Amanpour Bernstein
Biden advisor: U.S. economy a tale of headwinds and tailwinds
12:39 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

President Joe Biden on Tuesday warned Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine would continue to “take its toll” on the global economy as he acknowledged soaring inflation while touting his domestic accomplishments in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Biden visited a harbor in New Hampshire to highlight how billions of dollars from the bipartisan infrastructure law are being spent on rebuilding the nation’s ports and waterways. During his speech, the President said his administration was taking strides toward improving the nation’s infrastructure but acknowledged the difficult economic reality facing many American families.

“Look, we’ve made a lot of progress and we have an incredible opportunity ahead of us but we know that families are still struggling with higher prices,” he said in remarks at the Port Authority of New Hampshire.

Biden cast blame directly on Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “big reason for inflation.”

“The invasion of Ukraine has driven up gas prices and food prices all over the world. The two major bread baskets of wheat in the world are Ukraine and Russia. … What we saw in the most recent inflation data was last month about 70% of the increase in inflation was a consequence of Putin’s price hike, because of the impact on gas and energy prices,” he said.

The trip comes as the White House grapples with persistent global supply chain issues that have been driving up prices for American families. A recent report showed consumer prices hit a new 40-year high in March, and much of that jump was driven by rising gasoline and food prices. These problems are only getting worse amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and as parts of China implement lockdowns due to a fresh spike in Covid-19 cases.

While prices, including on goods like energy and food, were rising before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the administration has taken to blaming Putin for economic problems in recent weeks. The term “Putin’s price hike” has become a frequently used phrase by the President and his aides when discussing bad economic news.

Biden said he was doing everything he could to drive down prices, pointing to the release of gas from the Strategic Petroleum Reserves and his coordination with US allies and partners.

“The fact is that we are in a situation where the war in Ukraine is going to continue to take its toll on the world economy. It’s going to take its toll on energy. It’s going to take its toll relative to food. … An awful lot of people are hurting. It makes a big difference, it makes a big difference, the cost of a dozen eggs, the cost of a gallon of gasoline, it matters,” Biden said.

He continued, “We’re going to build this economy from the bottom up and the middle out.”

Biden’s trip to Portsmouth was aimed at showing how spending on the nation’s port infrastructure is aiming to strengthen supply chains and bring down costs for American families, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at a White House briefing on Monday.

Biden was to meet with the state’s Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, Sen. Maggie Hassan, Rep. Chris Pappas, Rep. Ann Kuster, Portsmouth Mayor Deaglan McEachern, Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig and other state and local officials, according to Psaki.

“American ports are a cornerstone of the US economy, but outdated infrastructure and the Covid-19 pandemic have strained their capacity and jeopardized global supply chains – which has caused delays and passed costs directly to consumers,” Psaki told reporters.

The White House says Portsmouth Harbor handles approximately 3.5 million tons and nearly $2 billion of cargo a year. The US Army Corps of Engineers completed a $18.2 million project earlier this month to widen the harbor’s turning basin and is investing an additional $1.7 million for maintenance dredging of the shipping channel and basin, according to the White House.

These funds were allocated from the bipartisan infrastructure law, which is one of Biden’s biggest legislative victories since taking office. The law invests $17 billion in port infrastructure. The President has made several trips around the country to tout the bipartisan achievement and highlight the infrastructure investments that were made possible by the law.

The cargo that passes through Portsmouth Harbor includes material to make drywall, road de-icing salt, home heating oil and underwater fiber optic cable, according to the White House. It is also a staging and transport location for several wind energy projects and for nuclear power plant components manufactured at the nearby Westinghouse Electric.

During his speech, Biden cited investments for dredging in the port as an important example of the bill in action. The port supports 2,300 jobs, he noted, and has “even more potential than that.” A recent investment from the Army Corps of Engineers means that the port can welcome larger boats.

“This port is open for business and will be for a long time,” he said.

This story has been updated with additional developments on Tuesday.