U.S. President Biden’s Remarks on Importance of American Manufacturing

The White House

Mack Lehigh Valley Operations

Macungie, Pennsylvania

1:59 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’m not going to say anything; I just came to drive a truck. (Laughter.) And I’m not sure which one I want to drive. That one? There’s one back in the corner you can’t see. It’s the biggest damn pick-up truck you ever saw in your life. (Laughter.) I tell you what.

Please, everybody have a seat. Everybody have a seat.

Carlo, thank you. And, Carlo, I’m sorry about your mom. I really am. So many — so many people. Well over 630,000 Americans have lost their lives because of COVID. And the only thing I’m going to — and the press keeps wanting me to talk about COVID, but I’m going to mention this one thing.

We still have a lot of people not vaccinated. The pandemic we have now is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. So, please — please, please, please, if you’re not vaccinated, protect yourself and the children out there. It’s important.

And, Carlo, having been a significant consumer of healthcare myself and my family, I’ve often said this, and I mean it from the bottom of my heart: Thank your daughter for me. If there are any angels in heaven, they’re male and female nurses. Not — that’s the God’s truth. Doctors let you live; they make you want to live. Spent a lot of time in ICU, with my son on a table. Tell her, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” I really mean it. (Applause.)

And I want to thank Congresswoman Wild for the passport into her district. Where are you? (Applause.) As they say up in Scranton, she’s bragging on y’all. They don’t say “y’all” up there; they say that in Delaware. (Laughter.) You do because you got family from Alabama.

And you’ve been a tireless champion for the working men and women of the Lehigh Valley, helping us pass a tax cut for families with children that people are seeing now in their bank accounts, showing up in their bank accounts every month, and working with our administration to expand home care for seniors. We got a generation that’s a “sandwich generation” between the child and a mom or dad needing help. And they need help. Provide better pay for caregivers.

And I want to particularly thank Bobby Casey — he’s a great friend of mine — who champions this cause in the Senate for eldercare.

You know, John Mack started this iconic American company in 1890. But things didn’t really didn’t get off the ground until four years later when he brought his William — his brother William down from Scranton. (Laughter.)

So, it goes to show you: If you want to get things moving, bring a guy from Scranton to get it going. (Laughter and applause.)

Mind if I take my coat off? I’m going to take my coat off.

You know — and, folks, we’re getting things moving. We really are. You are.

When I started my campaign for President — and the Gov is still — Gov, I didn’t introduce you. I apologize. No, you’re the governor of this state, and you’re one of the best governors in the country. Thank you. (Applause.) And you’re a good friend.

When — when I said I was running when I announced my campaign — and not many people took it seriously — I said I was running for three reasons: one, to restore the soul of this country — a sense of decency and honor; but, secondly, to rebuild the backbone of the country: hardworking, middle-class folks who built this country. And I want to point out: Unions built the middle class. (Applause.) That’s not a joke. Unions built the middle class.

And, by the way, in case you regret anything, I just want you guys and women in union know that if it weren’t for the UAW in 1972, I never would have won. You think I’m kidding. We had the largest percentage of union workers of any state in the nation in Delaware back then, including Michigan, because we’re a small state and we had big plans. But, so — so, before you get upset, remember, you’re to blame why I got here. (Laughter.)

Look, folks, I think a lot of us come from similar backgrounds: moms, dads, brothers, sisters, family. People who get up every day, work hard, raise their families, pay their taxes, serve their communities, and serve their country.

And that’s why I moved so quickly to pass the American Rescue Plan shortly after I got in — elected. (Applause.) Because we needed to act quickly and boldly to save jobs, save businesses, and save lives. And we did.

We added more than 600,000 jobs per month since I’ve taken office. That’s over 3 million jobs all told. (Applause.) It’s the fastest job growth at this point in any administration on record because of you all.

We brought this economy back from the brink: checks in people’s pockets, shots in people’s arms, tax cuts for working families with children. And we designed our strategy not only to provide a temporary boost, but to lay the foundation for a long-term boom that brings everyone along.

Because when I arrived in office, we had a long time — it’s been a long time since the federal government had worked hard for working people. Things had been great for big corporations, great for the very wealthy, folks at the top. Those 55 major corporations for the past three years paid zero in federal taxes, making over $40 billion. They had no complaints.

But when I put my hand on that Bible on January 20th and took the Oath of Office, I made a commitment to the American people: We’re going to change the paradigm so working people could have a fighting chance again to get a good education, to get a good job and a raise, to take care of that elderly parent and afford to take care of their children, and stop losing hours of their lives stuck in traffic because the streets are crumbling, or waiting for slow, spotty Internet to connect them to the world.

That’s what the economy we’re building is all about. Because given half a chance — and think about this; I mean this from the bottom of — given half a chance, ordinary Americans — the people have never, ever, ever, ever let their country down, just given a half a chance. (Applause.) I mean it.

You may have heard that, in Washington — and I was just on the phone — it looks like we reached a bipartisan agreement on infrastructure — a fancy word for bridges, roads — (applause) — transit systems, high-speed Internet, clean drinking water, cleaning up and caffing [sic] — capping the orphan wells, over thousands of them abandoned, and abandoned mines — and a modern, resilient electric grid to build.

And guess what? A lot of those abandoned wells are leaking methane. And guess what? The same union guys that dug those wells, they can make the same union wage capping those wells. (Applause.)

And I’m working with Democrats and Republicans to get this done, because while there’s a lot we don’t agree on, I believe that we should be able to work together on the few things we do agree on. (Applause.) I think it’s important.

In addition to the physical infrastructure, I also put forward a thing called Build Back Better plan, with investments that are going to really — if I said to you, “You could have the following: We’re going to be — build you a lot of new roads and bridges, or I can make sure we’re going to educate your kids so we’re the best educated population in the world,” what do you think would most impact on the growth of America? You’d be the most educated nation in the world. So I’m insisting that we have universal pre-kindergarten, two years of free community college. (Applause.)

All the studies show: No matter what background a kid comes from — whether they’re a single mom, a single dad who is on what we used to call “welfare,” are in trouble, or come from a middle-class household — the kid who comes from the background that’s deprived is going to hear, by the time they get to first grade, a million fewer words spoken. A million fewer spoken. What that means is they’re behind the eight ball from the start. And a lot more.

But we found out if you put kids in not — not daycare but in school at age three, four, and five, it increases by 58 percent the chance, no matter what their background, they’ll make it through high school and qualify to go on to community college.

Folks, we need more affordable childcare. There are a lot of women not working today because they can’t get — go back to their jobs because they have no one to take care of their children; they can’t afford it.

I was a single dad for five years when my wife and daughter were killed in an automobile accident, my two little boys were badly banged up. I commuted back and forth to Washington because I couldn’t dare leave and move to Washington because I didn’t have my family to help me take care of my kids. I was making a good salary — $42,000 a year then. And guess what? I couldn’t afford care — daycare for my children.

Eldercare: How many of you know somebody, has a mom or dad that needs help just because they’re getting older and maybe still has their home but would rather stay in their home, increase their mental state, put them in a position where it’s better for their health, but you can’t figure out how to keep mom home alone, how to do it — or dad? Well, eldercare is a big piece of this.

Paid leave: We’re one of the only industrial countries in the world that you don’t get paid leave if you have a sick son, daughter, mother, father, wife, husband, to have some time to take care of that.

Bring more people into the workforce, enhance our productivity, raise wages, and bring down the cost for working families.

You know, I was born up in Scranton, and my dad worked up in Scranton. He was actually from Baltimore, but he worked in Scranton and met my mom (inaudible) dad moved there.

And when coal died, everything died in the Valley, so he had to leave and look for a new job. My dad used to have an expression when we got down to Wilmington. First thing he did — he got a job scrubbing the inside of boilers for a thing ca- — often called “COW” — the COW corporation.

We finally got to the place where — we get to the place after five years we could afford to buy a small house — actually, six years. My dad used to say, “Remember, Joey, a job is about a lot more than a paycheck. It’s about your dignity. It’s about respect. It’s about your place in the community.” I give my word to what he’d say. And it’s about being able to look your kid in the eye and say, “Honey, it’s going to be okay,” and mean it.

Because we know that trickle-down economics has never worked. But when working families do well, everybody does well, including the wealthy. Everybody. (Applause.)

Today, I’m here to talk about a commitment that’s sacred to me and central to our efforts to keep things moving. It’s a straightforward solution: support and grow more American-based companies. (Applause.) Put more Americans to work in union jobs. (Applause.) Strengthen American manufacturing and secure critical supply chains. And confront the climate crisis, which is all about jobs.

I can sum it up in two words: Buy American. (Applause.) Buy American.

You know, what most people don’t know — no matter how informed they are, most people don’t know that for literally almost a century, there’s been a law on the books in America called the Buy America Act. It’s supposed to make sure that when your government spends your tax dollars in buying goods that they have to be goods that were built, purchased in America.

But the previous administration didn’t take it so seriously — in previous ones, not just the last one. They were quick to say, “You know, we have a lot of money to spend. We got to buy — the government is going to buy everything from buildings to aircraft carriers to trucks to whatever it is. But we can’t find an American company that can do it all, so we’re going to have to issue a waiver. We’ll hire the American company, but that American company is going to have a subsidiary overseas where non-American — Americans don’t work, where it’s much cheaper, they can make more money, and they’re going to say, “We have to have that as part of the chain of building the product.”

The result has been tens of billions of dollars didn’t go to jobs and businesses in communities like this one.

In recent years, “Buy American” has become a hollow promise. But my adma- — my administration is going to make “Buy American” a reality. And I’m putting the weight of the federal government behind that commitment with Made in — in the White House itself, we put in a Made in America Office to oversee — not in an agency, in the White House itself — to oversee these efforts.

In my first Cabinet meeting, I told all of the Cabinet members if their agency wants to issue a waiver — they’re buying forest — the Forest Department is buying trucks or hoses or whatever they need, okay? They’ve got to buy something that’s — all of it has been made in America.

And you can’t give exceptions. Because if you say, “We can’t find one that does — has…” They get their nozzles overseas because they don’t have anybody here who can make them, et cetera. I said, “If you’re going to give an exception, you got to tell the White House specifically why the exception.”

If they still want a waiver, they have to post the request on — publicly so American manufacturers all over the United States — and businesses — have a chance to look up now in a new facility and say, “Hey, they’re for companies that make nozzles. They’re looking for companies that make the following whatever. We make that. We make that.” And contact us. Then they can’t take the job overseas.

And today, we’re going to go further: We’re going to make the biggest enforcement changes to the Buy American Act in 70 years.

Right now, if you manufacture a vehicle — I expect you guys know about that — that gets purchased by the federal government, the law says that — and there’s about 600,000 vehicles the federal government owns, by the way, and replaces and buys — that “substantially all” of that vehicle — “substantially all” should be made in America.

But because of loopholes, over time, you know what “substantially all” means today? If 55 percent of it was made in America, you can go ahead and get all of the rest of it purchased other places. To me, 55 percent is not “substantially all;” it’s barely half.

And this is actually a double whammy. First, 55 percent is not high enough. And second, contractors don’t have to tell us the total domestic content of their products, they just have to tell us that they hit the threshold. Nobody checking. Well, they got a new sheriff in town. (Applause.) We’re going to be checking. No, I’m serious. I am deadly earnest.

Today, I’m directing the Budget Office to issue a rule to raise the amount of domestic content required to be considered Made in America from 55 percent to 75 percent. (Applause.) “Substantially all” is going to mean substantially all.

And starting with critical products, instead of taking contractors at their word that they hit the threshold, we’re going to start making them give us the details so that we can do more to support American manufacturing.

We want to be the ones making the innovative parts of every product — the ones that will support more jobs and more small businesses.

For example, I had a tour today. A lovely lady showing me in the parts where — the second stop we made — she said, “Well, we’re having a little problem. We’re finding we don’t have the computer chips that we need to go into the engines, et cetera.” We basically don’t make them anymore in America.

So, I got together with a group of 20 Republicans and Democrats. We passed a new piece of legislation providing that South Korea and Taiwan open up plants here in the United States hiring American employees to make those computer chips so we’re not held hostage. (Applause.)

In case you haven’t noticed, not only you but Ford Motor Company said they’re going to have to stop producing certain vehicles. They couldn’t get the chips. Couldn’t get the wafers.

And so I’m also directing my Budget Office to create new rules for critical products where we know we need stronger, more resilient domestic supply chains. We’re talking about components like semiconductors, pharmaceutical ingredients, advanced batteries, among other things.

We saw during the early days of the pandemic that the supply chain disruptions can put Americans’ lives and livelihoods at risk.

When we needed them most, we were short of protective equipment, we were short on ventilators and other essential health equipment. We couldn’t get the job done. We couldn’t take care of people. We were short on basic equipment.

I know a lot of you in this factory stepped up to make PPE at the time. That was a noble service, but it’s not a long-term solution.

Yes, we’ll keep trading with our allies, but we need to have a resilient supply chain of our own so that we’re never again at the mercy of other countries for critical goods ever again. Ever.

You know exactly what I’m talking about. Right here, you’ve seen production slowdowns. As I’ve said, you’ve had your hours cut because of the shortage of computer chips and semi-conductors.

These chips are in more than just vehicles; they enable so much of our modern lives — our smartphones, our televisions, our medical equipment.

That’s why we’re investing $50 billion to have the best chip manufacturing in the world come and build factories in the United States of America. (Applause.) And it passed the Senate, and it’s called the CHIPS Act, and it’s part of my Build Back Better plan. And it is bipartisan, as many Republicans are concerned about it as Democrats.

It’s not just semiconductors. With this rule, we’ll be able to buy medical products from companies like OraSure that are up — that are down the road in Bethlehem — or up the road in Bethlehem, I should say. I’m used to thinking from Scranton.

Their COVID-19 tests are being made right here, bringing good jobs along with it — meaning that we’re developing a homegrown capacity to respond to this pandemic and help prepare for the next one.

And, by the way, when I say “Buy in America,” I mean from all America. You know, we’re going to include communities that have historically been left out of government procurement, when more contracts are going to go Black and brown communities, Native Americans, small businesses, every state and territory, every industry that services and manufactures, and also agriculture.

Part of the problem is that a lot of companies don’t even know these opportunities exist to be part of this. And we’ve got to — and we got to know — I used to have a great friend — a friend who’s a great friend. He used to play for Providence College back in the days when they had great teams. His name was Pete McLaughlin, and he used to have an expression. And he wasn’t the — God love him. He passed away — needed a heart (inaudible).

But anyway, the point is that what Pete used to say — and academics weren’t his thing — he used to say something very streetwise. He said, “Joe, you got to know how to know.” You got to know how to know. You can walk into the Library of Congress, one of the greatest libraries in the world, and if you don’t know how to use the card catalog, figuratively speaking, it’s just all happenstance. You got to know how to know.

So we started a new manufacturing contracting office in the Small Business Administration to help small- and medium-sized businesses bid on these contracts. And my Department of Commerce is working to help government agencies connect with new domestic suppliers in every state. That’s how we’re going to build a future that’s made in America.

One more reason this is going to make a big difference: Each year, the federal government purchases more than $600 billion in goods and services. The Congress passes laws for purchasing things, and as President, I get to decide where we spend them and what we purch- — what — I mean, I purchase what was called for, but I get to — and I’m the one who makes the decision — the administration makes a decision on how to spend that $600 billion.

If American companies know that we’re going to be buying from them, they’re going to be more inclined to hire and make key investments in the future in their companies, like you’re doing here.

My Build Back Better plan has incentives for electric vehicle adaptation [adoption], for increasing the amount of clean energy our government buys. And these Buy American rules can help guarantee a reliable market.

I just saw the work you’re doing on the heavy-duty electric vehicles here, like electric garbage trucks. You know, there are more than 600,000 vehicles in the federal fleet, including the majority of — the largest portion of which are at the post office.

As we work to electrify them — as they run out, electrify them — we’re going to be making a market for vehicles with electric, supporting both the good jobs being created, as well as innovation we need to electrify our transportation sector and clean up our environment at the same time.

And we’ll be expanding my Made in America initiative to help cities, towns, and Tribes get a better deal when they buy a “Made in America” product. It helps the towns, the taxpayers, as well as all of you on the floor of this significant place. It really does.

There are a lot of folks out there who look at how fast and how dramatically the world is changing and world economies are changing. I mean, who would have thought that 20 years ago you’d be making electric garbage trucks here? Seriously, think about it. But they accept it as gospel that working folks aren’t going to — aren’t — are going to get left behind; they’re not going to be able to keep up.

Just the opposite. It’s the opposite. Hardworking Americans are the ones who are going to make it happen. We got to invest in you. We have the most productive workforce in the world here. Given half a chance, there’s not a single — single thing you can’t do.

So, I reject out of hand — I’ve been criticized for this for some time — but I reject out of hand this defeatist view that the forces of automation and globalization mean we can’t have good-paying union jobs in America.

And right here, on this factory floor, you’re making a product that are fighting climate change. That’s why when I hear “climate change,” I think jobs.

Our manufacturing future, our economic future, our solutions to the climate crisis are all going to be made in America, creating good jobs. This’s what it means to build back better.

We came out of this economic crisis — the worst since the Depression — stronger than when we went in.

America is one of the few countries of the world — when we get smacked and knocked down, we get up, we come back, and we come back better than we were before we got knocked down. Now, I’m not joking. Think about the — you know, the course of history in America.

And that’s why, in the American Rescue Plan that we passed shortly after I took office, we’re investing considerable sums that will go to cities and towns looking to build back stronger.

For example, towns in the southwestern part of this state can now apply for funds to cap those wells that are leaking methane, clean up abandoned coal mines, invest in bringing new employers into abandoned factories, and get help attracting them.

Let me close with this: Back in 2009, during the so-called “Great Recession,” the President asked me to be in charge of managing that piece — then-President Trump — excuse me, Freudian slip; that was the last President. He caused — anyway, that was — President Obama, when I was Vice President.

And the American auto industry, you remember, was on the rocks. And a lot of people, including a lot of Democrats, thought it wasn’t worth investing tra- — investing in them because the American worker wasn’t that good, and they were blah, blah, blah.

I remember the heat that I took — some of you may remember as well — when I stood up and stepped into the rescue of the American automobile industry. My name was often taken in vain on television shows a lot, because “Why is Biden so committed to the automobile industry?” Well, because the fundamental mistakes that were made weren’t made by the workers; they were made by management.

Today, a lot of the folks who said we shouldn’t rescue the American auto industry are the same folks who are saying, “We don’t need to buy American.” What those people never realized is, if you give an American worker just a chance — a fighting chance — there’s nothing they won’t do. And if you give American companies and communities the chance, there’s nothing they can’t build. Just look around.

From the steel that raised our cities to these trucks behind me that are going to carry the economy forward, to the workers who are the heart and soul and spine of this nation — American strength is here. It’s in this region. It’s you. It’s not hyperbole. It’s you.

And that’s why I’ve told every foreign leader — and I just got back from Europe meeting with heads of state. One said to me — I said, “America is back.” And he said, “For how long?” A head of state. And I said, “You know, I want to tell you something: It’s never, ever, ever been a good bet to bet against America. We never fail when we decide we’re going to do something.”

So, today, I’m placing my bet on America. I know you all are going to make sure it pays off because it will pay off with good jobs, long-term employment, the ability for America to, once again, reassert its role as the most powerful economy in the world. And that is as important as the size of our military and as anything else we do. And if we think we’re not in a race, well, guess what? Take a look at China. Take a look at China.

I spent an awful lot of time with Xi Jinping, President of China — more than, I’m told, than any other world leader has. And he’s made it really clear he doesn’t think democracies can compete in the 21st century. And I spent over 25 hours alone with him over the period of the last five years — seven years.

And guess what? Just come back from a conference with Putin. He thinks the same thing. Well, I got news for them: Autocracies will not succeed if we do what we can do as a democracy. Democracies.

And if you noticed, not a joke, a lot of the rest of the world is hedging their bets whether to move toward autocracy or stay with democracies.

We have it all, folks. We have everything that we need in this country to — not only today, but for my grandchildren — to be in a situation where we’re still the most powerful physically and most powerful economic nation in the world that treats other nations decently and maintains the peace. That’s who we are. That’s America.

We’re the most unique nation in the history of the world. Not a joke. By that I mean: Every other nation was put together based on ethnicity or religion, geography — but not America. America is the most unique nation in the world, and literally, we’re based on the ide- — an idea. An idea is what formed America. And the idea was — and it sounds corny, but it is absolutely true — no other nation has this as their organizing principle: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men and women are created equal…endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

We believe it. We’ve never accomplished it, but every generation that moved us closer and closer and closer to inclusion. That’s why America’s real power is not in the exercise of a military power, but people follow us because of our example. That’s why the rest of the world follows us.

It was about time we get back up and reassert who we are. This is the United States of America. (Applause.)

Thank you, and God bless you all. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

2:32 P.M. EDT

/Public Release. This material comes from the originating organization/author(s)and may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s).View in full here.