The White House has outlined progress on commitments made over the last two years to ease supply chain backups caused by the pandemic but failed to acknowledge recent signs that improvements have been losing steam.
“Just over two years ago, then-President-elect Biden addressed the nation in a prime time speech to propose his economic agenda: a plan for a strong, worker-centered economic recovery from the pandemic, followed by long-term investments to lay the foundation for more durable, resilient, and inclusive long-run growth,” wrote Brian Deese, director of the White House National Economic Council, in a blog posted by the White House on Friday.
“In those remarks, the President made a series of concrete commitments to the American people about his plan for economic recovery and renewal.”
In reviewing those commitments, Deese cited steps taken to accelerate the federal government’s efforts to end the pandemic while limiting disruptions it has caused, including those within the supply chain.
“The Administration, for example, brought business and labor together to broker an agreement to move ports to 24/7 operations, which has helped increase goods movement through the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach by 24% above pre-pandemic record levels, while bringing goods transportation prices down,” Deese asserted. He touted the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, which passed last year, as a measure that is helping lower costs for consumers.
Deese said the administration’s Trucking Action Plan, a multi-program strategy launched in 2021 aimed at recruiting more truck drivers into the industry, helped double the number of new commercial driver’s licenses issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
He also pointed out that more than 70% of pandemic-related supply chain pressures had eased, as calculated by the latest monthly assessment by the New York Federal Reserve. The bank’s Global Supply Chain Pressure Index (GSCPI) incorporates supply chain delivery time and backlog data reported by purchasing managers.
However, while the long-term trend has shown improvements, the index has actually worsened over the past three months. “Synchronously, we have seen a worsening COVID situation in China,” according to a summary accompanying the index.
“After analyzing the contributions of the underlying variables in the index, we can partly attribute the recent slowdown of the GSCPI’s return to its historical average to worsening supply conditions in China, which have also spilled over into its neighboring trade partners,” the summary states. “In this context, it will be interesting to see how future GSCPI readings evolve in light of the recent relaxation of China’s pandemic restrictions and resulting wave of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths.”
Deese’s review of Biden’s economic agenda — which comes as lawmakers in the new Republican-controlled House of Representatives begin introducing legislation that ignores even the long-term supply chain progress claimed by the administration — also notes how Biden has worked with Congress to make good on long-awaited infrastructure investments.
“Already, the Biden Administration has launched $185 billion in infrastructure projects, including funding for 6,900 projects, reaching over 4,000 communities across all 50 states, D.C., and the territories,” Deese said.
“From our roads and bridges to rail, public transit, and the first nationwide network of electrical vehicle chargers to universal high-speed internet, the Biden economic agenda is enabling the kinds of infrastructure investments that economists have long argued would boost economic capacity and crowd-in private investment.”
But Republican lawmakers say they plan to push back on the administration’s infrastructure priorities as well over the next two years, including how projects overseen by the bipartisan infrastructure law are funded and speeding the approval process.
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