As Prepared For Delivery:

Thank you so much, Michael [Tomasky], for the introduction. Good afternoon, everyone.

I’m really honored to help round out this important conference.

It feels a bit eerie that this conference is about “Making Middle-Out Economics the New Mainstream.”

Because, in summer 2013, I wrote an article for Democracy Journal—an issue called “The Middle-Out Moment.”[1]

At the time, I was focused on history, and on the myth of supply-side economics.

I wrote: “…history would tell us that investing in the middle class and those who want to rise into it is the best long-term economic growth strategy.”

But under President Biden, the middle-out moment isn’t history: It’s our present. But the question before us right now is whether it will be our future.

I would argue that the key question in almost every moment in American history is whether this country is for some of us or for all of us. At our founding, through the Civil War, through the civil rights revolution, through moments of advance and moments of backlash…this has been the key question we grapple with at the heart of so many of our political debates.

Today, we have the same question. Sometimes we see that as a political question—a question that divides us on economic lines.

But Middle-Out Economics makes clear that this is fundamentally an economic question. Indeed, in the book Why Nations Fail, Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson point out that inclusive political systems create inclusive economic systems that help countries grow and succeed. 

And the opposite is true – exclusive political systems create extractive economic systems, which ultimately make widespread vibrant growth impossible.  And those countries do worse.

In a sense that is what is at stake here – the interconnection between the economy and democracy.  And whether we have an economy that works for all of us or some of us. 

And that is why the President is proud of how the economy is working right now. 

Real wages that outpace inflation have risen across the income distribution since pre-pandemic. And this growth hasn’t been concentrated at the top of the income distribution. It’s been skewed toward low- and middle-income households.[2]

Real weekly earnings for the median worker grew 1.7 percent between 2019 and 2023. For example, weekly earnings grew by $143 for folks in the 25th percentile of the wage distribution.

Lowering costs for hardworking families is President Biden’s top domestic priority.

And to do so, we’re taking on corporations who drive up prices for everyday consumers.

So, we’re in another middle-out moment.

We’re using every tool at our disposal to lower costs for American families.

Today, I’d like to discuss how we’re doing that, across three key areas: health care, housing, and education.

Lower Health Care Costs

To start, the Biden-Harris Administration has made historic progress in lowering Americans’ health care costs.

That starts with prescription drugs.

Prescription drugs cost 2-3 times more in this country than they do elsewhere.

I know people who have had to ration pills to make them go a bit further.

This is outrageous. No one should have to pick between getting a needed prescription and putting food on the table.

Not when pharmaceutical companies are making record profits.  

Not on this President’s watch.

For generations, people have talked about giving Medicare the power to negotiate drug prices.

Joe Biden got it done.

Thanks to the President’s Inflation Reduction Act, Medicare is no longer taking whatever prices the pharmaceutical companies demand.  

For the first time in history, Medicare is negotiating with manufacturers on the fair price for 10 of the most widely used and expensive drugs—for conditions like heart disease and diabetes. 

Over 80% of adults support the ability for Medicare to negotiate lower drugs prices. So, this program not only is historic. It is democracy at work.

That’s just one example of what this monumental law has done.

Because of the Inflation Reduction Act, drug manufacturers must now pay rebates to Medicare if their price increases exceed inflation.  

And it capped the cost of life-saving insulin to $35 per month for Medicare beneficiaries.

These reforms are a win for everyone.

Well, maybe not everyone. The big drug companies spent nearly $400 million in just one year trying to stop us.[3] Republicans in Congress continue to try to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act.  

But this President will not be deterred.   

That brings me to insurance. Today, more Americans have health insurance than under any President. 

A record-breaking number of people—over 21 million—have signed up for health coverage in the ACA Marketplace this year alone.

That’s a 75 percent increase from when President Biden took office.

Another 24 million people have coverage through the ACA’s Medicaid expansion.

We are committed to keeping health insurance premiums low. Giving families more breathing room. Providing the peace of mind that health insurance brings. 

With the Inflation Reduction Act, millions of Americans are saving on average about $800 a year on their premiums. 

But, without Congressional action, these lower premiums will expire at the end of 2025. 

That’s why we’re calling on Congress to make the expanded Affordable Care Act tax credits permanent.  

And, when it comes to insurance and other matters, I can say this with confidence:

Nothing makes the President madder than seeing Americans get ripped off. 

Lowering Housing Costs

Next, I’d like to turn to housing.

In every major metropolitan area and state in this country, there is a housing shortage.

These challenges preceded the pandemic. Fewer new homes were built in the decade following the Great Recession than in any decade since the 1960s.

For every 100 extremely low-income renter households, there are only 34 rental homes that are available and affordable.

On top of these generational challenges, President Biden took office in the midst of one of the biggest economic crises in our history.

It was also a time of massive strain on our housing markets, creating unprecedented rent burdens.

To mitigate a potential crisis, the President signed the American Rescue Plan into law. It provided states and communities with historic resources to keep people in their homes and build more housing. And jurisdictions put these long-sought after resources to critical use, providing assistance to enable millions of renters to pay back-rent and avoid evictions and to help over 500,000 homeowners to avoid foreclosure, and spending billion. Communities also leveraged ARP funds to build and preserve tens of thousands of housing units, to boost our supply in the long run.

All told, the ARP represented the largest single-year investment in homelessness in American history.

That is why homelessness remained flat between 2020 and 2022, rather than dramatically increasing, as it had every year since 2016

After the crisis of the pandemic, we’ve gotten to work to continue to expand housing and lower rents. Because the research is clear: To lower housing costs, we need to build more housing.

To chart our path forward, President Biden released a first-of-its-kind Housing Supply Action Plan. This isn’t a report on a shelf. Over the last two years, we have announced dozens of new actions to boost the supply of affordable housing using existing authorities.

We’ve unlocked new resources for office to residential conversions. Made the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit easier to use. And ensured that billions of dollars in ARP State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds can be used for affordable housing development.

We’re seeing progress: In 2023, a record 1.7 million units were under construction. In many markets across the country, rental costs are flat. There have been more apartments built each year under President Biden than any President since Reagan.

But we’ve got more work to do. As President Biden has put it, “The bottom line is we have to build, build, build.” He is calling for an expansion of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit to build or preserve 1.2 million more affordable rental units. His Neighborhood Homes Credit would create hundreds of thousands of additional affordable units for homeownership.

Under the President’s Budget, he also unveiled a new competitive grant fund to help communities across the country build more housing and lower rents and homebuying costs.

Furthermore, we’re taking action to keep rents down.

Over the last three years, the Administration has secured rental assistance for more than 100,000 additional households. The President is calling on Congress to further expand rental assistance to more than half of a million households. This would include providing a voucher guarantee for low-income veterans and youth aging out of foster care—the first of their kind in history.

And we’re taking action to combat egregious rent increases and other predatory practices that are driving up rents. Just last month, the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a joint brief further arguing that it is illegal for landlords and property managers to collude on pricing to inflate rents.

And we’re using our regulatory and enforcement authorities to crack down on junk fees, which sneak up on renters and drive up the total cost of rent. Last fall, the FTC proposed a rule that would ban misleading and hidden fees across the economy, including in housing rental agreements.

Though our current housing challenges were decades in the making, we must tackle these problems with urgency.

Long-term, durable action is required to build our way out of the decades long housing supply shortfall. And President Biden’s plan is charting that course for our housing market.

Education and Workforce

Finally, I’d like to turn to education and workforce development.

Our work here starts with lowering the cost of college and reducing the crushing weight of student debt.

How have we done so?

First, we have increased the maximum Pell Grant award by $900—the largest increase in more than 10 years.

Nationally, we’ve expanded maximum Pell Grants to 1.7 million more students. We also expanded eligibility to 665,000 new students from low-income backgrounds. 

Second, we created the SAVE Plan—the most affordable repayment plan in history. Already, more than 7.7 million borrowers have enrolled in SAVE. That includes 4.5 million borrowers who now have a $0 monthly payment.

Third, we made major improvements to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

When the President took office, only 7,000 public service workers had their loans forgiven under this program.

Now, the Biden-Harris Administration has provided debt relief to more than 870,000 public service workers.

In addition, this Administration has canceled nearly $144 billion in student debt for almost 4 million borrowers. We’ve also engaged in other targeted loan forgiveness. That includes relief for borrowers who were cheated by their schools or saw them suddenly close.

On Monday, the President was in Wisconsin to announce new plans to provide additional student debt relief like canceling runaway interest for over millions of borrowers; automatically canceling debt for those eligible for forgiveness programs but who have not applied for them; and more.

When combined with our previous track record, these actions, if finalized, would benefit over 30 million Americans.

And for those who chose not to pursue a four-year degree, President Biden is committed to ensuring all students and workers get hands-on experience and a path to a good-paying job.

For example, President Biden has invested more than $440 million in Registered Apprenticeship programs, the gold standard earn-and-learn pathway. 

Apprentices have an average starting salary of $80,000. That is a ticket to the middle class. 

And just today, the Administration is announcing $65 million in new awards to 16 community colleges and their partners across the country. These grants will help community colleges—America’s largest provider of workforce training—expand access to high-quality, equitable training for in-demand industries. So we can meet employers’ and students’ needs.

For example, in Wisconsin, Western Technical College will lead 9 regional community and technical colleges to train skilled technicians for smart manufacturing and Industry 4.0 jobs.

In New Orleans, Delgado Community College will lead a consortium of four regional community colleges to develop training for good-paying infrastructure and energy jobs, in partnership with Boilermakers Local Union 37.

And in Ohio, Columbus State Community College, in collaboration with two additional community colleges and its IBEW local partner, will expand its high-quality engineering training. This program will help fill good semiconductor manufacturing jobs spurred by the President’s CHIPS and Science Act.

Moreover, this Administration is working to fund every state to offer 12 college credits through career and technical education at every high school that is interested. 

Moreover, our new “Classroom to Career” proposal will help high schools provide rigorous, engaging college and career pathway programs.

That way, students can prepare for high-growth careers, like clean energy and advanced manufacturing, while they’re still in high school.  

As an added benefit, it will reduce the cost of getting a college degree for those who want one. 


So, more than a decade after I wrote about supply-side economics for Democracy Journal, I’m so proud that this Administration has created the next middle-out moment.

From health care to housing, from education to workforce we are giving families more breathing room—by lowering costs, their incomes go farther.

President Biden knows that when we build the economy from the middle out and the bottom up, everyone benefits.

And I know this audience can appreciate that, when we do well economically, our democracy thrives, too.  

And we show how government of the people, by the people, can deliver for the people.

Thank you.



[3] E.g.

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