Remarks by President Biden on the Benefits of the Build Back Better Agenda for Working Families
McHenry County College
Crystal Lake, Illinois
1:46 P.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Edith. Thank you, thank you, thank you. (Applause.) Please. Please, be seated.
Mr. President — what he hadn’t told you today: He had to delay his vacation to be here today. (Laughter.) He heard Biden is coming. He goes, “Oh, my God, when is he coming?” (Laughter.) But — (laughs) — so he could show me around McHenry County College.
I’m glad to be here with great Illinois leaders. I want you all to — you know, America is back. America is back. (Applause.) And in no small part because of the men and women that I serve with.
Governor Pritzker, stand up, man. Stand up. (Applause.) This is a good man.
If you really want someone in a foxhole with you when you’re in trouble, you want Senator Tammy Duckworth. Tammy. (Applause.)
And the guy I rely on more than anyone else in the United States Senate — and I’ve served with him for years; we have a lot in common in terms of losses as well as gains — is Dick Durbin. Dick. (Applause.)
And Congresswoman Underwood, who got me a passport to her town. (Applause.) Her mom and dad are mildly proud with good reason. (Laughter.) Good reason. Actually, her mom looks like her sister. (Laughter.)
Last week, I was up in Wisconsin to talk about a bipartisan agreement to modernize American infrastructure and, in the process, create millions of good-paying jobs. That’s not my estimate — that’s Wall Street estimates; that’s everybody’s estimate. Millions of good-paying jobs. Not $7, not $8, not $10, not even $15 an hour. Good prevailing-wage jobs. (Applause.)
And here’s what it means for Illinois: You’ve got, like many states — all states — you’ve got 230- — 2,374 bridges and over 6,200 miles of highway that are in disrepair.
As a result, every driver in this state pays a hidden tax
of about $600 per year in wasted time and wasted fuel because of the nature of the roads and bridges — and, by the way, you’re better than a lot of states — not to mention the challenge of getting to work or getting to the daycare center on time to avoid that late fee when you pick up your child.
Your governor has an ambitious infrastructure plan, and under a bipartisan infrastructure agreement, we’re going to make the biggest investment in roads and bridges since the construction of the Interstate Highway System, literally creating millions of good-paying jobs. (Applause.)
And God willing, we’re not going to have 40 — 40 weeks of “This is Infrastructure Week.” (Laughter.) Remember those?
Think what it will mean to McHenry’s entrepreneurial agricultural program if we can get products more easily to Chicago. Think about how much easier life will be when it’s quicker to drive on Randall Road. (Laughter.)
Look, this agreement also allows us to replace every lead pipe and service line in America, benefitting 10 million homes. (Applause.) It’s going to address — it’s going to address lead exposure to 400,000 of our schools and daycare facilities where children drink that water. This would be the largest investment in clean drinking water in American history when we pass it.
In every — 1 in every 10 people in Illinois lacks access to high-speed Internet. The bipartisan agreement that Dick and others have made sure we’re getting — the agreement allows us to connect every American to reliable, high-speed, affordable Internet — every single American, rural and urban. And, by the way, those of you who are parents, who had kids at home, tell me what Internet means this last year. (Laughter.) If they’re school age.
Well, from 2010 to 2020, Illinois experienced 49 extreme weather events — although I heard today from the senator north of here that there — a Republican senator — there is no global warming. Just so you know, there’s no such thing. (Laughter.)
But those weather events cost this state roughly $50 billion in damages. And we’re going to up upgrade the electric grid to make it more resilient to extreme weather and other threats.
There’s a lot more the agreement is going to do to encourage the physical and ensure — the physical infrastructure lays the foundation for a strong, durable, and sustainable competitive economy.
But what I want to talk to you about today is human infrastructure. It’s essential to that foundation, as well. To truly win the 21st century and once again lead the world, to truly build an economy from the bottom up and the middle out, to truly deal everybody in this time, we need to invest in our people. We need to invest in our people.
That’s why, in addition to the bipartisan infrastructure agreement that I believe we’re going to get done, I’m here to make the case for the second critical part of my domestic agenda. It’s a combination of parts of my American Jobs Plan that were essential and not included in the bipartisan infrastructure plan, as well as my American Families Plan.
In Washington, they call it a “reconciliation bill.” That’s a fancy way of saying, with a filibuster that our friends on the other side use constantly — more than ever been used in history — it means you got to get 60 votes to get anything done. We’re 50-50 Senate with a Vice President who happens to be a Democrat.
And back in the campaign, you know, I said we’re going to build back, and we’re going to build back better. Not just — we can’t just build back; we got to build back better.
And today, I want to outline some of the key pieces of this Build Back Better agenda and what’s it going to do for the people of Illinois and the people of the United States.
It’s about a country, once again, that inspires and leads the world with the opportunities we provide, the cures we discovery, the technolog- — that we discover — the technologies we pioneer, and industries we create. You know, and a nation that leads the world in combatting the existential threat of climate change.
The Build Back Better plan — agenda starts with education. You know, one of the reasons why we were the leading country in the world for so long, and still on the edge, is because we’re the first nation — industrial nation in the world to require — to allow 12 years of free education back at the turn of the 20th century. But everybody is caught up.
At the time, they were debating what should be education in America. The argument was there should be 12 years of free education. And that’s what’s got us ahead. That’s what had us leap ahead of the rest of the world.
But as (inaudible) today, everybody is caught up. Does anybody think, in the 21st century, with the change that’s taking place in technology and across the board, that 12 years of education is enough to be able to live a middle-class life? I don’t think so.
And so, the fact of the matter is we’ve decided — I’ve decided we should have a minimum of 14 years of education. Fourteen years of education — which I’ll explain in a second.
You know, as the First Lady — I’m Jill Biden’s husband, but — (laughter) — but as Jill would say — and she’s a full-time community college professor while being the First Lady — she often says, “Any nation that out-educates us is going to out-compete us.” Any nation that out-educates us is going to out compete us.
That’s why I want to guarantee an additional four additional years of public education for every person in America, starting with providing two years of universal, high-quality preschool for three- and four-year-olds, building — (applause) — building on what the governor has been doing here in Illinois. (Applause.)
In the last 10 years, studies out of the great universities — study of a high-quality program here in Chicago — found that low-income children participating in preschool were 47 percent more likely to earn an associate’s degree or higher, and get through school without any difficulty. We have to build on that foundation for future success. And then I want to add two years of free community college for everyone. (Applause.)
And we can afford it. I’ll tell you how.
That can boost the earnings of a high school graduate with low-wage jobs by nearly $6,000 a year on average.
The average annual cost of a two-year degree in Illinois is $4,200. Under my proposal, that cost would be zero. (Applause.)
But it’s not just tuition that’s expensive; as was pointed out, living expenses, housing, meals, transportation. And that’s why I propose to increase a maximum Pell Grant — which, if you are below a certain income, you qualify for a Pell Grant — from about $6,500 to $8,000 a year. (Applause.) And that will fill it out.
I know — I know that here at McHenry, you have a dual enrollment program so students from places like Woodstock High School and other high schools, you get credit for taking college classes here. Well, my plan will — will provide resources to expand programs like the one you have here.
My plan will also do more to invest in high-quality job training and apprenticeships in fast-growing sectors like public health, childcare, manufacturing, information technology, clean energy so that all Americans can get the skills that employers want that lead to good middle-class and — I was — I make no apology — union jobs. (Applause.)
It would also — it would also make strategic investments in teachers — in the teacher pipeline. Because even before the pandemic, our school system was 100,000 teachers short here in America, particularly in high-demand areas.
Our children are the kite strings that lift our national ambitions aloft, and our teachers are the ones that help them
believe they can do anything. I bet every one of your success can name the teacher that helped change your life. I bet every one — every one of us. There’s somebody who came along and made us believe in ourselves. That’s the really sec- — the secret of teachers.
My plan will reduce student debt for future teachers, double the size of the annual federal scholarships for future teachers.
We’ll also support $100 billion in school infrastructure improvements, including community college, to make sure that they are safe and healthy places for learning, and that all students — with the labs and technology they need to be able to compete in the 21st century.
Of course, an ability to take these jobs often depends on the availability of childcare. As a single father, when I was first got to the Senate, I had two young boys who had just lost their mom and their sister in an automobile accident. If I hadn’t had the family I have — my sister, best — my younger sister, my best friend, and my brother, and my mom help out — I couldn’t have done it. But not everybody has that kind of support.
I just toured your Children’s Learning Center. It’s an amazing resource. Students and faculty can have their children cared for. Students can earn their associate degrees in early childhood education as well. High-quality childcare options should be the rule, not the exception.
So, on my way in here, I met with Mike Sayre, who wrote me a letter about his struggle to find affordable childcare, and he wanted me to — he wanted to know what my plans were. Well, Mike, I hope you know now. Here we are.
My plan is to provide access to quality, affordable childcare with more childcare centers in community college campuses with new and upgraded childcare facilities all across the country. (Applause.)
Businesses — businesses will get a full tax credit to build on-site facilities. And the reason they want to do that is not just to be nice. Business — because studies show when there’s an on-site childcare center, businesses have less employee turnover, less absenteeism, and higher productivity. It’s overwhelmingly in their interest to do it.
Middle-class families will pay no more than 7 percent of their income for high-quality childcare for children up to age five. And the most hard-pressed working families won’t have to pay a dime.
My plan will also invest in childcare workforce with better wages, benefits, and training opportunities.
Look, we’re also going to give parents the option to take up to an $8,000 tax credit to cover childcare expenses, if that’s the preferred route. That’s good for families and it’s good for our economy, and it will create more jobs.
My plan will also provide up to 12 weeks of paid family leave for medical — (applause) — up to 12 weeks of paid family leave. Look, we’re one of the few major economies in the world that doesn’t cover paid family and medical leave.
And the most difficult moments some will ever face:
No one should have to choose between a job and a paycheck and take caring of someone you love — a parent, a spouse, a child.
Look, we will tackle the maternal mortality crisis, as well, that impacts on Black and Native American mothers disproportionately. And what — and I want to thank Congresswoman Underwood for her leadership in this area. (Applause.) For real.
As I’ve said again and again, people who really need a tax break in this country are America’s working families. It’s time they get a tax break.
So, my Build Back Better agenda would extend the expanded Child Tax Credit we passed under my American Rescue Plan. Those of you who have children under the age of seven [six], you’re going to get — and depending on your income — your income taxes — you’re going to get a cash payment back. Up to now, guess what? You get $2,000 to declare a dependent. If you have two children, you get $4,000 off a $10,000 tax bill. It’s important.
But if you don’t have enough — you don’t have enough — you don’t make enough money to be able to have — to owe that kind of tax, you don’t get a tax credit, you don’t get anything. Well, under this proposal, guess what? You’re in a situation where if you have a child under the age of
seven [six], you get back $3,600 in cash. In addition to that, those of you who are in that situation are going to start to see that coming in by the end of this month, on a monthly basis. It can change the lives of people.
Starting next week, families will begin to receive one of the largest-ever single-year tax cuts aimed to families with children. And every child under age 6 is $3,600; every child between 6 and 17 is $3,000. It’s not as a credit against your taxes, but a direct payment. You’ll get cash. Cash. That’s what you’ll get.
For example, a middle-class family with two children can expect to receive $7,200. You’ll get the first half — the $3,600 — paid out at $600 a month between July and December, and you’ll get the rest between January and Tax Day.
With this one tax cut, every study shows that childcare — childcare is cutting poverty in ha- — by 40 percent. Families with children who qualify for this, it cuts poverty by 40 percent.
So, let’s extend the tax cut at least through 2025, and let’s expand — (applause) — let’s expand free meals for millions more children in schools, with the assistance during the summer months when they don’t have access to those school meals.
We support families with children. We also need to provide greater dignity for our nation’s senior citizens who care for them.
Look, there are hundreds of thousands of older adults
and people with disabilities who need home- and community-based care services. They qualify for it under Medicaid, but there’s a backlog of thousands of people. But one study showed that $3,000 spent helping a senior stay in their home by providing — it saves the country more than $20,000 a year in medical costs.
At the same time, more than 1.5 million Americans work in homecare. They’re disproportionately women, women of color, and immigrants, and those jobs are among the lowest paid in our economy. One in six homecare workers lives in poverty. We need to do better on both sides of the equation.
My plan expands homecare for older and disabled Americans,
while improving jobs and pay for homecare workers who care for them.
And here’s the deal: You save a lot of money if you don’t have to go to a home. Keeping people in their own home, mentally and every other way, is a benefit — a significant benefit for the community, as well as cost.
We also need to continue to make healthcare more affordable. When we lowered premiums and expanded coverage for the American Re- — in my American Rescue Plan, more than 1.5 million people signed up for what used to be called “Obamacare.” I want to make these premium reductions permanent so we can get even more people covered.
We need to deal with the shortage of affordable housing in America. Over 10 million renters in this country pay more than half their income for the rent on their apartment, and the lack of affordable housing prevents people from moving to communities where there are more opportunities.
So we’re going to make historic investment in affordable housing, increasing and improving the housing supply by building and rehabilitating more than 2 million homes, especially in places that need more housing.
And we need to invest not just in the physical and human infrastructure of today, we need to invest in the jobs and industries of tomorrow.
Three decades ago — and this always disturbs me, even just repeating it — three decades ago, the United States was number one in the world for a share of their GDP being invested in research and development. We were number one in the world. We’re now number eight [nine] in the world. Number eight [nine] in the world. China was number — or — excuse me, we’re — China was number nine [eight] in the world; now they’re number two in the world.
Folks, Democrats and Republicans agree we can’t afford to lose this race. They came together in the Senate on an Innovation and Competition Act — that Dick was very much a part of — to help us grow the industries that win the jobs of the future.
We need to lay the foundation for the next generation of American jobs and American leadership in manufacturing and technology.
We’re going to invest in Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority-Serving Institutions because while these schools may not have the endowments or the labs needed to generate these jobs, these students are just as capable of learning about all of the things that are going to provide the jobs of the future.
And, of course, no challenge is as urgent as climate change. Last week, I met with eight governors for a better part of an hour, all from the western states, Republicans and Democrats. They’re facing extreme heat, record drought,
and a fire season that threatens to be much longer and more dangerous and more destructive than ever.
Last year, for example, more than 10 million acres burned in the West — 10 million acres — not counting the lives lost and homes lost. More land than exists in my home state of Delaware and my neighboring state of Maryland combined. So if a fire swept through and took out every single thing in the state of Delaware and Maryland. The drought conditions, this year, are twice as bad. You’ve seen the pictures. Reservoirs that are 40 feet down, 50 feet down.
The extreme weather isn’t just in the West. In Illinois, farmers downstate are dealing with more frequent droughts. And two weeks ago, just south of here, you just had a nearly unprecedented tornado.
We can’t wait any longer to deal with the climate crisis. We see it with our own eyes, and it’s time to act.
The bipartisan agreement we reached makes some major strides. It’s going to allow the transition of thousands of old, for example, of diesel school buses and buses — city buses. We’re going to change them to electric buses. There are roughly a half a million of these iconic yellow school buses on the road today. Ninety-five percent of them run on diesel, for example. And diesel pollutes the air and is linked to asthma and other health problems, and it hurts our communities and it causes our students to miss school.
I’ll put Americans to work capping tens of thousands of abandoned oil and gas wells that are leaking methane. It’s devastating. And the wages to fill these — cap these wells are the same wages that it took to dig the wells, making people earn — be able to earn a prevailing wage to do it. There’s thousands of them.
But we need to go further.
I want to provide tax cuts for businesses and consumers who invest in clean energy technologies like renewables, battery storage, next-generation aviation fuels, electric vehicles.
I want to set the clean electricity standard that moves us to a fully clean and reliable grid.
These steps are going to create good-paying union jobs and spur demand for domestic manufacturing, accelerating clean energy and clean cars, growing our capacity to build those technologies on factory floors with union workers, here in the United States.
And we create a new generation of jobs in clean energy and manufacturing. And I also want to enlist a new generation of climate, conservation, and reliance workers — excuse me, resilience workers — like FDR did when the American work plan — preserving our landscape with a Civilian Conservation Corps. It’s a similar thing.
We can put Americans to work strengthening public lands and waters, and making our communities — rural and urban — more resilient against extreme weather. And we can take on the long-overdue work of advancing environmental justice by addressing pollution.
My plan is also going to give grants to spur innovative policies and land projects — lo- — excuse me, local projects, like installing community solar and storage and disadvanta- — in disadvantaged communities; replacing streetlights that are made in America with LED bulbs that cost a whole lot less and last a whole lot longer; making upgrades in homes and schools
and community centers to boost energy efficiency and cut electric bills.
Folks, I’ve laid out a lot of plans here, but that’s because it’s time, and we have to think bigger, and we have to act bolder, and we have to build back better.
When we passed the American Rescue Plan, the naysayers and the doubters said it wouldn’t work. Well, we’ve created over 3 million jobs since I took office — more jobs in the first months of a presidential administration than any time in American history.
And last week, the Congressional Budget Office
doubled their projections of the 2021 economic growth from 3.2 percent to 7.4 percent, and the OECD thinks it could be higher. That puts the America Rescue Plan — and our work is going to move forward to do a lot of things, including — we’re close to defeating the virus.
The last time energy — the economy grew at this rate was in 1984 and Ronald Reagan was telling us it was an American morning. Well, this is going to be an American century. (Applause.)
With my American Families Plan and the other elements of the Build Back Better agenda, experts and Wall Street analysts have said that we’ll create millions of good-paying jobs for years and decades to come, not just in the near term.
So, I’m going to be making the case to the American people until the job is done, until we bring this bipartisan deal home, until we meet the needs of families today and the economy of tomorrow. And we can pay for it.
Let me give you a rough example. This isn’t — you know, and by the way, the American — the — the plan for infrastructure is paid for. It’s paid for. And this plan that I’m talking about — which is really expensive if you add it all up — well, guess what? The fact is that it’s paid for as well. And let me tell you how we’re going to pay for it.
Some of the ways to pay for the rest of it is: The last couple of years, for example, 55 of the Fortune 500 companies making billions of dollars did not pay a single penny in taxes — not one single cent.
Well, I don’t want to punish anybody, but everybody — and I hope someday my grandchildren grow up to be billionaires. That’d be wonderful, especially for a guy who for 36 years was listed as the poorest man in United States Congress. (Laughter.)
But having said that, all kidding aside, everybody has to pay their fair share. I’m not trying to gouge anybody, but, I mean, just get in the game.
If we put in place a minimum 15 percent tax on the profits of corporations, the ones that didn’t pay any tax, that would raise a quarter of a trillion dollars — $240 billion.
But there’s a loophole in the system called “stepped-up basis.” That loophole goes: If I made a capital gains and I was a wealthy person, and I was going to cash in my stock, and I was going to have to pay a tax, I was going to make, you know, $400,000, and I was going to pay X amount of taxes — if, on the way to cash it in I get hit by a truck, God forbid, and died, and it was left to my daughter, there would be no tax paid. It’s not an inheritance tax. It was a tax due 10 seconds earlier.
We closed that loophole, and that saves us $400 billion a year — not a year — $400 billion over this period, which is enough to pay for the Child — Child
Care Tax Credit.
If we end tax breaks for fossil fuels, and make polluters pay to clean up the messes they’ve made, that would raise $90 billion. We’re not asking them to do anything that — that is unfair; we’re just not going to subsidize them anymore. They’re doing well, thank — thank you. And the messes they made, they should clean up.
Well, if we ask the top 1 percent — and I hope many of you are in the top 1 percent — maybe. (Laughter.)
You know, that tax cut that was passed in 2017 was all — it raised the deficit by over $2 trillion — not a penny paid for, and it didn’t come back with anything. That — that, in fact — that entire $2 trillion — the vast majority went to the top one-tenth of 1 percent of the American people.
One percent — you know, if we just — 1 percent — the folks in the top 1 percent, if they just paid their personal income state tax, the same as it was under President George Bush — George W. Bush — that would generate $13 billion a year. It would raise the tax from what it is now, 35, to 39 percent. It’s what it — I mean, it’s not like this idea where you’d listen to the guy that used to have his job that somehow we’re gouging people.
The fact of the matter is, a lot of you, if you’re — if you’re a plumber or a teacher, you’re probably paying 25, 26 percent. Some of you be paying higher.
But, here, look: It’s enough to provide for — that one change — enough to provide for two years free community college for every student in America.
Now — (applause) — now, people say that one of the purposes of taxes is to also generate growth along with making sure that we can pay for our basic needs.
Well, let me ask you, what is more likely to grow the economy and enhance us: continuing the tax cut at 37 percent, or spending — having to pay 39-point — and a half percent, generating economic growth? Because now you have a tax system that will allow millions of students to go to community college.
When I was with Barack as Vice President, he asked me to do a study. And I spent — and I — your sister, Penny Pritzker, was part of my effort to taking care of it. And the effort was simple. It came along, and we said, “Okay, what do we…” — and we (inaudible) three hundred and, I think, forty-seven — don’t hold me to the exact number — of the CEOs of the Fortune 500 companies. Said, “What do you need most?” You know what they said to almost — to a person? “I need a better-educated workforce.” They’re not prepared to pay for it.
Imagine if we present the world a nation with a better educated workforce. It helps everybody. The point is, we can pay for our entire plan and make the tax system fairer for all Americans. It’s about time.
There’s a lot of work ahead of us to finish the job, but we’re going to get it done. We’re going to reimagine what our economy and our future could be, and show the world — just as importantly, we’ll show ourselves — that democracy — democracy can deliver for the people of Illinois and the people of America, and the world can lead again. (Applause.)
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. I know that’s a boring speech, but it’s an important speech.
God bless you all, and may God protect our troops.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Appreciate it.
And excuse my back. I apologize. I apologize. Thank you. (Applause.)
2:17 P.M. CDT