‘It’s worrying’: Biden addresses inflation issues in Baltimore speech

As White House Biden has long sought to allay national concerns about inflation amid the economic recovery of the United States from the Covid-19 pandemic, the president acknowledged on Wednesday that rising consumer prices is “one of the most pressing economic concerns of the American people – and it is true.”

The president said the administration was prioritizing “lowering prices”, “making sure our stores are fully stocked” and getting many people back to work while tackling these two challenges. above that I mentioned.

Data released Wednesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that consumer price inflation in the United States rose again in October. Over the past 12 months, prices have climbed 6.2%, the biggest increase since November 1990.

After excluding food and energy prices, which tend to be more volatile, the index rose 4.6% over the same period, the biggest jump since August 1991.

Speaking from the port of Baltimore late Wednesday afternoon, Biden told the public that “everything from a gallon of gasoline to a loaf of bread costs more. And it’s worrying, even if wages increase “.

“(O) on the bright side, we are seeing the highest growth rate in decades, the fastest decrease in unemployment… since 1950… but we also have problems,” he continued. “A lot of people remain worried about the economy and we all know why. They see higher prices. They go to the store… or online and they can’t find what they want always and when they want it. And we are tracking these issues and trying to figure out how to tackle them head-on. ”

Biden cited specific provisions in the new infrastructure deal – which he will sign on Monday – that seek to address some of the pressure points leading to inflation. He also highlighted specific funding that will help ports – like the one he talked about in Baltimore – and solve supply chain issues.

“This will modernize our ports with an investment of $ 17 billion. … We will reduce congestion. We will reduce repair and maintenance delays, deploy cutting-edge technologies and make our ports cleaner and more efficient. . And we will do the same with our airports and our rail freight, ”the president said.

The president said he received personal assurances at a recent meeting with heads of major retailers and freight carriers that shelves would be stocked for the holiday season.

“Yesterday … I spoke to CEOs of major retailers, Walmart, Target – and major freight carriers, FedEx and UPS. They assured me the shelves will be stocked in stores this holiday because they signed a 24/7 (operations), ”Biden said.

Biden also noted his administration’s plan for the ports, released on Tuesday.

The new set of immediate and short-term actions aim to alleviate supply chain problems in the country’s ports, waterways and freight networks as the administration takes steps to implement the draft. infrastructure law.

The new actions include the flexibility of port grants through the Department of Transportation to resolve supply chain disruptions, funding for an ongoing pop-up container yard project at the Port of Savannah, a $ 420 million grants for ports and maritime highways to be launched within the next 45 days, and identification of coastal and waterway projects for $ 4 billion in funding for the construction of the US Army Corps of Engineers.

It will also prioritize identifying major U.S. ports of entry for $ 3.4 billion in modernization and expansion projects within 90 days and open competition for $ 475 million in infrastructure grants. port through the bipartisan bill within 90 days.

In a statement released earlier Wednesday in response to the blatant inflation statistics, Biden said some “price increases reflect the ongoing struggle to get the economy back to work when the reboot starts.”

“And I want to reaffirm my commitment to the independence of the Federal Reserve to monitor inflation and take the necessary measures to combat it,” he added.

A senior administration official told reporters on Tuesday that the visit to Baltimore would be “an illustrative example” of public-private partnership in the country’s ports.

Biden’s Charm City stop was near the 127-year-old Howard Street tunnel, which “currently only accommodates single-stack containers.” It “will be expanded to accommodate double stack containers from the Port of Baltimore to the Midwest,” as part of a project co-funded by federal, state and private partners, the official said.

“This is an example of the kind of investments needed for both the private and public sectors. It is also an illustration of the fact that the co-financing of the bipartite infrastructure plan encourages the private sector to make this type of long-term investment. too, ”the official added.

CNN’s Anneken Tappe and Sam Fossum contributed to this report.