Aboard Air Force One
En Route Chicago, Illinois
10:39 A.M. EDT
MS. DALTON: Good morning, everybody. How is everyone today? You all doing well? Okay.
Just a couple of things at the top. So, in Chicago today, before an audience of business and labor leaders, elected officials and community leaders and workers, the President will make the case for Bidenomics, his plan to grow the economy from the middle out and the bottom up, a fundamental break with trickle-down economics, which fail- — failed the middle class.
President Biden believes that the best way to grow the economy is to grow the middle class, and his plan is working. We’ve had — we’ve had the most — the strongest economic growth and the lowest current inflation of any peer country. We’ve added 13 million jobs, a record-setting 10 million small-business applications, and inflation is down by half.
As the President will explain, Bidenomics has three key pillars:
First, making smart investments in America, like rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure; making more semiconductors, batteries, electric cars, and clean energy here at home; and powering a resurgence in American manufacturing.
Second, educating and empowering workers. Real incomes and household net worth are up since the President took office, and pay for low-wage workers has grown at the fastest pace in over two decades. We’re ensuring workers can get the education and training they need to get good-paying jobs, and we’re making it easier to join a union.
Third, we’re promoting small — we’re promoting competition to lower costs and help small businesses. That includes proposing a rule to ban noncompete agreements, fighting to end junk fees, and providing support and capital to small businesses.
Bidenomics is proving that we can invest in the American people while reducing the deficit, which fell a record $1.7 trillion in the President’s first two years in office.
The President has signed laws to cut the deficit an additional $1 trillion. He beat Big Pharma to give Medicare the power to negotiate prescription drug prices and cap insulin at $35. And his plan cuts the deficit even more by making billionaires and special interests like Big Oil pay their fair share.
Bidenomics is about the future, but it’s rooted in what always has worked best in our country. When we invest in our people and strengthen the middle class, we can see economic growth that benefits all Americans.
The President will be joined in Chicago today by Governor J.B. Pritzker, Senators Di- — Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, several members of Congress from the area, Mayor Brandon Johnson, and a number of other elected officials and community leaders.
And then quickly, I also wanted to take a moment to wish those celebrating a blessed and happy Eid today. This is a special day about charity, selfes- — selflessness, and service. This year, over 100 of — 100 Muslim American appointees are joining the millions of Muslim Americans around the world to mark this great holiday. And on behalf of the entire Biden-Harris team: Eid Mubarak.
Q Quick question. Thank you, Olivia. A couple of quick questions on Russia. Eastern European NATO countries have warned of greater regional instability, especially with Wagner Group troops moving to Belarus. Obviously, the President has been talking to Allies and so has senior U.S. leadership. But what is the U.S. really telling them, specifically these eastern European NATO Allies, to reassure them?
MS. DALTON: Well, certainly with respect to NATO Allies, you’ve heard us refirm — reaffirm time and again our commitment to the — you know, to collective defense of NATO countries. Certainly, I would start there.
With respect to any particular or individual conversations, I don’t have anything that I’m able to read out at this time. But I would just say with — again, with all of the — look, zooming out to the broader recent developments in Russia, we are just not going to, you know, engage in a whole lot of speculation about what we’re witnessing right now. And so I’ll just leave it there.
Q And a quick one — sorry — one quick follow-up on the — on the Wall Street Journal’s report that Prigozhin was planning to capture Russia’s military leadership during last weekend’s mutiny. This is coming from Western intelligence officials. Can you confirm or share anything along those lines?
MS. DALTON: We’re not able to confirm that, and we wouldn’t speculate about the reports we’ve seen overnight.
Look, this is an internal matter for Russia, as the President has said.
We — our continued focus remains on supporting Ukraine. You know, as you saw yesterday, we just announced another drawdown package to make sure that Ukraine has everything it needs on the battlefield to protect its territory, to protect its people, and — and defend against the kinds of brutal, tragic attacks we saw just yesterday, as Russia launched another barrage of attacks that claimed the lives of innocent civilians.
So that’s where our focus is right now and — and will continue to be for the time being.
Q Does the White House believe that top Russian leaders had advance notice of Prigozhin’s mutiny? Do you think military leaders might have known about it ahead of time?
MS. DALTON: Again, I’m just not going to speculate on this from here. This is an internal matter in Russia. We’re monitoring the situation closely, but our focus remains on Ukraine and making sure they have everything that they need to protect themselves.
Q Just one more question on today’s events. Have — has the plan been modified at all because of the air conditions in Chicago? Any comment from the White House on — on the conditions described, what people are dealing with there, and what that says kind of about broader environmental issues?
MS. DALTON: No modifications to today’s schedule that I’m aware of as a result of this, but certainly, we are monitoring the air quality issues across the country closely. And federal agencies are ensuring that federal resources are available in affected regions as appropriate.
I can also tell you that the — excuse me, sorry — that the President recently directed additional personnel and resources to — and equipment to help combat the wildfires in Canada, and also directed the DOD to expand the National Guard’s FireGuard program, which is the technology that we use to zero in on wildfires in rural places and get a — get a handle on them quickly, to Canada so that that technology is available there and could contain other isolated outbreaks in rural areas.
So we’re taking a number of actions to get a handle on this. Obviously, as you pointed out, this is part of a growing pattern of extreme weather events that we’re seeing as a result of climate change and why the President has taken such ambitious, aggressive action to tackle that threat.
Q Olivia, why Chicago for this particular event today? And was there any consideration in changing to another state or another city, just given the air quality issues that Chris mentioned?
MS. DALTON: Look, Chicago is a wonderful city. We are really looking forward to being here with the elected officials here today, looking forward to being with labor, looking forward to being with a number of top business leaders.
You know, the President loves to get out into the country and talk to the American people; talk to, you know, as I just said, labor, business leaders, other stakeholders about the importance of coming together and building an economy that works for everybody. And so that’s what we’re doing today.
Q So no consideration in terms of pulling this trip down at all?
MS. DALTON: No, no, absolutely not.
Q Over the weekend, was there any military-and-military contact with Russia regarding the security of the nuclear weapons that they have?
MS. DALTON: So I believe my colleague is — Kirby — John Kirby spoke to this earlier this week. And I really don’t have any — anything to add on that.
Q I mean, the President is going — he’s talking about the economic situation, obviously, today. What is the outlook on Friday’s inflation data? And does the President believe that the country has largely turned the corner on — by inflation?
MS. DALTON: So I won’t — again, I won’t forecast what we might see on — on Friday. But I will say that we’ve continued to see inflation come down by 50 percent over the last year. Consistently over the last 11 months. We saw the CEA — CEA report yesterday showing that the United States is experiencing lower inflation than any other G7 economy right now. And so, certainly, it’s something that we’re continuing to try and tackle in a number of ways, something that the President is still laser-focused on, but an area where we’re making progress.
And so, you know — you know, you heard the President’s comments last night with respect to your other question about where we are, and I think he talked about the — he alluded to the fact that we’re already seeing signs that Bidenomics is working, right? You know, small business — record small-business growth; record-low unemployment — over the last 18 months, we’ve seen it below 4 percent; you know, manufacturing, private — private-sector investment coming back to the United States of America; and then we’ve seen, just in the last quarter, disposable incomes are up by 8 percent, consumer spending is up by 3.8 percent. So these are a lot of indicators that our economy is — is showing signs of real resilience here.
Q And a number of air travelers are dealing with delays, especially on the East Coast. The three New York City airports had crowd stoppages. Is there anything the
FEA [FAA] is doing to try to alleviate that situation? And do you just attribute that to — basically the weather or is it a systematic issue?
MS. DALTON: Yeah, this is really — this is really about the severe weather and storms that we’ve seen in recent days. You know, anytime — Ken, you’ve heard me say this before, actually. But anytime we see extreme weather storms impacting travel, safety is our top priority here. And that’s true for the men and women at the FAA, who are keeping our flying public safe. This is really a issue that’s related to the storms and — and we hope that it — we’re optimistic, I should say, that these residual delays will be resolved soon.
Q On the comparison with other G7 countries, what is the United States — what has it done differently from other countries to address inflation? And why is inflation lower and unemployment lower here than, say, in the UK or Germany or Japan or even Canada?
MS. DALTON: Well, look, I’m not an economic expert, but I would note that this President came into office during the throes of a pandemic, and took swift and decisive action not only to, you know, end the pandemic, bring it under control, get things moving again, but he also took a series of historic actions in terms of investing in America and investing in growing the middle class; making sure that, you know, through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are positioning the United States to lead the world in infrastructure once again, as you’ve heard him talk about. We used to lead — lead the world in infrastructure and we no longer do. And you can’t have the strongest economy in the world when you don’t have a strong infrastructure.
So he’s also invested in — he passed the CHIPS and Science Act — right? — which is bringing entire supply chains and semiconductors and other technologies back to the United States; passing the historic Inflation Reduction Act, which, of course, is lowering inflation across the board, from — on everything from energy costs for folks at home to healthcare costs.
So, across the board, the President has taken actions like these to — that are clearly showing signs that they’re working.
Q Was that comparison something that the administration is going to emphasize going forward, pointing out to Americans that it’s better here than somewhere else?
MS. DALTON: Look, I think you’ll hear the President today talk about the fact that the United States right now, after two and a half years into this administration — that right now, you know, we are leading the world in terms of the — the fastest, strongest economic recovery since the beginning of the pandemic among G7 countries. He will talk about the fact that we are also experiencing the lowest rate of inflation. Certainly, we think that that is evidence of Bidenomics working.
Q What kind of updates is the President getting about the situation in Russia? And who was he spoken to since yesterday?
MS. DALTON: So, I don’t have any calls to read out for you in terms of, you know, new leader calls with respect to Russia.
But, as my colleagues have said, he was briefed regularly, even hourly, over the weekend. And those briefings continue — have continued. So, you know, he’s continuously being updated by his national security team on what we’re seeing.
But beyond that, we are not going to get into any sort of public speculation.
Q And yesterday you were asked about the Russian Defense Minister’s meeting with his counterpart in Cuba. He called Cuba a “key ally” and announced new military technical cooperation projects. You said yesterday you’d have to check with your NSC colleagues, and I was wondering if you had anything more on that?
MS. DALTON: Yeah, I just don’t have anything more on this meeting. I’ll — I’ll leave that to others to discuss, you know, their bilateral engagements.
Q So, the President is obviously taking credit for some good economic indicators, the Bidenomics framing. There is a chance that U.S. enters a recession over the course of the next year. Is that also — will be the President’s responsibility if that happens?
MS. DALTON: Look, we’ve been hearing people forecast the possibility of recession for 24 months and it hasn’t happened.
And so, you know, again, I won’t get out my crystal ball, but I think you heard the President speak to this last night. And you’ve seen a strong track record, once again, of the United States experiencing strong job growth; strong labor market; rising wages, even when adjusted for inflation; record small business; you know, high — growing disposable income and consumer spending.
All of these things are consistent with, you know, the resilience of our economy. And, right now, we’re seeing a lot of reasons for optimism.
Q But if things do — if things do take a turn, does that lay at the President’s feet just like the good numbers are things he can take credit for?
MS. DALTON: You know, we’ve been asked to speculate about recession repeatedly for —
MS. DALTON: Yeah.
Q — you don’t know what’s going to happen, but if it does change?
MS. DALTON: I’m certainly not going to engage in hypotheticals here. I think we have a strong track record. You’re going to hear the President talk about it today.
Q Quick follow-up to that. Few expect the — sort of that red-hot pace of job creation that we’re seeing in the economy to continue during — for a third consecutive year. So, I’m just really wondering and trying to understand if the White House has considered the risks of tying President Biden’s re-election pitch to the economy so closely, especially since we are, you know, still far away from 2024.
MS. DALTON: Look, I’m bound by the Hatch Act, so I’m certainly not going to talk about 2024 or talk about the, you know, economy in that context.
This is a president who is laser-focused on delivering for the American people, for making sure that we came out of this pandemic, this — you know, the — the global economic headwinds created by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in a stronger position and that we rebuild an economy that works for hardworking people and supports the middle class that was hollowed out by decades of trickle-down policies that didn’t really trickle down.
That’s what this is fundamentally about today: making people’s lives a bit better, giving them a bit more breathing room, making sure that, you know, the hardworking people of America are getting a fair shake in this economy and that we’re positioned to succeed and outcompete the world in the decades ahead.
Q Olivia, the former President yesterday had a — put out a statement attacking the family of the special counsel. And I don’t even want to get into the criminal case, but has the President considered speaking to taking the temperature down on — on what’s been happening with — with his statements?
MS. DALTON: I’m afraid, with respect to an ongoing federal criminal case, I — anything related to this, I will just have to refer to the Department of Justice.
Q The President got a lot of attention last night when he said about abortion, “I’m not big on abortion,” and that he thought that Roe v. Wade “got it right.” What — what was he trying to express last night?
MS. DALTON: Look, I think the President has been quite clear and consistent over the course of his career. And, certainly, over the course of the last year, we’ve experienced the fall of Roe — a constitutional right that existed for 50 years for women in this country.
You know, the President has been resolute. He’s been consistent in — in saying he’s going to continue the fight to codify Roe into law and to make sure that women continue to have the fundamental access to reproductive rights that — that they need and that a vast majority of Americans agree should continue to exist. So —
MS. DALTON: Good. All right. Maybe one more.
Q Can you discuss how the President’s policies will actually grow the economy from the middle out? Is this not all just bumper-sticker talk for more government spending and higher taxes?
MS. DALTON: Sorry, can you repeat the last piece of what you just said?
Q Whether this is all just bumper-sticker talk for more government spending and higher taxes for the wealthy.
MS. DALTON: So let me zoom out here. The President’s focus is on making sure that we are positioned to outcompete the world, that we are investing in America, that we are empowering and educating workers. And he believes fundamentally that when you do that, when you grow the middle class, you grow the economy. That’s fundamentally what this is about.
Now, I would point out that it was Republicans who put forward $2 trillion in unpaid-for tax cuts under the last administration that they would now like to continue adding to the deficit. You know, this is a hallmark trickle-down policy that — that is — under the previous administration, exacerbated inequality, undermined our infrastructure, and sent jobs overseas. The President is taking action to reverse all of that.
And so, you know, this is really about making sure that we’re doing everything in our power to, again, create opportunity here, bring supply chains and manufacturing back home, outcompete the world in the decades ahead.
And we think there’s a strong case to be made, which he’ll make today, that over the last two and a half years that’s exactly what we’re starting to see.
MS. DALTON: All right, thanks, guys.