President Joe Biden used a visit to a Minnesota community college Tuesday to highlight how his $1 trillion infrastructure law will create jobs and help train workers — and to make the case for nearly $2 trillion more in spending.
Biden, who gave a speech Tuesday afternoon at Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount, Minnesota, first met with students in a garage space with a bulldozer, backhoe and cargo truck. The president stressed to the students the importance of education as part of the infrastructure package, even though the administration says the jobs being created won’t require college degrees.
Biden’s $1.75 trillion social and economic bill, which he is still trying to get through the Senate, includes $5 billion for community colleges to expand workforce training programs.
“Technology moves so rapidly,” Biden told students. “You’ve got to get an education to make it work.”
“Places like this are going to train the next generation of workers to do the jobs that my infrastructure law and our Build Back Better act are going to put into even greater demand. We're gonna need more qualified people,” he later said in his speech.
The trip occurs at a crucial pivot point for Biden, who is facing the threat of the new omicron strain of the coronavirus and high levels of inflation as vital parts of his agenda are still awaiting congressional approval. He promised in Minnesota to lay out a new strategy on Thursday about how his administration will combat COVID-19 and the new variant through the winter.
Biden also needs to get Congress to move to temporarily fund the government and preserve its ability to borrow as the debt limit could be breached in December.
Biden holds out the infrastructure package, containing money for roads, bridges, broadband, water systems and a shift to electrical vehicles, as evidence that he can work across the political aisle. The measure passed with solid Republican support.
“This is America for God's sake. We know about our infrastructure problems. We've known for a long time. Now we're finally doing something about it,” he said.
In Minnesota Tuesday, he outlined how the two pieces of his agenda — including the social and climate spending bill still in Congress — would do things like improve roads, subsidize child care, replace lead pipes, expand internet access and require wealthier people to pay more to boost the lower and middle classes.
“I've never known a time when the middle class has done well where the very wealthy haven't done very, very well,” he said. “I’m tired of this trickle-down economy.”
One key obstacle for the infrastructure package will be having enough skilled construction workers. Labor Department figures show that roughly 7.5 million people hold construction jobs, nearly as many as there were during the housing bubble about 15 years ago. Builders say it’s been difficult for them to find workers and the spending on infrastructure could only increase demand further.
Biden won Minnesota in last year’s presidential election with 52.6% of the vote. He’s visiting the state’s second congressional district, a potentially vulnerable seat in the midterms that narrowly went to Democratic Rep. Angie Craig in 2020.
The president has recently been in close contact with the heads of several major retailers, including Target, which is headquartered in the state, as he attempts to resolve supply chain challenges that have clogged ports and caused consumers to wait longer for electronics, furniture and other goods.
The supply chain challenges have contributed to prices in October rising 6.2% from 12 months ago, the highest pace in 31 years. The White House National Economic Council issued a report Monday suggesting that there has been progress on addressing the problems, with a decrease in long-dwelling containers waiting at ports and an increase in retail inventories.