President Biden on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill and Build Back Better Agenda

Howell, MI…Hello, Michigan! (Applause.) It’s good to be back. It really is. And, John, thank you for that introduction. The truth of the matter is there’s a reason why the American labor movement across the board has the single-best workers in the world: because you’re the best trained.

I wish the American people understood how much serious, serious training goes into being a union worker. I really mean it. You’re the best in the world.

I was kidding — someone said to me earlier that — I said I’m a union President; I’m a union — a President who supports unions — not labor, unions. And someone pointed out to me that I allegedly have the — used the word “union” as President more than the last seven presidents combined. (Applause.)

You built the country. No, not a joke. You built the country.

And it’s great to be here with several excellent members of Congress. Elissa Slotkin — Elissa, you — you don’t want to screw around with her. (Laughter.) She’s an intelligence officer as well, so she’s forgotten more than most of you know. But thanks for riding out with me, and thanks for the advice you’ve given me — and I mean that sincerely — and how we’re going to make sure that everything we do here is paid for — paid for, and not a single penny raised in taxes of anybody making under 400 grand.

And, Debbie, you’re the best in the world. You and John have been so — friends of mine — you’ve been for so, so long. You’ve stepped in and taken over in a way that I think is — had to be both emotionally difficult, but you’ve done an incredible job. And I consider you one of my great friends. Thank you.

And, Dan, I — you’re okay, Dan. (Laughter.) You ain’t — you ain’t quite like the woman sitting next to you. But all kidding aside — (laughter) — Dan, you’ve done a great — I mean, I really mean it: You’re always there for everything that’s important to your constituents. And you understand what I’m going to talk about little bit later: The way we built this country is from the bottom up and the middle out, not from the top down. And you get it.

And, Andy, as my dad would say, you’ve got good blood, kid. (Laughter.) And thank you for what you’re doing. Thank you for stepping in. And thank you for the great job you do.

Michigan, I also have — it’s also fortunate to have an outstanding United States senators, who are doing what they’re supposed to do. They’re in Washington because the Senate is in. Debbie and Gary are in Washington now and — to cast some really important votes to keep things moving.

And, of course, it’s great to be here with my friend — we’ve become friends — an outstanding governor, one of the best governors in the United States of America, and her lieutenant governor, who covers in every way — both in terms of physically and mentally — (laughter) — and every other way. And thank you for all you did to help me get elected. I really mean it. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Look, I know there’s a lot of noise in Washington; there always is. But it seems to me, a little more than usual now — a whole lot of hyperbole, a lot of heat. And I’m here today to try to set some things straight, if I can.

I want to talk about what’s fundamentally at stake for our country now, at this moment.

I know it’s an overused phrase, but I’ve been using it a lot: We’re at an inflection point. Every — anywhere from 40 to 80 years in America, there’s an inflection point where we have to choose what direction we’re going to go, what we’re going to do. Not — not Democrat/Republican, but what are we going to — who are we going to be?

For a long time, America set the pace across the entire globe. For the better part of the 20th century, we led the world by a significant margin in investments in ourselves, in our people, in our country.

We invested in our infrastructure — in our roads, highways, bridges, ports, airports — in the arteries of the nation that allow commerce to function smoothly and swiftly and allow us to generate significant income.

We’ve invested in our people, in opportunity. We’re among the first to provide access, for example, to free education. It’s the reason why, in the 20th century, we began to take off.

It was back in the late 1890s we decided, among the first countries, that we were going to be the first nation that every single American, regardless of their background — and it wasn’t, at the time, regardless of their background, but based on income — would have free 12 years of education.

We invested to win the space race. We led the world in research and development that led to the creation of the Internet.

And, you know, but then something happened. We slowed up. We stopped investing in ourselves.

America is still the largest economy in the world. We still have the most productive workers and the most innovative minds in the world. But we risk losing our edge as a nation.

Our infrastructure used to be the best in the world — literally, not figuratively. Today, according to the World Economic Forum, we rank 13th. Our infrastructure — 12 nations have a better infrastructure than we do, which means they can move product, they can do so many things better than we can do it.

We’re among the first in the world to guarantee access to universal education. Now, the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development ranks America 35th out of 37 major countries when it comes to investing in early childhood education as a percent of GDP.

Think of that. Think of that. Of all the industrial nations in the world, the instinct Americans would say if you asked them 25 years — they would say, “We’re number one.” We are not. There’s only two industrial nations that are lower than us.

All those investments that fuel the strong economy, we’ve — we’ve taken our foot off the gas. We’ve taken — we just — I don’t know what’s happened. The world has taken notice, by the way, including our adversaries. And now they’re closing the gap in a big way.

So it’s essential that we regain our momentum that we’ve lost. And work our — you know, the work of our time, it seems to me — those of us who hold public office — is to prepare ourselves to be more competitive and to win the fast-changing 21st century and — the global economy.

Things are changing incredibly quickly. That’s why I proposed two critical pieces of legislation being debated back in Washington right now. The first, a bill to invest in our physical infrastructure. And the second is a bill to invest in our human infrastructure. I’ll talk about both of these bills in just a moment.

But first I want to set one thing straight: These bills are not about left versus right or moderate versus progressive or anything that pits Americans against one another. These bills are about competitiveness versus complacency. They’re about opportunity versus decay. They’re about leading the world or continuing to let the world pass us by, which is literally happening.

To support these investments is to create a rising America, America that’s moving. And to oppose these investments is to be complicit in America’s decline.

To support these bills is to pursue a broader vision of our nation. And to oppose them is to accept a very cramped view of our future.

This isn’t about two pieces of legislation; it’s about the inflection point I mentioned earlier we are in our history — the world history.

So here’s what I’m proposing. First, the infrastructure bill: It’s about rebuilding our roads, our highways, our bridges, our ports, our airports, our broadband — all the things that need repair. Our arteries of our economy have always been fueled by the economic might and dynamism of Americans.

Across the country right now, 45,000 bridges and 173,000 miles of roads, according to the engineers — Society of Engineers — are in poor condition right now, including more than 1,200 bridges, as the Governor has been fighting to repair here in your state; 73 — 7,300 miles of roads here in Michigan.

I’ll bet everyone in this room can tell me what the most dangerous intersection in this town or any town they live in — and where it is — that you hold your breath when you’re driving over or trying to cross the street. Not a joke.

Working with the Governor and members of the Congress here, we’re going to put hardworking Americans, like the operating engineers here in Howell, on the job to bring back our infrastructure and bring it up to speed. Good union jobs, not 12, 15, 18 doll- — prevailing wage jobs. (Applause.) Wage that gives you dignity, that you can raise a family on, that you can hold your head up.

This is a blue-collar blueprint for how we restore America’s pride. And the jobs can’t — these are jobs that can’t be outsourced.

We’re going to put plumbers and pipefitters to work replacing lead pipes in America so families and children can drink clean water. Forty — 400,000 schools. I mean, this — it’s not just our homes; it’s across the country.

We’re going to put line workers and electricians to work laying thousands of miles of transmission lines and to build a modern infrastructure and energy grid.

We’re going to make high-speed Internet affordable and available to — everywhere in America. We were talking about it on the way over with Elissa, that how short the number of — number who don’t have access to the Internet here because of the lack of investment.

We’re going to make the largest investment in public transit in American history. And we’re going to make the most important investment in our rail system since the creation of Amtrak 50 years ago.

Now, let me tell you, our competitors aren’t hanging around and waiting to see what we’re going to do. They’ve been pouring billions of dollars into infrastructure and into training their people for years now.

Take China, for example. Now, I’ve been clear that China
uses unfair and coercive practices to get ahead of their competitors. But that’s not the whole of the story. They also invest in themselves.

In recent years, China has spent around three times as much
on infrastructure as a share of their economy than we have. Three times. And they’re not slowing down.

Yesterday, my U.S. Trade Representative delivered an important speech on our competition with China. She pointed out that China made a major investment in steel plants beginning about 20 years ago. And in the last 20 years, half of America’s steel companies have been shuttered.

We went from 100 U.S. steel companies to 51. And employment in the American steel industry dropped by 40 percent since the year 2000.

China now produces more steel in one month than America does in an entire year. You can see it in the sector after sector: Other countries are speeding up and America is falling behind.

We’ve got to reset the pace again. We’ve got to set a different pace. For example, here in Michigan, we need to make sure that American autoworkers lead the world in electric vehicles. (Applause.)

And some of you came to the White House when I had the chairmen of the board of General Motors, Chrysler, and GM — I mean, General Motors, Chrysler, and Ford. You know — and what have they decided to do? They decided they’re going to lead the world and they’re going to build more of the electric vehicles than any other country.

But guess what? China is not waiting around. They’ve manufactured more than twice as many electric vehicles as we have over the last decade. They control more than 75 percent of the battery market. And they’re poised to invest another $14 billion in charging capacity now in their country.

Back in May, I had the chance to tour Ford’s new state-of-the-art facility in Dearborn, where union workers are building the first-ever all-electric Ford F-150. I got to drive that sucker. (Laughter.) It’s quick: zero to sixty in 4.1 seconds. And it’s a big boy. It’s a big one.

Months later, I hosted the three — the Big Three automakers at the White House, where the Ford 150 was joined by the GMC Hummer and the Jeep Wagoneer [Wrangler] — all going electric, all in partnership with the UAW.

The whole world knows that the future of the auto industry is electric. We need to make sure America builds that future instead of falling behind.

We should build those vehicles, and the batteries to get them, here in the United States of America. That’s what we should build here in the state of Michigan. I want those jobs — (applause) — no, I really mean it. (Applause.) I want those jobs here in Michigan, not halfway around the globe.

That’s what my plan will do. The infrastructure bill will put in motion the union workers on the job installing a national network of hundreds of thousands of charging stations along our roads and highways and communities — over 500,000 of them.

And, by the way, parenthetically, when you build a charging station, it’s like back in the day when my grandpop worked for the American Oil Company back in the turn of the — in the 19 — 1920s, in that area. They went from state to state convincing people that they put — allowed them to put 20,000 gallons of gasoline under the ground. They didn’t want them around. But guess what happened? Everything builds up around them.

You put these charging stations along the highway, and you’re going to see a significant economic development go well beyond the charging station.

And the Build Back Better plan will boost our manufacturing capacity, investing in new and retooled facilities that employ American workers with good wages and benefits.

That includes grants to kickstart new battery and parts productions, that — purchasing incentives for families to buy clean, union-made vehicles, like the ones championed by Debbie and Dan in the Senate and the House. And loans and tax credits to boost clean-vehicle manufacturing.

Look, these are the kinds of investments that get America in the game and give our workers a chance.

My plan also makes historic investments in clean energy, including tax credits to help people do things like weatherize their homes, install solar panels, develop clean energy products, to help businesses produce more clean energy.

All told, this project will save literally hundreds of millions of barrels of oil on a yearly basis. Not a joke.

These credits — those credits could cut the cost of installing a rooftop solar by about 30 percent, helping families cut their utility bills and helping the country cut its emissions.

My infrastructure bill will put Americans to work on long-overdue national environmental cleanups.

I want a job corps just like Roosevelt had a jobs corps — but an environmental job corps of over 160,000 — excuse me — 1.6 million people. That means good jobs at prevailing wages capping hundreds of thousands of abandoned oil wells. You know, we have thousands and thousands of abandoned oil wells and gas wells and methane — with methane leaks. Well, guess what? The miners and the people who dug those wells, they’ll get paid the same amount of money to cap them now. It’s going to help us meet the moment of the climate crisis and do away with — you know, it’s going to create good jobs and make more economi- — make us more economically competitive.

Folks, here in Michigan, you all know the cost of extreme weather. All you remember the flooding this summer that shut down parts of I-96 — the power outages and the tornado warnings. They’re costing your state billions of dollars.

Nationally, last year — last year, because of extreme weather, cost America $99 billion. Ninety-nine billion taxpayers’ dollars.

I went all over the country. I went out West to the fires. You know, more has burned down in the Northwest than the entire state of New Jersey. That’s how much we’ve lost. You see what’s happened with the droughts that are out there. You see reservoirs that are down 30, 40, 50 feet. Who’s worried about the cooling down — you’re worried about whether you’re going to have — what the Colorado River is going to do.

This is a big deal. This is gigantic. And we’re not going to ease up. We’re not going to ease up on any of this.

We have to invest in resilience. Resilience. You saw Texas? Their entire power grid went down because they had no resilience — the ability to build back and build things stronger.

Why a lot of those fires in the far west? And — because guess what? It’s a hell of a lot safer to have those wires underground not be knocked down by high winds and tornadoes and the like, causing fires.

Look, I haven’t pressed — I haven’t a passed a — we haven’t passed a major infrastructure bill for decades in this country. It used to be a normal thing to do. It used to be a bipartisan thing to do.

If we get this done, we’re going to breathe new life into our economy and our workers, and we’re going to breathe cleaner air. Economists left, right, and center agree.

Earlier this year, Wall Street — not some liberal think tank — Wall Street and a Wall Street outfit called Moody’s projected that the investments in these bills could help our economy create an additional 2 million jobs per year, every year. Two million per year. That’s going to be transformative.

And here’s the deal: The jobs in my plan are for people who too often felt left behind and were left behind — left out.

Ninety percent of the jobs in this bill — these bills — in my infrastructure plan don’t require a four-year college degree.

We need to get this done. But it isn’t enough just to invest in our physical infrastructure. We’re going to lead the world like we used to. If we’re going to do that, we have to also invest in our people, like you do right here in training — in this training facility.

And that’s what my second bill, the Build Back Better plan, that’s what it does.

Take education, for example. When America said everyone is entitled to 12 years of free public education — universal — a century ago, it gave us the best-educated, best-prepared workforce in the world. That was one of the reasons why America began to grow so rapidly. It’s a big part of why we led the world the bulk of the 20th century.

But guess what? If we were going to put together a committee today, like they did in 1898 — I think it was — and we were going to invent a public education system, is there any chance we’d say that we thought 12 years is enough in the 21st century? Just 12 years? I don’t think so.

Study after study shows that the earlier our children begin to learn in school — not daycare — the better for themselves, for their families, no matter what the background they come from — no matter what their background.

Recent university studies point out that they’re increased by 56 percent the chance for them to get all the way through 12 years of school without getting in trouble. It’s a gigantic deal. It doesn’t matter whether their mom or dad know how to read or write, or the home is a home that is challenging.

But right now, we’re lagging behind while other countries are investing in their children. Today, only about half of three- and four-year-olds in America are enrolled in early childhood education.

In Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Latvia, the number — that number is more than 90 percent. Ninety percent of their three- and four-year-olds.

We’re falling further and further behind the curve. It’s not just early education.

According to one study, we rank 33 out of 44 advanced economies when it comes to the percentage of our young people who have attained a post-high school degree — anything after high school. We’re at the bottom of the heap.

I’ll bet if I — if that was on a quiz — you were on one of these quiz shows that ask you that, you would have said maybe we’re two or three or four. It’s ridiculous.

My Build Back Blett- — Build Back Better plan gets us back on track. We’ll make four additional years of public education available to every person in America. Two years of high-quality preschool at the front end and investments in community colleges so our students can gain the skills they need to carve out a place for themselves in the 21st century economy.

And it’ll also increase Pell Grants. They’re grants for kids making — families making less than 50 grand, helping their — helping their folks — helping them get through community college or a historically Black colleges in order to be able to get a shot so they can live; they can eat while they’re going to school.

And we’ll invest in our historically Black college and universities, which are an essential asset to help, to support, and to make sure that young people of every background and circumstance have a shot at good-paying jobs.

Look, this bill also invests in our workforce by providing so much-needed breathing room for working families. After all, how can we compete in the world if millions of American parent — parents, especially moms, can’t join the week — the workforce because they can’t afford the cost of childcare or eldercare; they have to stay home.

For example, here in Michigan, the average two-parent family spends $10,400 on childcare costs for just one child each year. Thirty years ago, the United States ranked sixth — sixth among advanced economies in the share of women in the workforce. You know where we are today? Twenty-three. Twenty-two countries have a higher percentage of their women in the workforce making a competitive wage than the United States.

While our competitors are investing in the care economy, we’re standing still. And the fact is, millions of American parents are feeling the squeeze, having a hard time doing their job, earning a paycheck while taking care of their children or aging parents — and at the same time — in the sandwich generation.

My Build Back Better plan is going to change that. It’s going to cut the cost of childcare for most Michigan families by more than half. It’s going to extend the historic middle-class tax cut to the Child Care Tax Credit, which we passed in my American Rescue Plan.

Now, most people don’t know — if you walk to the average informed person — doctor, lawyer, whatever — and said, “Child Care Tax Credit,” they’re not sure what that means. But what it means is, you know, if you were making a decent salary and you had two kids or three kids or four under the age of 18, you get to deduct $2,000 for each child off your bottom line of your taxes you owe. Well, guess what? If you’re making 15 bucks an hour, you don’t have any taxes to pay like that. So guess what you got? Nothing. Zero. Zero. No help.

My friends on the other team have no problem giving billionaires and millionaires gigantic tax breaks. This is a tax cut. You know, what it does is now — and it’s in place, and people in your state are understanding it now — instead of it provides — it upped the ante how much you could get for a child under seven: You get 3,600 bucks tax cut on a yearly basis, and you get $3,000 for a child under 17.

But guess what we did? That means we’re doing it on a monthly basis now. It means you’re getting either $300 a month or $200 a month, just like your Social Security check — at home.

It’s cut child poverty in — by 40 percent. That money is already a life-changer for so many working families. And as I said — it’s actually — I was wrong: In Michigan, it’s 44 percent cut in child poverty.

We need to keep it going. My plan is going to put Americans to work constructing and rehabilitating safe and affordable housing to help ease the cost of housing while generating even more jobs. In most of the major metropolitan areas of America, they’re — you can’t afford the housing.

And it helps to meet the moment on climate change as well. We’re setting the course for America to achieve 50 to 52 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 for us to reach ne- — to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

This bill helps us get there in a way that creates good jobs, makes us global leaders of fast-growing clean energy industries, like electric vehicles, solar and wind power, battery power.

The bottom line is this: When we give working families a break, we’re not just raising their quality of life; we’re putting parents in a position to earn a paycheck. We’re also positioning our country to compete in the world. That’s what these bills are all about.

If you want proof, just come to this training facility. This is where hardworking folks come to learn how to operate road graders and so much more; where workers use virtual reality to master operating a crane and to learn how to deal with drones to look underneath bridges and so on; where young people in Michigan show up and emerge as expert technicians, engineers, heavy equipment operators.

They leave here with a shot at something great: a union job with good wages and benefits that allow them to maintain their dignity and their pride. It’s a ticket to the middle class.

This is where the economy starts: with you — your skills, your dreams, and your limitless potential. The only thing we’ve been missing is the will from Washington to finally build an economy around you — an economy that gives you and your family a fighting chance to get ahead, gives our country a fighting chance to compete with the rest of the world. We can’t get here thinking small. We have to think big.

Let me be clear: We need to prepare for 10 years down the line. That’s what these bills do. Both these bills spend out over 10 years, not in the first year.

So if you take the infrastructure bill, folks, it’s described as a $1.2 trillion bill. What that means is that of all those investments in roads, bridges, high-speed Internet, water, everything else, all of it would be less than one half of 1 percent of our economy each year. And it’s all paid for, and they don’t increase the debt because they’re paid for by asking the very wealthy to begin their par- — pay their fair share.

As a matter of fact, a significant portion of this plan cuts taxes for working people.

And best of all, the cost of these bills, in terms of adding to the deficit, is zero. Zero. Zero. And I made a commitment when I wrote these when I was running: No one making under $400,000 a year will see a penny in their taxes go up. That’s why, in the infrastructure bill, there is no gas tax increase, because people making under 400 would have to pay more.

It’s simple. If you’re working here at this facility or your spouse is a teacher or a firefighter, there’s no reason why — combined — why millionaires and billionaires in this country should be paying at a lower tax rate than you do. Hear me again now: a lower tax rate.

A police officer or teacher, a union crane operator, and a nurse — they paid a higher tax rate — a higher tax rate than a significant portion of the major corporations in America and the super wealthy.

Look, it isn’t right — isn’t right that 55 of the largest corporations in America, in this country — and I come from the corporate capital of the world. More people — more corporations are incorporated in the state of Delaware than all — every other state combined. But you know how much those 55 companies — I can go on; more than that — they made over $40 billion and they paid zero — zero in federal income tax.

Since the pandemic began, the number of billionaires — and I forget the exact number there are in America — have seen their wealth go up collectively by $1 trillion. $1 trillion.

It isn’t fair. It needs to change. Look, working folks understand that.

That’s why, despite the attacks — the attacks and misinformation, my plan has overwhelming support of the polling data from the American people. They understand what’s at stake.

They understand that workers and families have a better shot and Americans have a better shot.

I’m a capitalist. I think you should be able to go out and make a million dollars, or a billion. But just pay your fair share. Join the crowd, man.

They know that this is about dignity and respect. It’s about changing the paradigm so the economy works for you, not just for those at the very top.

It’s about building this economy from the bottom up and the middle out. That’s what I’ve done my entire career. That’s why I ran for president.

As I said, I’m a capitalist. I think you should be able to
make a lot of money in America. But just pay your fair share. Pay your fair share.

I took this agenda to the country. They said it was time to build an economy that looks out from Scranton, Pennsylvania — where I grew up as a kid — instead of looking down from Wall Street. An economy that looks out from Howell, Michigan, and towns like it all over America, that brings people from every race, background, religion into the game.

That’s what — and notwithstanding some of the signs that I saw com- — that’s why 81 million Americans voted for me. The largest number of votes in American history. (Applause.) A clear majority who supported when they supported me.

Look, it’s now time to deliver.

Let me close with this: The world is watching. Not a joke. The autocrats of the world believe the world is moving so rapidly that democracies can’t generate consensus quickly enough to bring their people together to get things done.

They think democracies — not — not a joke — in my meetings with Putin, in my meetings with Xi Jinping and other leaders, they truly believe that we can’t compete in the 21st century because things are moving so fast — democracies take so much time that they are so divided that they can’t get together in time to act.

They believe — they believe they’ll win — they’ll win the day and they can dictate their way forward and leave us behind. They’re betting — not a joke — they’re betting, for the first time, we won’t respond to this inflection point in history, that we’ll fail to rise to the occasion.

But you’ve heard me say it a lot of times: It’s never, ever been a good bet to ge- — to bet against the American people. Never.

Look, just look back a little ways. After World War Two, the United States did what we’re trying to do now: invested in the American people to lead the world.

At the time, presidents and congresses of both parties and Americans of all political views stepped up. I’m not being sentimental here. There was racial discrimination; it was a fact of life. We know how deep-rooted racism is in this country. We saw the Klan marching right here in Howell generations ago and again in recent years. It’s a never-ending battle.

But think about what also unfolded in this critical — in these critical decades. Great protest movements summoned the nation to most prom- — promise of equity.

The GI Bill sent millions of veterans to college. The federal government helped make home ownership possible because it’s the vehicle by which people can generate wealth. Most of us who come from lower- or middle-class backgrounds, that’s how our parents were able to generate any wealth. The investments in our home for those who could previously only dream of having a house to call their own.

We invested in the Interstate Highway System, propelling our economy into the future.

We invested in the space race, which led to huge strides in technology.

We invested in something called DARPA, a program within the federal government that helped create the Internet.

Folks, we need to step up again. But the challenge of today is one of economic competition. Let’s learn from that history, not because it was perfect, because Americans then did what they must do now: invest in ourselves to show the world that American democracy works and that, given half a chance, there’s nothing — not a single thing we can’t achieve when we do it together. I know we can do this. I’m positive we can. I’ve never been more optimistic about this country than I am right now. We’re going to restore faith, pride, and dignity in the future of this country.

And we’re going to pass both — both of these bills and start building this economy to beat the competition and deliver for working families.

Thank you. May God bless you. And may God protect our troops. Let’s get this done. Thank you. (Applause.)

Q President Biden, what are you willing to cut to get to $2 trillion?


Q President Biden, what are you willing to cut from the package to get to $2 trillion?

THE PRESIDENT: I want to make sure that we have a package that everyone can agree on. It’s not going to be $3.5 trillion. It’s going to be less than that. I don’t know what the answer to that is. And we’re going to get it done.

Thank you.

Q President Biden, are you going to call Mitch McConnell today?

Q Do you think Senator Manchin will support a bill larger than $2.2 trillion, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you heard him on television today. It sure sounds like he’s moving, and I hope that’s the case. Thank you.

4:12 P.M. EDT

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