A presidential motorcade whirred down Broening Highway last Wednesday as President Joe Biden (D) visited the Port of Baltimore’s Dundalk Marine Terminal, making the stop after Congress passed a $1 trillion infrastructure deal.
“I’m here to talk about one of the most pressing economic concerns of the American people,” Biden said at the port, across the water from a cargo ship at the neighboring Seagirt Marine Terminal. “getting prices down, number one; number two, making sure our stores are fully stocked; and number three, getting a lot of people back to work.”
The visit comes after sharp inflation in consumer prices— a 6.3% increase in the Baltimore region in the past year, the largest increase since the Great Recession in 2008. Alongside inflation, Biden’s approval ratings have plummeted over the fall, with dismal numbers putting a sour on Democrats’ hopes for the 2022 midterm season.
The infrastructure deal, a major legislation package which Biden signed this Monday, includes $17 billion for modernizing ports.
“We’re going to reduce congestion, we’re going to address repair and maintenance backlogs, deploy state-of-the-art technologies, and make our ports cleaner and more efficient,” Biden said. “And we’re going to do the same with our airports and freight rail.”
The Port of Baltimore has not seen significant delays like ports on the West Coast have. Last month, Biden’s administration worked out a deal with the Port of Los Angeles to keep that port running 24/7, following bottlenecks where record-breaking amounts of container ships were waiting outside to unload.
The president attributed high consumer prices to supply chain issues.
“Even products as simple as a pencil... have to use wood from Brazil, graphite from India before it comes together at a factory in the United States to get a pencil,” Biden said. “So if, all of a sudden, you got a COVID crisis in Brazil, you can’t get the product, maybe because the plant shuts down. That’s what’s happening.”
He also added that consumers had more spending money, and were making more purchases due to the pandemic, “a good thing” which leads to higher traffic and demand for goods.
“With more people with money buying product and less product to buy, what happens?” he said. “Prices go up.”
Biden called the infrastructure bill and the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better Act, which has not passed through either chamber of Congress yet, “the ultimate blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America.”
The infrastructure deal was lauded by Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who was present at the president’s visit last week and said he was “proud” to have pushed for the deal. U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-2) was also there to welcome the president’s visit, and Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski (D) was in the crowd along with several longshoremen who mingled with the presidential envoy.
“There’s an old expression up in Claymont, Delaware, where I was from: ‘Y’all brung me to the dance, man’,” Biden told port workers, noting the International Longshoremen’s Association “stuck with me from the first time I ran.”