The White House said on Wednesday it helped negotiate an agreement for the Port of Los Angeles to become a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week operation.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden tried to reassure Americans on Wednesday that he can tame high inflation by announcing a deal to expand operations at the Port of Los Angeles as prices continue to rise and container ships wait to arrive. to dock in a traffic jam that threatens the US economy and holiday shopping.
Prices are rising largely because container ships are stranded in ports and as unloaded goods wait for trucks, leading to massive shortages and delays that have caused longer-than-expected inflation. Rising costs are eroding workers’ wages, holding back growth and fueling Republican criticism of Biden just as his multi-billion dollar tax, economic, climate and infrastructure agenda is melting through congressional negotiations.
The White House responded to the backlog by signing an agreement for the Port of Los Angeles to become a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week operation. The hope is that nighttime operations will help break the blockade and reduce shipping delays for toasters, sneakers, bicycles, cars and more.
“With the holidays approaching, you may be wondering if the gifts you plan to buy will arrive on time,” Biden said at the White House. “Today we have good news: We are going to help accelerate the delivery of goods across America.”
But the expansion of port operations was also an unspoken acknowledgment that inflation continues at higher levels long after the economy started to reopen after the coronavirus pandemic. Companies were concerned about months-long delays to shipping containers in June, but the administration formed its supply chain task force only that month and appointed a port envoy on August 27 to rise to the challenge.
Gates are also just one piece of the puzzle, Biden said. The country needs more truck drivers, private retailers to step up and better infrastructure, as well as a supply chain less easily disrupted by pandemics and extreme weather. The president is trying to use the predicament as a selling point for his policies that are being examined by Congress.
“We need to take a longer look and invest in building more resilience to withstand the kind of shocks we’ve seen time and time again, year after year, the risk of pandemic, extreme weather, climate change, cyber-attacks, weather disruptions, ” he said.
The sense of insecurity is beginning to attract the attention of many Americans.
University of Michigan economist Betsey Stevenson noted on Twitter that the “economy is in a very fragile and unprecedented place.” Prices are rising more than 5%, trade in goods and services has slowed and more Americans are leaving their jobs, while the delta variant has put the coronavirus pandemic at risk.
“Nobody really knows what’s going to happen,” wrote Stevenson, a former member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers under President Barack Obama.
Ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach, California, account for 40% of all shipping containers entering the United States. As of Tuesday, there were 64 ships moored in the two ports and 80 waiting to dock and unload, according to the Southern California Marine Exchange.
Commitments from the Los Angeles port operator, dock workers and some of the country’s largest retail and shipping companies are expected to help clear the backlog.
Walmart, FedEx, UPS, Target, Samsung and The Home Depot have committed to unloading during off-peak hours, making it easier for the Port of Los Angeles to operate non-stop. The Port of Long Beach has been in operation 24 hours a day for the past three weeks, seven days a week.
Biden also held a virtual roundtable before his speech with the heads of Walmart, FedEx Logistics, UPS, Target, Samsung Electronics North America, the Teamsters Union and the US Chamber of Commerce, among others.
Republican lawmakers say Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus aid package has pushed prices higher. A recent analysis by investment bank Goldman Sachs estimates that ‘constrained goods’ are responsible for 80% of this year’s inflation overrun, but political criticism has stalled as house and oil prices add to inflationary pressures.
Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has made inflation one of his central charges against Biden, a sign that getting prices under control could be essential for Democrats trying to save congressional seats in next year’s election. .
“Democrats’ inflation is so bad that although the average American worker has received a wage increase of several percentage points in the past year, their real purchasing power has fallen,” McConnell said in a Senate speech last week. “Even dollar stores need to raise their prices. Just ask an American family about their last few trips to the grocery store, gas station, or toy store. Heaven forbid if they have had to participate in the housing or car market lately.”
The Biden administration has argued that higher inflation is temporary. Still, supply chain problems have persisted for months after the economy began to reopen and recover as vaccines reduced many of the risks of the pandemic.
Consumer prices rose 5.4% from a year ago, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Wednesday. That’s significantly above the Federal Reserve’s 2% target. Higher energy, food and shelter costs were the main drivers of price increases in September.
Copyright © 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.