being invested in good projects, to directly spur on the kind of investment every one of you know we need. Talk to your brothers and sisters in the automobile industry. I'm going to say something that maybe I shouldn't say. You guys made the product, but the design you were given wasn't the one you came up with.

So ladies and gentlemen, we got to get smarter, and that's exactly what we're doing. And this is a story of ABB Incorporated and Lost Creek Wind Ridge Farm. This is a story of how the new economy that's predicated on innovation and efficiency is going to inspire the kind of growth we need. This is a story that we're going to write together, you and me. We're going to write this story together.

On the signs around this plant you say you're making transformers. But ladies and gentlemen, there's so much more here than meets the eye. We've heard for years that a greener economy will benefit and prevent the gridlock that existed; that it will put our grandkids in a position that they will inherit a better planet. True, but that's not the whole story.

Barack and I are not waiting for our grandkids. We've got real live people like you sitting in front of us and standing in front of us, who right now -- right now -- need to be able to use your innovation, energy and skill to be able to make a decent living and to help build this country like every generation of workers has done. That's the reason this country is strong. We spend this great economic power we have.

So we're building a green economy for us, as well. It will increase the bottom lines of businesses and individuals through greater efficiency; lower gas prices by reducing our dependence on foreign oil; return America to our rightful place as the leading edge of progress in the world.

Think about it. When you were growing up, did a single one of you think America wasn't the leading nation in the world? I mean, did it even cross your mind that that would be in question? Well, ladies and gentlemen, it's not going to be if we and you have anything to do with it.

So that's what we're doing here. And this is what Secretary Locke and I are doing here. We're seeing first-hand the people whose sweat and fingerprints will be all over this new economy. This new economy is not going to be built by Wall Street and investors; it's going to be built by you, like every single solitary era in our history has been built by the workers who create the productivity and give us the muscle and strength to be the nation we've always been.

And our commitment to you doesn't end with making sure wind farms can continue to go into production. I'm happy to announce today the Department of Energy plans to distribute nearly $3.4 billion -- $3.4 billion -- in Smart Grid technology development grants. Your management here, and all of you, you are in the business of being able to compete for those. This is jobs -- jobs.

In addition, there's $615 million for Smart Grid storage, monitoring and technology viability. Talking with your management and talking with you guys; that's all within your wheelhouse. My brother has an expression. He said, "That's in your wheelhouse, Joe." It's all in your wheelhouse. You all have the capacity to do the things we're dreaming about you being able to do.

Just as Secretary Locke was discussing earlier, a true, smart and resilient electrical grid is necessary to ending America's reliance on foreign oil. How many think we'd have so many troops stationed in that area of the world if we didn't need the oil? You know, if you add the actual price of oil, it's probably $10 more a barrel just by the military we have to provide to be able to ensure those oil lanes stay open among other things.

Ladies and gentlemen, it's also -- it's also necessary -- it's necessary to ensuring the delivery of renewable sources of energy to consumers across this country. And it's necessary to be creating the jobs that are not going to be able to be exportable, that will pay a living wage, a decent wage, and allow people in the middle class to sustain their standard of living and see it grow, and have a promise for their kids.

You know, when I was growing up in Scranton, even though my dad lost his job and told us we had to move -- like a lot of you probably experienced -- my dad never doubted for a second that things would come back. I was raised in a neighborhood like some of you closer to my age who said -- when your parents said, look, you can do anything you want to do as long as you work hard, as long as you are honest, as long as you do the right thing, as long as you support your country -- and we believed it. And we did it. But how many parents feel the certainty of being able to say that to their kids right now, because they see things blow up in their face through no fault of their own.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, one of the ways to ensure that future again is to get in front of the technical -- technological revolution that is necessary to sustain and make this world survive; and that's a new green economy, particularly as it relates to energy.

These necessary upgrades are going to allow us to modernize our electrical grid, improve its efficiency and reliability while stimulating local economies while saving consumers' money. And right here in Missouri, the Lost Creek Wind Project will be designed with Smart Grid components in mind. That's what the next piece of this puzzle is.

All components will be connected through a high-speed communications, and monitored through a system that provides real-time production data from that wind farm. This is what allows renewable energy sources like wind to be effectively and efficiently integrated into the electrical grid, and allows us to take wind from the Midwest and power urban areas all across the country. We have vast renewable resources in this country that are untapped; wind is only one example. But to take advantage of it, you've got to bring the power to where the people are, and that depends on a bigger, smarter grid and that's what we're starting -- this is the base of what we're developing here.

In the end you ask for bringing much more efficiency into our energy production. But as we do it, we'll also be creating jobs, non-exportable jobs, good-paying jobs, not just any jobs. We'll be leaving men and women like you with the ability to have jobs that can't be exported which are going to be the foundation for a new economy -- jobs you can keep forever.

It was a President from Missouri named Harry Truman who faced a similar uncertainty at the end of World War II. When he became President he said, and I quote, "May we Americans all live up to our glorious heritage. In that way, America may lead the world to peace and prosperity." We are the world's hope to lead it to peace and prosperity as Truman's generation did. His words are as true today and the optimism should be as real today as it was after 12 million men and women came home after having been in arms.

Hard workers like you are the core -- the core -- literally the core of that glorious heritage. And together we're going to once again lead the world in peace and prosperity. And it starts by building a foundation, a foundation for a new economy. And it's going to be built on your shoulders, on your ingenuity, and your hard work. I promise you that. I promise you that.

So, folks, next time I come back I hope I see 1,244, and then 2,050. I hope I see all over America -- all over America, by the time our term ends, real live good-paying jobs with companies making real profits, once again leading the world.

We're counting on you. And I hope you know you can count on us. Thanks for what you do. May God bless you. May God protect our troops. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

Joseph R. Biden, Remarks by the Vice President on the Recovery Act in Jefferson City, Missouri Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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