South Court Auditorium Washington D.C. April 7 2:05 P.M. EDT
Good afternoon, everyone. Last weekend, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I announced my plan to rebuild what I refer to as the "backbone of America" through the American Jobs Plan.
It's not a plan that tinkers around the edges; it's a once-in-a-generation investment in America unlike anything we've done since we built the Interstate Highway System and won the Space Race decades ago.
It's the single largest investment in American jobs since World War Two, and it's a plan that puts millions of Americans to work to fix what's broken in our country: tens of thousands of miles of roads and highways, thousands of bridges in desperate need of repair.
But it also is a blueprint for infrastructure needed for tomorrow — not just yesterday; tomorrow — for American jobs, for American competitiveness.
Last week, I said that once Congress is back from recess, I'd get to work right away because we have no time to lose. So here we are.
Democrats, Republicans will have ideas about what they like and what they don't like about our plan. That's — that's a good thing. That's the American way. That's the way democracy works. Debate is welcome. Compromise is inevitable. Changes are certain.
In the next few weeks, the Vice President and I will be meeting with Republicans and Democrats to hear from everyone. And we'll be listening. We'll be open to good ideas and good-faith negotiations.
But here's what we won't be open to: We will not be open to doing nothing. Inaction simply is not an option.
Now, since I announced this plan, I've heard from my Republican friends say that it's — many of them say it's too big. They say, "Why not focus on traditional infrastructure, fix what we've already got — the roads and the highways that exist and the bridges?"
I'm happy to have that debate. But I'd like to tell you my view. We are America. We don't just fix for today; we build for tomorrow.
Two hundred years ago, trains weren't "traditional" infrastructure either until America made a choice to lay down tracks across the country. Highways weren't "traditional" infrastructure until we allowed ourselves to imagine that roads could connect our nation across state lines.
The idea of infrastructure has always evolved to meet the aspirations of the American people and their needs, and it's evolving again today.
We need to start seeing infrastructures through its effect on the lives of working people in America. What is the foundation today that they need to carve out their place in the middle class to make it — to live, to go to work, to raise their families with dignity, to ensure that good jobs will be there for their kids, no matter who they are or what ZIP Code they live in?
That's what infrastructure means in the 21st century. It still depends on roads and bridges, ports and airports, rail and mass transit, but it also depends on having reliable, high-speed Internet in every home. Because today's high-speed Internet is infrastructure.
It depends on the electric grid — a grid that won't collapse in a winter storm or be compromised by hackers at home or abroad. It depends on investing in "Made in America" goods from every American community, including those that have historically been left out — Black, Latino, Asian American, Native Americans, rural communities.
Talk to folks around the country about what really makes up the foundation of a good economy. Ask a teacher or a childcare worker if having clean drinking water — non-contaminated drinking water in our schools, in our childcare centers is part of that foundation — when we know that the lead in our pipes slows a child's development when they drink that water.
Ask the entrepreneur whose small business was destroyed by the second 100-year flood in the last 10 years in Iowa — or wildfires in the West that burned 5 million acres last year, an area roughly the size of the entire state of New Jersey. More fires than ever. Or the devastating damage — seeing more frequent and more intense hurricanes and storms on the East and Gulf Coasts.
Ask all those farmers and small-business owners and homeowners whether investing in clean energy to fight the effects of climate change is part of infrastructure.
Ask folks in rural America, where more than 35 percent of the people lack a reliable, high-speed Internet, limiting their ability to conduct business or engage in remote learning for their schools. Ask them whether investing in Internet access will lead to better jobs in town, new markets for farmers, and better opportunities for their kids.
And I'm serious about this. Ask the moms and dads in the "sandwich generation" — the folks carrying enormous personal and financial strains trying to raise their children and care for their parents — their elderly parents or members of their families with a disability. Ask them what sort of infrastructure they need to build a little better life, to be able to breathe a little bit.
It's expanded services for seniors. It's homecare workers, who go in and cook their meal, help them get around and live independently in their home, allowing them to stay in their homes — and I might add, saving Medicaid hundreds of millions of dollars in the process.
It's better wages and benefits and opportunities for caregivers, who are disproportionately women, women of color, and immigrants. Or ask our wounded warriors and military families.
To my Republican colleagues in Congress, shouldn't we modernize VA hospitals, update them? Many of them are more than 50 years old.
How about the estimated 450,000 post-9/11 veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, who, when they make that emergency call — or their husband, wife, son, daughter makes that call to the VA hospital — "Dad needs help, we have to bring him in." And they hear, "You have to wait. We don't have room now. Come back. Call me back in 8 days, 10 days, 12 days."
Look at the sui- — more suicides in the military than people getting shot. Is it really your position, my friends, that our veterans don't deserve the most modern facilities? We could catch that cancer diagnosis quicker, with access to better roads, cleaner water, high-speed Internet that delivers information faster and more of it.
Above all, infrastructure is about meeting the needs of a nation and putting Americans to work and being able to do and get paid for doing — having good jobs. Plumbers and pipefitters replacing those, literally, thousands of miles of — of dangerous lead pipes. They're still out there.
Everybody remembers what happened in Flint. There's hundreds of Flints all across America. How many of you know, when you send your child to school, the fountain they're drinking out of is not fed by a lead pipe? How many of you know the school your child is in still has asbestos in the walls and lacks the ventilation? Is that not infrastructure?
Line workers and electricians laying transmission lines for a modern grid, providing over 500,000 charging stations on the highways we are going to build to accommodate electric vehicles so we can own the future.
Construction workers and engineers building modern hospital — modern hospitals and homes for American families. Healthcare workers, steelworkers, folks who work in the cutting-edge labs. Nearly 90 percent of the infrastructure jobs created by our American Jobs Plan can be filled by people who don't have a college degree. Seventy-five percent don't need an associate's degree.
As I said last week, this is a blue-collar blueprint for increasing opportunity for the American people. It also includes the biggest investment in non-defense research and development on record.
I promise you — this is not part of my speech — but I promise you, you're all going to be reporting over the next six to eight months how China and the rest of the world is racing ahead of us in the investments they have in the future, attempting to own the future. The technology, quantum computing, investing significant amounts of money and dealing with cancer and Alzheimer's — that's the infrastructure of a nation.
There's a new book out about how our — we've fallen behind. America is no longer the leader of the world because we're not investing. It used to be we invested almost 2.7 percent of our GDP in infrastructure. Now it's about 0.7 percent. When we were investing in it, we were the leader in the world.
I don't know why we don't get this. One of the only — a few major economies in the world whose public investment in research and development has declined as a percentage of GDP in the last 25 years — declined: the United States of America — that led the world.
Why does this matter? Investing in research and development help lead to lithium batteries, LED technology, the Internet itself. It helped lead to vaccine breakthroughs that are helping us beat COVID-19; to the Human Genome Project, which has led to breakthroughs in how we understand and fight cancer and other diseases.
Government — meaning, the taxpayers — funded this research. Government.
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