Remarks by President Biden at a Campaign Reception
New York, New York
6:33 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Well, first of all, I don’t know why you married this guy Tony. He’s opening up your home again. And, you know, I think maybe the worst sentence in the English language is: The President is coming. (Laughter.) It creates a lot of problems. But thank you both very much for everything and thank your whole family.
You know, Pete — I warned Pete when it was — when I got the nomination that if I won, I was coming for him — not a joke — that I needed him in the administration.
I’ve been around — I know I don’t look it, but I’ve been around for a lot of administrations. (Laughter.) And he’s one of the brightest guys I’ve ever worked with, in any administration. And the best thing about him is he has enormous character. He does what he says and says what he does, and he makes no apologies about it and gets it done.
And, you know, I want to thank everyone here for the help. Without you guys, I wouldn’t be standing here. Some of you go back a long way. And I remember — you know, I was talking to, you know, Ted Kaufman, the former senator who ran my office for years — one of the finest men I’ve ever known in my whole life. And — and we were talking, and — and we talked about how — he said, “You know, this campaign is going to be tough. It’s going to be, in many cases…” —
And I know the press is here, so I’m going to choose my words so it can’t be taken — not that they would ever really take them out of context — but so they couldn’t be taken out of context.
And that is that “…it could be a pretty ugly campaign maybe coming up.” I doubt whether any of us would have ever predicted that we’d be — you’d be voting in a campaign where the circumstances were such that they exist as they do today, particularly on the other side. People say, “Well, you know, congratulations on bringing back a little bit of this or that to administration.” It wasn’t a very high bar.
But I tell you what, the bar still — still has to be crossed. You know, when I decided — and it wasn’t an automatic decision about running again, not because I didn’t think there was more to do but because I thought to myself, you know, four more years, I mean, six more years is — is a long time. It’s a legitimate thing to raise the question of age. And I think it’s totally legitimate.
And one of the things that is what Ted Kaufman said to me, my friend — he said, “Joe, you were the second-youngest man in history ever to start the United States Senate about a century ago, not quite.” (Laughter.) “And you’re going to be the oldest President in American history right now.”
And, you know, there have been good parts of being the youngest and good parts of being the oldest. And I hope what I’ve been able to bring to this job and will continue to bring is a little bit of wisdom — a little bit of wisdom.
When I decided to run this time, I made it very clear that I was going to do what I thought was right regardless of the political consequences. And I mean that sincerely. Not that I don’t take people’s — I want to know what they think. I want to know what is on their minds and make a legitimate judgment. But I’m not going to walk away from anything that that I don’t think is the best thing to do.
And I’m sure many decisions I’ve made and will make again won’t be the best decisions, but I think we’ve made some pretty solid decisions.
And the most important decision that I made when I ran this time, with Pete’s help and others in the administration, is that I decided that we were — I was going to be certain — excuse me — I was decided that I was going to have an administration that leveled the playing field a little bit more, gave everybody a bit of a fighting chance.
You know, I come from a household — we weren’t poor. My dad was a hardworking guy and did very well when he was a young man and lost everything and fought his way back. And my dad would get up every morning, and every single morning was going to be the best day of the year — best day the year.
My dad was one of those guys when we — he ended up — when it all — everything died in Scranton in terms of the economy, he went — didn’t work in the mines, although my mom’s side of the family, they did. But he was — he moved to Delaware, where he had been raised as a kid.
And we moved down there, and he was a salesperson. Got a decent job, but started off, you know, cleaning inside of boilers or (inaudible) motors. And my dad was a — if my dad were alive and I wanted you to meet my dad at home, if I didn’t call him and give him time to put on a suit before you came over, not a joke, then I’d be in real trouble. No, I’m not joking.
My dad was — was a quintessential gentleman. Matter of fact, when I graduated from college, we had the usual lunch after graduation, you know, the parents take their families to. And he said, “I’m taking you up to Sardi’s.” He said — I said, “Why’s that, Dad?” He said, “I haven’t taught you how to tip a maître d’.” (Laughter.)
But my point is this. We lived in a three-bedroom house in a development called Mayfield. It was when suburbia was being developed in the Wilmington, Delaware, area and a lot of suburban areas like that. And we had four kids and a grandpop living with us.
And — and we never thought there was any — you know, we weren’t poor. My dad ended up managing an automobile dealership. And I guess we were just kind of typically middle class where we couldn’t — we had to figure out how to get all four kids to college kind of thing. Wasn’t — we never thought we were missing anything.
But my dad used to say, “Joey, remember…” He said, “Joey, a job is about a lot more than a paycheck. It’s about your dignity. It’s about respect.” This is — my word as a Biden — this is a quote. “It’s about your dignity. It’s about respect. It’s about being able to look at a child in the eye and say, ‘Honey, it’s going to be okay’ and mean it.”
An awful lot of people the last three, four decades have gotten the short side of that because of the policies that we changed — Democrat and Republican administrations. We decided it was a hell of a lot cheaper to send — go abroad to make a product because labor was cheaper and import a product that was more expensive because it was made abroad because you could make more profit. Not — not evil, but just —
But I decided that wasn’t going to happen on my watch. What was going to happen on my watch was we were going to build from the middle out and the bottom up.
And when that happens, everybody does well. You all do very well. The wealthy do very well; no one gets hurt. Everybody has got to pay a little bit of their fair share.
And so, what happened was I decided that that’s what we’re going to do. And we did. We focused on providing for bringing back manufacturing to the United States, making sure that we had jobs that paid a decent wage, making sure that we have access to education and healthcare.
The idea that — I remember being down in suburban Virginia. I think you and I talked about this, Pete. This woman stood up and said, “I have two daughters with Type 1 diabetes. And the prescription drug costs for the insulin is expensive.” I think she said at the time it was like $900 a month. And she said, “I don’t have enough private insurance to do it, and we don’t cover it.”
Well, I’ve been fighting Big Pharma for a long, long time as a U.S. senator. So we started an effort to make sure that we had — we pay more for pre- — the same prescription drug invented here in the United States, sold in Toronto or Paris or London or Rome, is significantly more expensive here for no reason other than they don’t get the bargain for the price here.
So, we finally decided we’re going to have — make sure the Medicare could — that if they’re going to pay for the drugs, they could say — just like they can with veterans benefits — they could bargain and say, “We’re only going to pay so much.”
So, all of a sudden, what happened was we’re now in a situation where, as of January 1, if you have — anybody know anybody who nee- — has Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes? Everybody knows somebody. Imagine being that parent, spea- — deprived of your dignity, like that woman was in suburban Virginia at the town meeting. Has two kids, and looked at her kids and know she can’t afford — she cannot afford to provide the insulin they need. She talked about how they would split it.
So, folks, you know, guess what? Well, it only costs 10 bucks to make that insulin. It was invented 100 years ago. The guy who invented it didn’t want to patent it because he didn’t want to monopolize it. It costs about 13, 14 bucks max to package it and the rest. Well, guess what? Now we got the bill passed, and it’s 35 bucks. Thirty-five bucks.
But more important than just saving people, guess what it does to people’s peace of mind? The ability to be able to just know that you’re going to be okay. Well, that didn’t occur until January because of the way we got — had to get the law passed.
Well, beginning this February — this next January, no one on Medicare is going to be a- — have to pay more than $3,300 a year for drugs — all the drugs they have, including cancer drugs that cost 14-, 15-, 16,000 bucks a year. They’re not going to have to pay more than that. And by the following year, no more than $2,000.
And guess what? Pharma is going to still make a good profit. And guess what? (Whispers into the mic.) It’s going to save the federal government billions of dollars. (Laughter.) No, no, think about it.
We’re in this fight about the debt ceiling. I point out that’s how you cut the debt. I just cut it $169 billion — billion — just on insulin. (Applause.) Because the government is not paying it out.
Well, another $200 billion is in the works because now — now, if they charge — if they charge more than — more than the cost of inflation for the drug without investing more in what they did to make it better, then guess what? They have to pay it back.
My generic point is that it’s changing people’s lives, but it’s also smart government. It is reducing the price of — the tax burden to the American people.
We came along and said let’s talk about the environment. We passed the legislation. Well, we have $368 billion in environmental — the single largest investment to deal with climate change anywhere — and not just the United States, but the world, and all of human history. And guess what? It’s working. It’s working.
For example, read the New York Times front-page article on Monday. It points out Texas has the highest percentage of wind, solar, biofuels, et cetera. And guess what? It’s working. And it’s cheaper than renew- — than — renewables are cheaper — cheaper, cheaper — than fossil fuels. But guess what? They want to get rid of it. Why do you think this new — this new outfit in the House wants to get rid of the legislation? Because it’s, quote, “costing the government money,” giving a company — it’s the first time I’ve ever heard them be upset giving a country a tax break — a company a tax break.
But gue- — so, my point is that it’s beginning to take hold. The only existential threat any of us face, and our children and grandchildren face, is climate. If we, in fact, go above 1.5 degrees Celsius over the next period of time, it’s not — you’re not turning it around.
And, by the way, all of a sudden, everyone — as they say in the southern part of Delaware — talk at you like this. (Said in southern accent.) You know what I mean? Everybody’s had an altar call. They’ve seen the Lord.
I have flown over more — since I’ve become President, I’ve flown over more burned timber and woodland than exists in the –than the size of the entire state of Maryland. And that goes from Arizona to Montana and all the way across that crescent.
And I know you know we don’t have any problems with climate change, right? No, all this is just normal what’s going on.
My point is that there’s practical things we can do that don’t raise people’s taxes. Everybody still can make a significant profit in what they’re doing. And at the same time, we can save the government money, to have money to spend on things that people need.
Look, the idea that somebody is going to come along and not be able to have — afford the Medicaid, be able to — you know, it costs them 800 bucks more to have the Medicaid benefits they need. And the idea that that — they want to get rid of that and cut that — why? Why?
At the same time — and this is not — I’ve been doing this a long time, so I know it’s not smart with a group of very generous, wealthy people to talk about taxes. (Laughter.) But guess what? We’re in a situation right now where if you — the idea that — for example, the gas and oil industry last year made $200 billion, and that’s good. But they’re getting a $30 billion subsidy? They need that? They’re talking about cutting the cost of government.
We have a situation where — you know, I’m the only President in American history that’s cut the deficit in two years in a row by 1 trillion 700 billion dollars. No one has come close — not close — in all of American history.
The last guy increased the federal budget for the 200 years it’s been being kept by 40 percent. A tax cut not a penny of which was paid for. That was okay. No problems there.
My generic point is: What happened was, the reason I was able to cut that much money and pay for all the programs I’m talking about — and, actually, for the debt — the deficit, not the debt. Guess what? It was easy, because there were 55 corporations — the Fortune 500 — that made $40 billion; didn’t pay a penny in tax. And I was so mean: minimum tax of 15 percent. Whoever cleans this house or this apartment, or my house, ends up having to pay more tax than that.
So all I’m saying is a lot of this is — I think the vast majority of Republicans in the Senate still, and a significant portion of the House, are still the guys and women I grew up with in the Senate. We disagree on fundamental things, but we don’t — there’s still a basic camaraderie, a trust, a decency with which we treat each other.
I’ve literally now had 12 senators I used to serve with — 12 — over the last two years — actually, last 18 months — the first 18 months — say to me, “Joe, I agree with you.” And I committed I’d never tell the names and I’ll go to my grave with never telling the names. Some have already spouted out they’ve said it, but I’m not going to say it. “Joe, I agree with you. But if I vote with you, I’m going to — it’ll cost me my seat. And we’re going to get a primary, and the MAGA Republicans are going to come and they’re going to defeat me.”
Now, we don’t call that political courage, but it’s honesty.
Let me — I’m taking too much of your time. Let me just maybe —
I’ve never been more optimistic in my life, though. I really haven’t. We’re at a point in history — one of those — when I was deciding whether or not to run again, I started –when I was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania. And — and I — and they gave me not only professorship — paid me more than I get paid as President — (laughter) — which I get a lot as President, but also gave me a several-million-dollar budget to hire persons in what was — they calling the Biden School. So I hired our present Secretary of State. I hired a lot of people who were consequential.
And in the process of all of this, what happened was I started to think about, well, I was going to write another book. I wrote a book about my son, because I — I wrote a couple books, and they did well. They were in the best seller list and so on.
But the one book about my son, Beau, I wanted — I wanted his siblings, I wanted his children, his grandchildren, his great-grand- — to know what an incredible man this — he should be the one speaking to you, not me.
And the end result was that I made more money than I ever made in my entire life. For real. I kn- — the entirety of my entire life — and I — I did fine. I wa- — I made 45,000 bu- — 48,000 bucks as a senator at the time, which was good money, and then more as I went along. And I — I never struggled.
But the point was that what happened in the process of this: I wanted to under- — wanted people to understand what it is that we can do.
And I started writing a third book before I decided to run — and I’ll end with this — and it was going to be what — we’re — I — because I think we’re at a major inflection point in world history. It occurs — every 3 to 10 generations it occurs, where the decisions made in a short period of time determine the outcome of what the next three, four, or five decades are going to look like. And we’re at one of those moments in history.
Post-war era is finished. It’s done. We have enormous opportunities, enormous problems we face, whether it’s keeping Europe united — I mean, I’ve known Putin well for over 25 years. We’ve had many discussions. I know who he is. That’s why I announced to the world he was about to invade. I checked to make sure no so- — no sources and methods would be compromised. Because no one believed the 185,000 troops he had at the border, he was going to invade.
“That’s not going to happen in the 21st century.” Well, it did.
And the reason I bother to say that is — and if you think about the changes that are taking place — one of the discussions I had with Putin, he was talking about how strong Russia was. And I said, “Yeah.” I said, “But how about what…” — I was trying to get him to do two things — this was two years ago — to talk about space weapons, weapons in space, and making sure they didn’t happen. And secondly, talking about the environment.
And I said, “You’re in eight time zones. But guess what? The tundra is melting. Melting. It’s releasing more methane, which is four times more toxic than anything else that’s being released, than CO2. And what are you going to do about it? It’s not going to refreeze. So what’s — what’s your answer, pal? What are you going to do?”
Even if he was a good guy, he’s got a real problem. That’s why we’re seeing competition for the Arctic Circle. That’s why we’re seeing so much competition in the north.
And look what’s happening in the — in the Southern Hemisphere, what’s — what’s going on.
You know, you have — you’re going to have a billion people in Africa, which we haven’t paid a whole hell lot of attention to. If we don’t get it right, we’re going to — talk about global warming. How are you going to control it?
That’s why I convinced the G7 to decide on we were going to provide for — G7+ — we’re going to — we’re the ones that cause global warming, but we should help them deal with their — they didn’t cut down their forest. They didn’t —
We should help them. So we’re, for example, investing money in Algeria where we’re going to have the largest wind farm in — excuse me — solar facility in the world.
The point is there’s so much we can do. I’m optimistic we can — because now everybody is aware of what’s going on. And there’s enormous, enormous, enormous opportunity.
I was asked — and I apologize, because the press heard me say this earlier today as well. I was asked by the — a — a serious columnist: “If I could change one thing, if I could fix one thing, what would you do?” I said, “I’d — I’d fix cancer. I’d get a cure.”
And they looked at me, “That’s a strange thing.” It’s not because my son died of cancer. Not be- — because a simple reason: It’s viewed as impossible. In America, we never crossed anything off the list.
As I said when I was with Xi Jinping in the Tibetan Plateau — I asked him — he said, “Define America for me.” I said, “I can do it in one word: possibilities.” Possibilities.
That’s why we’re the “Ugly Americans.” We believe we can do anything. But we can, and we have.
There’s not a damn thing we set our mind to, when we’ve worked together, we haven’t accomplished. Nothing.
We walk around like we’re somehow paralyzed. We’re not. We’re not. And I think the rest of the world is waiting for us to step up.
They checked out how many times — how many hours I spent with the leaders of NATO. Because remember, Putin believed that once he attacked, he’d break up NATO, we’d never respond, we’d never stay together.
I spent over 190 hours with the NATO heads — NATO heads of state, either on Zoom or in person. And we’re holding it together. No one — he never thought we could hold it together. Never.
Look what’s happening. We’re able to change things in the South Pacif- — I mean, excuse me, in the Indian Ocean and in — in the Pacific.
I’ve gotten — it sounds awful, but I did — I’ve gotten India, Japan, Australia, and the United States to form the Quad. A fundamental shift, changing the balance of power in that region.
China views as a threat. Xi keeps telling me, “You’re trying to hold us down.” I’m not trying to hold you down. I’m just trying to make sure we understand what the international rules are, in terms of what waters you can float in and what air you can fly in.
Think about what’s happening. When we talked about Europe and that — what I kept being asked by Putin was — he wants to see the Finlandization of Europe. And I told him — and you may remember my saying this publicly — I said, “No, you’re going to have the NATOization of Finland.” (Laughter.)
What happened, folks? Eight hundred miles — 800-mile border along the Russian border with a — with a country that has military capacity.
And right after that, what happened? Along came Sweden. “Could I come and see you in the Oval Office?”
My generic point is there are so many opportunities, not for war, but to have things that are — in fact, provide for more opportunities around the world.
And, look, I haven’t even talked about — for example, this guy — (gestures to Secretary Buttigieg) — has a small budget of a trillion 200 billion dollars. (Laughter.)
And one of the things we have to do — and I’ll end with this. One of the things we have to do — I’m getting exaggerated credit by a number of presidential historians writing about “Biden’s done more in two years,” et cetera.
Granted, we were able to create over 12 million jobs. We were able to be in a position where we had 800,000 manufacturing jobs. We’ve created more jobs in two years than any President has in four, in the entire history of the United States. Not because I’m — it’s not that complicated. We gave America a chance. We decided we’re going to invest in America. Invest in America.
There was a law passed in the 1930s, when Roosevelt was President. It’s called “Buy America.” Totally consistent with ever- — with every — every trade agreement we’ve had in worldwide — around the world.
Any taxpayer dollars being spent by the President of the United States, on the behalf of the Cong- — the Congress gave them the money to spend it — the President can insist that all of it be spent with American manufacturing, with — with American products, and with American personnel.
There used to be — and that’s been the law. But up to now, most presidents said, “Well, as long as it’s 40 percent.” With me it’s 100 percent, unless it’s extreme. Well, guess what? That’s why we have 800,000 manufacturing jobs. When I get to spend $600 billion, and I’m going to have to build new aircraft carrier decks, and I’m not going to do anything other than with American workers and American products.
That’s why Black unemployment is the lowest it’s ever been. That’s why it’s the second lowest rate for American unemploy- — there’s — I don’t mean there’s not problems, but inflation, that is a worldwide problem.
But my generic point is this: There’s so many opportunities we have.
And the truth of the matter is I think we can all, the vast majority of Democrats and Republicans — mainstream Republicans and Democrats agree that we can — we can argue within the — within the boundaries. But this new crowd doesn’t want —
I know you’re telling me I got to go. (Laughter.)
But what we can — we can have this argument within the boundaries. But now we got folks who want to be outside the boundaries. They want to get rid of this. They want to — the status quo ante. When you think about it, it’s about making no fundamental change.
So if anyone thinks that the environment is not a threat, that the — all the major, major scientists in the world saying, if we let the temperature go above 1.5 degrees Celsius over the next several years, that we’re never going to be able to return. Well, if you think that’s malarkey, then I get it.
Most people who think it’s malarkey aren’t people who really don’t believe it, but who think that they’re going to benefit by having to continue things the way they are.
On that score, I got — and, by the way, there’s a young woman in this room belonging to this family who knows a lot about the environment and cares a great deal about it.
One of the stories they didn’t tell you upstairs was the following: I found myself in a circumstance where everyone was saying, “Why hadn’t Biden,” who — and introduced the first major environmental law in American history, trading debt for forest, along with a guy named Dick Lugar, a Republican — “Why hadn’t he introduced his position on — talked about his position on the environment?” Because — so what I did: I brought all the automobile manufacturers to the South Lawn. Not a joke. Number one.
Number two, I had all the major unions in America show up. And I pointed out to them there’s more jobs in going green. No, I’m serious. Not a joke. There are more jobs. There’s more opportunity.
I got a call af- — I guess it was five days after the meeting with the automobile industry, with the gentle- — the gentlelady, as I say in the House of Representatives. The gentlelady happens to be the Chairman of the Board of General Motors. She was suing California for having a higher standard out of a tailpipe of a vehicle than the federal standards, saying you couldn’t do that.
I got a phone call out of the blue — not out of the blue, but out of — you know, a few weeks later, saying, “I’ve dropped my suit, and I commit we will go all electric by the year 2035.”
It’s just smart business.
When I went around saying I was going to attract — we invented the computer chip. We invented it here in the United States when we went to the Moon. We made it much more sophisticated than anybody did. We used to have a bulk on the market. We’re down to 10 percent of the market.
So I said we’re going to fra- — attract private — private business. So we did the CHIPS and Science act. We used to lead the world in the percentage of investment we put into science: 2 percent of our GDP. It’s down to seven tenths of 1 percent of our GDP. Well, guess what? I went to private industry. The commitment: $450 billion off the sidelines.
Right here in New York State, up in Poughkeepsie, up in Syracuse, $400 billion committed to be spent to build these fabs — the factories. And guess what? It’s not only the cost of building the factories, which is the size of football fields, but — and that’s going to bring a lot of good-paying jobs.
But the permanent jobs within the factories, they don’t require a college degree, and the average salary is going to be $100,000 a year.
My generic point is: There’s so much we can do. We can’t lose sight, though, of why we’re doing it.
And I know I make some liberals angry. I make some — I make everybody angry. (Laughter.) But there’s a way to get this done — a way to get this done — and get it done in a way that allows America to be what we have to be — not what we just want, we have to be — the remainder of this century. And that is the leading nation in the world.
Again, I’ll end where I began. The former Secretary of State, who’s passed away, said, “We’re the essential nation.” She is absolutely, positively right. The essential nation.
And, folks, like I said, everybody worries about China. Do you know any world leader who would trade place with Xi Jinping? I’m not joking. Literally. Literally.
So, we have so much to do. And the reason I’m running again is because I want to finish the job. Just get this next phase finished. Nail it down. There’s a lot more we can do. I think we can do it without it being an ideological war.
We can do it in a way that doesn’t require us to renege on the national debt, which no one’s ever held hos- — held — held the whole Congress hostage, saying, “If you don’t do what I want to do, which is go back to the 2022 budget and make sure that we cut 22 percent across the board in every single thing except defense…” — which means then you got to raise it to 30 percent to cut across the board and eliminate all these programs — “…then guess what? We’re going to renege on the national debt.”
Over my dead political body. (Laughter.)
And if I do — if it happens, I will be a dead political body. (Laughter.)
But anyway, thank you for giving me an opportunity to speak with you. I wish I could stay and take questions. They tell me if I don’t leave 10 minutes ago, that I’m blocking —
Oh, I — one thing I want you to do. Come here. I want you to introduce you-
I’m going to embarrass her. Excuse me. (Laughter.)
This is my granddaughter. I have — I have four granddaughters. (Applause.) And they’re crazy about me. (Laughter.) Every single day I text with them or speak to them.
And I — the oldest one is a married lady. You probably — we had the wedding at the White House. And she works for one of the mega firms — the 6 million law firm peo- — you know, people law firm. The largest law firm in America. To show how old I am, there was 102 people when I got — anyway.
But — and then this one, my number two — Finnegan Biden. She works for an outfit you’ve probably — maybe heard of, Bloomberg Environmental. Anyway, she travels around the world helping set up these COP meetings.
Number three graduates — she — my — I call her my — my — my all-American girl. She’s all-state in two sports. She’s graduating from Penn in four days. And it’s — and I worry about her because she said, “Pop, I don’t want to play sports.” “You got scholarship offers to play in college.” She says, “It’s a 40-hour-week job, Pop. I don’t know that I can do the work.” She’s graduating a 2.91 — a 3.91 from Penn. And — but she’s playing club —
And then I have another granddaughter — my deceased son’s daughter. She just got — she only — she said, “I’m not going to college unless I go to the college my pop went to.” And she transferred, and she is now going to start next year as a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania.
And then I have a grandson who is going to be a senior in high school. And named after his — his dad — his deceased dad named after his uncle — her dad. And so, I’m a lucky man.
Anyway. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. (Applause.)
7:08 P.M. EDT