‘We have to step up our game:’ Biden argues innovation bill can combat inflation, Chinese threat

The Bipartisan Innovation Act is before Congress right now.
Published: May. 6, 2022 at 4:28 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - President Joe Biden on Thursday in Hamilton called on Congress to send him a bill he framed as critical to fighting inflation as well as ensuring American national security.

The Bipartisan Innovation Act aims to address decades of disinvestment in semiconductor manufacturing and related fields. Right now, according to the White House, America makes just 12 percent of semiconductors globally, down from 40 percent two decades ago.

The ongoing global chip shortage has led to decreased supplies and rising prices in a variety of consumer industries including smartphones and cars. The US Department of Commerce has warned chip supplies are “alarmingly low” and could threaten factory shutdowns.

The House and Senate have each passed innovation-based bills that would increase domestic chip manufacturing—the House-passed America COMPETES Act and the Senate-passed United States Innovation and Competition Act. The chambers appear on the brink of launching negotiations on a compromise bill that would then be sent to Biden’s desk.

For Biden, it can’t get there fast enough.

“Pass the damn bill and send it to me,” he said Friday. “If we do, it’s going to help bring down prices, bring home jobs and power America’s manufacturing comeback. It’s also going to help reduce costs and help strengthen our national security.”

Reducing manufacturing costs will have a direct impact on so-called bread-and-butter issues like the price of gas, food and other necessities, the president argued.

“Why does it matter if we make more things in America?” He posed. “Well, it matters a great deal, because the pandemic and the economic crisis that we inherited and Putin’s war in Ukraine have all shown the vulnerability when we become too reliant on things made overseas. We learned the hard way that we can’t fight inflation when supply chains buckle and send prices through the roof every time there’s a disruption.”

Outgoing US Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) and US Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) were also on hand Thursday to stump for the bill of which they’re co-sponsors. Said Portman, “It’s too darn important for America to get caught up in partisan politics.”

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The national security angle drew out Biden’s starkest and most consequential rhetoric. He described the threat of autocratic leaders in the context of democracy’s global retreat, in particular calling out Chinese President Xi Jingping, who believes, according to Biden, that democracies are inherently ill-adapted to the current pace of technological progress.

“He believes—he says it straight-up to me—that there is no way for democracies to compete with autocracies. Why? Because we have to reach a consensus in democracies. It takes time. But autocrats can move immediately,” Biden said. “Well, guess what? So far, in the last decade, he’s been right.”

Biden claimed the US federal government 20 years ago spent twice what it does now on research and development. China’s global R&D ranking has risen from 8th to 2nd since 1990, while America’s ranking stands at 9th, according to the White House.

“For democracies to sustain what used to be the case, we have to step up our game across the board,” Biden said, adding the BIP will help “level the playing field” with America’s global competitors. “If we don’t step up, we’re going to be out.”

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Biden spoke at United Performance Metals, a mid-sized 3D printing firm. The president chose the venue to highlight the importance of similarly sized businesses comprising the ecosystem of suppliers that America’s larger, iconic corporations need to compete globally.

“The competitive resilience of the American supply chain rests on tens of thousands of small-sized manufacturers like the ones I met here today,” he said. “[...]Increasing their capacity is critical to making more things in America, getting products faster and cheaper and reliably, and outcompeting the rest of the world.”

President Joe Biden tours United Performance Metals, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Hamilton, Ohio, to...
President Joe Biden tours United Performance Metals, Friday, May 6, 2022, in Hamilton, Ohio, to push Congress to pass a bill designed to boost manufacturing in the United States, particularly products hampered by overseas supply chain issues, caused by factors including the COVID-related lockdowns in China and the war in Ukraine.(Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer)

3D printing, or additive manufacturing, creates parts and products by depositing layers in precise shapes rather than cutting them out of larger materials. Biden argued this is just the sort of innovation-based technology that can help drive down prices.

“It can reduce the parts and lead time by as much as 90 percent, slash material costs by 90 percent and cut energy use in half,” he said. “That all lowers the cost of making goods here in America. But not enough small- and medium-sized firms have access to the resources and financing and support they need to have access to this technology—until today.”

The president described a newly formed “compact” between large corporations and small suppliers to address the issue. The initiative will empower agencies across the federal government to provide increased access to loans, technical assistance, education and more. Biden, referencing the term “rust belt,” said the new compact “is going to bury that label for good.”

Few other details were available Thursday.

Biden also touted job creation during his administration’s, claiming to have created 8.3 million jobs including 550,000 manufacturing jobs while reducing the federal deficit by 350 billion over the last year. It’s the most manufacturing jobs gained over a 15-month period since 1985.

“These manufacturing jobs matter,” Biden said, “because they fuel growth, exports and, as we’ve seen, innovation.”

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