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Buttigieg: Supply Chain Clog Happening In Part Because Biden Has ‘Successfully Guided This Economy’

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WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 16: Secretary of the Department of Transportation Pete Buttigieg appears before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies on Capitol Hill June 16, 2021 in Washington, DC. Buttigieg testified on proposed budget estimates and justification for fiscal year 2022.
Win McNamee / Getty Images

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg claimed during a CNN interview on Sunday that the supply chain crisis facing the U.S. right now is in part due to how “successfully” President Joe Biden has managed the economy, despite skyrocketing inflation and millions quitting their jobs.

Buttigieg, who has faced criticism recently over the revelation that he has been on paid paternity leave for approximately two months, made the remarks during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” with host Jake Tapper.

“We’re seeing major supply chain disruption in the U.S. right now, causing everything from higher prices to longer waits for products,” Tapper said. “Moody’s warns that these supply chain disruptions ‘will get worse before they get better.’ Do Americans need to prepare ourselves for this to get worse before it gets better?”

“Well, certainly, a lot of the challenges that we have been experiencing this year will continue into next year,” Buttigieg said. “But there are both short-term and long-term steps that we can take to do something about it. Look, part of what’s happening isn’t just the supply side. It’s the demand side. Demand is off the charts. Retail sales are through the roof.”

“And if you think about those images of ships, for example, waiting at anchor on the West Coast, you know, every one of those ships is full of record amounts of goods that Americans are buying, because demand is up, because income is up, because the president has successfully guided this economy out of the teeth of a terrifying recession,” Buttigieg claimed. “Now the issue is, even though our ports are handling more than they ever have, record amounts of goods coming through, our supply chains can’t keep up. And, of course, our supply chains, that’s a complicated system that is mostly in private hands, and rightly so.”

WATCH:

TRANSCRIPT PROVIDED VIA CNN:

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: We’re seeing major supply chain disruption in the U.S. right now, causing everything from higher prices to longer waits for products. Moody’s warns that these supply chain disruptions — quote — “will get worse before they get better” — unquote. Do Americans need to prepare ourselves for this to get worse before it gets better?

PETE BUTTIGIEG, U.S. TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: Well, certainly, a lot of the challenges that we have been experiencing this year will continue into next year.

But there are both short-term and long-term steps that we can take to do something about it. Look, part of what’s happening isn’t just the supply side. It’s the demand side. Demand is off the charts. Retail sales are through the roof.

And if you think about those images of ships, for example, waiting at anchor on the West Coast, you know, every one of those ships is full of record amounts of goods that Americans are buying because demand is up, because income is up, because the president has successfully guided this economy out of the teeth of a terrifying recession.

Now, the issue is, even though our ports are handling more than they ever have, record amounts of goods coming through, our supply chains can’t keep up. And, of course, our supply chains, that’s a complicated system that is mostly in private hands, and rightly so.

Our role is to be an honest broker, bring together all of the different players there, secure commitments, and get solutions that are going to make it easier.

TAPPER: Many American companies, especially small businesses, as you note, are struggling to cope with these supply chain disruptions.

One possible solution, President Biden lifting former President Trump’s tariffs on China to try to provide some relief. That’s not a panacea, but it could provide some relief. Will President Biden do that? Will he lift those tariffs?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, I think every idea is being taken seriously. But what we’re doing right now is to focus on the operations themselves. A lot of Americans might be surprised to learn that our ports have not generally operated on a 24/7 basis.

We have secured commitments to change that. And the president announced that the ports of L.A. and Long Beach — Long Beach actually was piloting this for a few weeks. Collectively, those two ports are 40 percent of our container traffic. They’re now going 24/7.

That’s not a simple thing to do overnight, but it was a big commitment. Now we have got to make sure that works its way through the chain, because, of course, it’s not just the gate of the port. It’s getting those containers onto a chassis, getting them to where they need to be.

And that goes to other issues in our supply chain, like the availability of truckers. So, we’re taking steps on that, like my department working with state DMVs to speed the issuing of CDLs, those Commercial Driver’s Licenses, so that we can get more qualified safe truckers on the road.

There are a lot of steps that we’re taking right now to address this in the short term, but, also, at risk of repeating myself on something that I have been talking about, and the president’s been talking about all year, this is one more example of why we need to pass the infrastructure bill.

There are $17 billion in the president’s infrastructure plan for ports alone. And we need to deal with the long-term issues that have made us vulnerable to these kinds of bottlenecks when there are demand fluctuations, shocks, and disruptions like the ones that have been caused by the pandemic.

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