- Biden was in Baltimore on Wednesday, speaking at the city’s port to promote the passing of his infrastructure package
- He admitted that many Americans were worried about supply chain issues that have snarled the country – and the world – since September
- Biden said that modern supply chains were so complex, few people understood how they meshed together
- He also admitted that his COVID stimulus checks may have contributed to inflation, which on Wednesday hit a 30 year high
- The president said he understood Americans were feeling the pinch of raised prices but he believed the problem would be temporary
President Joe Biden said on Wednesday that most Americans cannot understand the problems faced by the United States’ supply chains, adding that ‘not a lot of people’ have a clear grasp of the networks and their implications.
Speaking at the port of Baltimore, where he touted his $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill – which was passed by Congress on Friday, and which he plans to sign into law on Monday – Biden said that investing in resiliency was essential.
‘You hear a lot about the supply chains in the news, but frankly, not a lot of people have a clear understanding, whether they have a Ph.D. or they didn’t go to school, about how a supply chain works,’ the president said.
‘In simple terms, supply chain is just the journey that a product takes to get to your doorstep,’ he said.
The president in Baltimore also admitted that his decision to send out stimulus checks contributed to the current high inflation.
‘The irony is people have more money now because of the first major piece of legislation I passed.
‘You all got checks for $1,400. You got checks for a whole range of things,’ Biden said, referencing his COVID relief checks sent out in April.
‘If you’re a mom and you have kids under the age of 7, you get $300 a month and if it’s over 7 to 17, you’re getting $360 a month,’ he said, misstating the second amount, which is $250 per month.
‘It changes people’s lives. But what happens if there’s nothing to buy and you got more money to compete for getting [goods]? It creates a real problem.’
‘On the one hand, we’re facing new disruptions to our supplies. At the same time, we’re also experiencing higher demand for goods because wages are up as well as people have money in the bank. And because of the strength of our economic recovery, American families have been able to buy more products.’
Biden said it was ‘easily understandable’ why Americans would not comprehend how ‘incredibly complex’ supply chains work, because they rarely crossed peoples’ minds.
‘As long as goods and materials are getting where they need to go on time, there’s usually no need to worry about the supply chains,’ Biden said.
Since September, the United States has – like other countries around the world – been battling snarled supply chains.
Ships have spent days off the coasts of the world’s major ports, unable to unload their cargo due to a shortage of delivery drivers and technical staff. Container ships have plied their routes with their vessels only partially loaded, due to logistical issues in ports and warehouses.
The crisis has led to fears that stores may not have enough supplies for the holidays, and gifts may not arrive.
Biden has said before that the knock-on effect of the supply chain problems were scarcely understood.
On Saturday, he said: ‘If we were all going out and having lunch together and I said, ‘Let’s ask whoever’s in the next table, no matter what restaurant we’re in, have them explain the supply chain to us.’ Do you think they’d understand what we’re talking about?
‘They’re smart people,’ the president added, but he concluded the current crisis was a part of a ‘complicated world.’
Biden also said Saturday that he has yet to see a reporter outline ‘very well’ how supply chains work.
Earlier on Wednesday an inflation report showed the largest annual increase in prices in three decades.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics said that prices in October rose 0.9 per cent from September — and more than 6 per cent over the past year, the largest annual rise in 30 years.
‘I’m here to talk about one of the most pressing economic concerns of the American people,’ he said. ‘And it’s real.
‘And that is getting prices down, number one.
‘Number two, making sure our stores are fully stocked.
‘And number three, getting a lot of people back to work while tracking and tackling these two above challenges.’
He said he believed the problem was temporary, and that the economy would stabilize.
‘People are not going out to dinner and lunch and going to local bars because of COVID. So what are they doing? They’re staying home and ordering online and they’re buying product.’ Biden said.
‘Well with more people with money buying product and less product to buy, what happens?
‘The supply chain’s the reason, the answer is you guys, I’ll get to that in a minute. But what happens? Prices go up.’
He said that the U.S. was feeling the effects of a positive sentiment in the economy.
Biden said that ‘more products are being delivered than ever before — that’s because people have little more breathing room than they did last year. And that’s a good thing.
‘But it also means we’ve got higher demand for goods at the same time we’re facing disruptions in the supplies to make those goods. This is a recipe for delays and for higher prices.’
What’s included in the new infrastructure bill and how much it will cost
Here’s a breakdown of the bill that Biden is expected to soon sign into law:
PORTS: $17 billion
The upgrades include $4 billion of construction on coastal ports, inland waterways and other corps-eligible facilities, as well as $3.4 billion worth of improvements on obsolete inspection facilities to smooth international trade at the northern and southern borders. Upgrades will also include streamlining data sharing among shipping lines, terminal operators, railroads, truckers, warehouses, and cargo owners, across agencies to smooth supply chains.
ROADS AND BRIDGES: $110 billion
The bill would provide $110 billion to repair the nation’s aging highways, bridges and roads. According to the White House, 173,000 total miles of America’s highways and major roads and 45,000 bridges are in poor condition. And the almost $40 billion for bridges is the single largest dedicated bridge investment since the construction of the interstate highway system, according to President Joe Biden’s administration.
PASSENGER AND FREIGHT RAIL: $66 billion
To reduce Amtrak’s maintenance backlog, which has worsened since Superstorm Sandy nine years ago, the bill would provide $66 billion to improve the rail service’s 457-mile-long Northeast Corridor as well as other routes. It´s less than the $80 billion Biden – who famously rode Amtrak from Delaware to D.C. during his time in the Senate – originally asked for, but it would be the largest federal investment in passenger rail service since Amtrak was founded 50 years ago.
INTERNET ACCESS: $65 billion
The legislation’s $65 billion for broadband access would aim to improve internet services for rural areas, low-income families and tribal communities. Most of the money would be made available through grants to states.
MODERNIZING THE ELECTRIC GRID: $65 billion
To protect against the widespread power outages that have become more frequent in recent years, the bill would spend $65 billion to improve the reliability and resiliency of the nation’s power grid. It would also boost carbon capture technologies and more environmentally-friendly electricity sources like clean hydrogen.
WATER AND SEWERS: $55 billion
To improve the safety of the nation’s drinking water, the legislation would spend $55 billion on water and wastewater infrastructure. The bill would include $15 billion to replace lead pipes and $10 billion to address water contamination from polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS – chemicals that were used in the production of Teflon and have also been used in firefighting foam, water-repellent clothing and many other items.
PUBLIC TRANSIT: $39 billion
The $39 billion for public transit in the legislation would expand transportation systems, improve accessibility for people with disabilities and provide dollars to state and local governments to buy zero-emission and low-emission buses. The Department of Transportation estimates that the current repair backlog is more than 24,000 buses, 5,000 rail cars, 200 stations and thousands of miles of track and power systems.
AIRPORTS: $25 billion
The bill would spend $25 billion to improve runways, gates and taxiways at airports and to improve terminals. It would also improve aging infrastructure at air traffic control towers.
ELECTRIC VEHICLES: $12.5 billion
The bill would spend $7.5 billion for electric vehicle charging stations, which the administration says are critical to accelerating the use of electric vehicles to curb climate change. It would also provide $5 billion for the purchase of electric school buses and hybrids, reducing reliance on school buses that run on diesel fuel.
PAYING FOR IT
The five-year spending package would be paid for by tapping $210 billion in unspent COVID-19 relief aid and $53 billion in unemployment insurance aid some states have halted, along with an array of other smaller pots of money, like petroleum reserve sales and spectrum auctions for 5G services.