US President Joe Biden, speaking from the White House’s South Court Auditorium on Tuesday (November 23), took the occasion to address the issue of rising inflation and the state of the economy. Below are his full remarks:
“Good afternoon. This week, millions of Americans, including some of the people in this room, are likely to be hitting the road, reuniting with their loved ones in cities and towns all across America to celebrate Thanksgiving.
As they do, I want to take a moment to talk about the economy, both the progress we’ve made and the challenges we remain — that we have to face.
We’ve made historic progress over the last 10 months. Unemployment is down to 4.6 per cent two years faster than everyone expected. When we started at this job, it was over 14 per cent.
Wages are rising, disposable income is up, more people are starting small businesses than ever before, and our economy has created a record 5.6 million jobs since I became President on January 20.
There’s a lot we can be proud of and a lot we can build on for the future, but we still face challenges in our economy.
Disruptions related to the pandemic have caused challenges in our supply chain which have sparked concern about shortages and contributed to higher prices.
Moms and dads are worried, asking, “Will there be enough food we can afford to buy for the holidays? Will we be able to get Christmas presents to the kids on time? And if so, will they cost me an arm and a leg?”
I told you before that we are going to take action on these problems, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.
It starts with my Port Action Plan — a proactive three-month effort to invest in our ports and relieve bottlenecks. Forty per cent of the goods, for example, that come into this country on the West Coast come through two ports: Los Angeles and Long Beach.
To help ease the congestion at these ports, I brought together labor and management and asked them to step up and cooperate, to move from operating the ports at 40 hours a week at those ports to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
And I provided the resources to other key ports — including Savannah, Georgia, and on the East Coast — on the East Coast and — to help reduce congestion and undo the damage caused by COVID.
We also met with the CEOs of Walmart, Target, Home Depot, TJ Maxx, and others. Those retailers — large retailers and others agreed to move products more quickly, stock their shelves more quickly.
And, by the way, you may have heard the CEO of Walmart yesterday on the steps we’ve taken. He said, and I quote, “The combination of private enterprise and government working together has been really successful.” He went on to say, “All the way through the supply chain, there’s… a lot of innovation.” Because of the actions we’ve taken, things have begun to change. End of quote.
In the past three weeks, the number of containers sitting on docks, blocking movement, are down by 33 per cent. Shipping prices are down 25 per cent. More goods are moving more quickly and more cheaply out of our ports, onto your doorsteps, and onto store shelves.
And so, all those concerns, a few weeks ago, there would be a — there’d not be ample food available for Thanksgiving — so many people talked about that, understandably. But families can rest easy. Grocery stores are well-stocked with turkey and everything else you need for Thanksgiving.
And the major retailers I mentioned are — have confirmed that their shelves will be well-stocked in stores this holiday season.
And that’s good news for those moms and dads who are worried about whether their Christmas gifts will be available. That goes for everything from bicycles to ice skates.
You know, today, though, I want to address another challenge that families are facing and the one that I think they’re most focused on right now: high gas prices. This is a problem not just here in the United States, but around the world. The price of gasoline has reached record levels recently in Europe and in Asia.
In France, at the end of last month, it reached about $7 per gallon. In Japan, it’s about $5.50 per gallon — the highest it’s been in years.
Of course, it’s always painful when gas pices [sic] — gas prices spike.
Today, the price of gas in America, on average, is $3.40 a gallon; in California, it’s much higher. The impact is real.
But the fact is we’ve faced even worst spikes before just in the last decade. We saw it in 2012 when the price of gasoline hit $3.90. We saw it in 2014 when it hit $3.69. And as recently as 2019, we saw it surpass $3 in many places.
The fact is we always get through those spikes. But we’re going to get through this one as well and, hopefully, faster.
But it doesn’t mean we should just stand by idly and wait for prices to drop on their own. Instead, we’re taking action.
A big part of the reason Americans are facing high gas prices is that oil-producing countries and large companies have not ramped up the supply of oil quickly enough to meet the demand. And the smaller supply means higher prices globally for oil.
To address these issues, I got on the phone with leaders from other countries grappling with this challenge to try to find ways to lower oil prices and, ultimately, to the price you pay at the pump.
So today, I’m announcing the largest-ever release from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve to help provide the supply we need as we recover from this pandemic. In addition, I brought together other nations to contribute to the solution.
India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and the United Kingdom have agreed to release additional oil from their reserves. And China may do more as well. This coordinated action will help us deal with the lack of supply, which in turn helps ease prices.
The bottom line: Today, we’re launching a major effort to moderate the price of oil — an effort that will span the globe in its reach and, ultimately, reach your corner gas station, God willing.
I’ve worked hard these past few weeks in calls and meetings with foreign leaders, policymakers to put together the building blocks for today’s global announcement. And while our combined actions will not solve the problem of high gas prices overnight, it will make a difference.
It will take time, but, before long, you should see the price of gas drop where you fill up your tank. And in the longer term, we will reduce our reliance on oil as we shift to clean energy.
But right now, I will do what needs to be done to reduce the price you pay at the pump — from the middle-class and working families that are spending much too much, and it’s a strain. And you’re the reason I was sent here: to look out for you.
There’s another issue that I will be addressing as well. Because the fact is: The price of oil was already dropping prior to this announcement, and many suggesting anticipation of the announcement.
The price of gasoline in the wholesale market has fallen by about 10 per cent over the last few weeks. But the price of the pump hasn’t budged a penny. In other words, gas supply companies are paying less and making a lot more. And they do not seem to be passing that on to the consumers at the pump.
In fact, if the gap between wholesale and retail gas prices was in line with past averages, Americans would be paying at least 25 cents less per gallon right now, as I speak. Instead, companies are pocketing the difference as profit.
That’s unacceptable. And that’s why I’ve asked the Federal Trade Commission to consider whether potentially illegal and anti-competitive behaviour in the oil and gas industry is causing higher prices for consumers: so we can ensure the American people are paying a fair price for their gasoline.
I also want to briefly address one myth about inflated gas prices: They are not due to environmental measures. My effort to combat climate change is not raising the price of gas or increasing its availability. It’s increasing the availability of jobs. Jobs building electric cars, like the one I drove at the GM factory in Detroit last week.
For the hundreds of thousands of folks who bought one of those electric cars, they’re going to save $800 to $1,000 in fuel costs this year.
And we’re going to put those savings within reach of more Americans and create jobs installing solar panels, batteries, electric heat pumps — jobs making those clean power-generating devices.
And by the way, deploying these technologies for each home where they’re installed is going to save folks additional hundreds of dollars in energy costs every year.
Let’s do that. Let’s beat climate change with more extensive innovation and opportunities.
We can make our economy and consumers less vulnerable to these sorts of price spikes when we do that.
And finally, even as we meet to work out this challenge, it’s important to maintain perspective about where our economy stands today. The fact is, America has a lot to be proud of. We’re experiencing the strongest economic recovery in the world.
Even after accounting for inflation, our economy is bigger and our families have more money in their pockets than they did before the pandemic. And America is the only major economy in the world that can say that.
It’s a testament to the grit and determination of the American people, as well as our unique approach to this recovery and our focus on rebuilding our economy from the bottom up and the middle out, not the top down.
Because of that approach, we’re the only leading economy in the world where household income and the economy as a whole are stronger than they were before the pandemic hit.
Let me close with this: This Thanksgiving, we have so much to be grateful for — vaccines that are effective, safe, and free; promising new treatments providing for hope that we can bring an end to the worst tragedies of this crisis; record job growth; the strongest recovery in the world; and, most of all, the chance to be together again with the people we love on Thanksgiving.
As you gather together with your family this Thanksgiving, I want you to know how grateful I am to serve as your President.
And I promised you that I’ll never stop working to address your family’s needs — and, together, we’re going to confront challenges that we face and are going to face them honestly — and that we’ll keep building this economy around the hardworking folks who built this country.
Happy Thanksgiving. And God bless you. And may God protect our troops.
And I’m heading to a food kitchen to serve meals right now. Thank you for your time and effort. And I’ll have plenty of time to talk to you later.”