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Date: 2022-07-04 Page is: DBtxt003.php txt00021592
THE BIDEN PRESIDENCY
VISIT TO PITTSBURGH, PA

'We've got to move': President Biden speaks in Pittsburgh about infrastructure in wake of Frick Park bridge collapse


Biden at site where bridge collapsed in Frick Park, Pittsburgh on January 28th 2022

Original article: https://www.post-gazette.com/news/politics-local/2022/01/28/President-Biden-will-make-second-visit-of-his-presidency-to-Pittsburgh-today/stories/202201280059
Burgess COMMENTARY
The conventional wisdom is that the Biden presidency is floundering ... but in my view this is a complete misreading of what has been accomplished. Much of this misreading has been enabled by the media, including the media that one would have expected to be doing a more objective job.
Bottom line, the media wants to make the news interesting and a 'must see' story. Sadly almost all the media, including the mainstream media tell the easy story and tries to get superficial 'breaking news' more than they report on deep dives into stories that really matter. Most world news does not 'matter' in the community context but there is always a bad news story from somewhere in the world. Meanwhile important good news stories from a local neighborhood go unreported ... and that includes all the good news that has come out of Biden's Washington during the past year.
Compared to any previous President, Biden has been doing pretty well. There are challenges, not least of which, is the Covid pandemic and the emergence of the Omicron variant. Misinformation is a problem and to some extent confused messaging from the top of the Government health institutions has been a problem. But the media has not helped any! Rather than helping to explain the messaging in a way that helps to get a useful message to the public, they have done nothing more than to add another level of confusion and simply made it another news story that aggravates the political polarization in the country.
Biden now has an American economy that is way better than anyone could have imagined when he took office. The fiscal stimulus in the early days of the Biden administration was substantial and helped enormously in keeping the economy from tanking into a deep recession. People (and the media) should be celebrating that inflation has become the big economic problem being discussed in recent weeks. I find this quite ironic ... but I should not be surprised. Few modern economists have a particularly good understanding of the nature of inflation, but people of my age remember the 1970s better than younger folk. In the 1970s there was massive 'cost-push' inflation and there was nothing US policy makers could do about it. Before 1973 a barrel of oil traded at $3.50 a barrel. In 1973 the OPEC oil cartel increased the price to $13.50 and by the end of the decade the price had increased to around $30.00 a barrel. Prior to 1973 the strength of the US economy was based on low energy costs and that completely vanished. To be profitable, every business in the USA had to raise prices substantially, and cut other costs ... including wages ... as much as possible. There was massive inflation and there was no economic growth ... there was 'stagflation'.
By the 1980s and the Reagan administration, the US business community increasingly embraced production outsourcing to low wage countries overseas, and business profits improved. At the same time, well paid jobs for American workers disappeared and more and more people had to accept low wage service jobs. Since 1980 business productivity and profit growth has been impressive, while American worker wages has flatlined. I wrote in the late 1980s that the biggest cost in the modern American economy was profit ... and what I wrote then is way more true now than it was back then. If profit was stripped out of the price of goods and services being delivered to American consumers there would be little or no inflation. However, without profits, investors would not be happy as profits support stock valuations!!!!!!! At the present time, financialization is driving a lot of policy formulation.
The modern US economy is not healthy even though it has high productivity and high profits. The underlying 'financialization' of the economy is a crash waiting to happen. Big parts of the economy ... like 'affordable housing' ... cannot function with prevailing technology, costs and prices. More and more homelessness has to be forecast! Biden does not have a mandate to address this problem
Another area of concern is migration ... both throughout the world and for migrants wanting to cross the US Southern Border. This problem has many dimensions, all of which need to get addressed. There is little political will to get much done, let alone the massive system reforms that are truly needed. VP Kamala Harris seems to be taking some baby steps to address root causes, but the political will to do anything substantial is currently missing on both sides of the aisle.
There is a fighting chance that Biden will make progress on a meaningful climate agenda ... but the mainstream energy industry is pretty much in the same place the tobacco industry was several decades ago, and will do all they can to limit the changes they need to make. I am hopeful ... not yet optimistic ... that there will be accelerating progress on the many issues associated with climate change.
My take on Biden's failure to get GOP buy-in to his legislative agenda is not that Biden did not try ... but the GOP and its leadership has no interest in anything that Biden wants no matter how good it would be for the country. Mitch McConnell used this play-book during the Obama years and he is doing much the same again now. In my view the GOP has a death wish for the socio-enviro-economic progress of the country, much of it because most of their elected officials have a very limited understanding of how the system works and what is actually good for the country.
Biden has a huge challenge ahead ... but hopefully he is up to the challenge. The change in tone in recent days is a important step to changing perceptions of progress and performance!
Peter Burgess
'We've got to move': President Biden speaks in Pittsburgh about infrastructure in wake of Frick Park bridge collapse

MICK STINELLI AND JULIAN ROUTH ... Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

JANUARY 28TH, 2022 4:35 PM

The second visit to Pittsburgh of Joe Biden’s presidency — this one touting his administration’s investment into the nation’s crumbling infrastructure — came as the city continued to reel from one of its bridges collapsing Friday morning.

Mr. Biden, a Scranton native, stopped at the site of the bridge collapse in Frick Park shortly after landing at Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin, before heading to Hazelwood’s Mill 19 on Friday afternoon. The Hazelwood visit was planned earlier this week but took on a new importance after the bridge collapse.

Standing in front of an America flag positioned at the end of a large, vacant industrial space, Mr. Biden opened his remarks by talking about the morning’s affairs, rattling off statistics about poor bridge conditions across the country and especially here in Pennsylvania. He said it’s “simply unacceptable” that bridges are in such a state of disrepair, noting that local officials have been saying for years that something needs to change.

“We finally got it done,” Mr. Biden said, touting the passage of the $1 trillion infrastructure package and its $1.6 billion for bridges in Pennsylvania alone over the next five years.

A Port Authority bus rests against the concrete and steel of a bridge collapse along Forbes Ave. in Frick Park on Friday, Jan. 28, 2022, in Point Breeze. Michael Pound A few thousand words: The sights and sounds of the Forbes Avenue bridge collapse

Mr. Biden said Friday morning’s collapse was an example of how bridges in disrepair can “threaten lives.”

“We’ve got to get on with it. We’ve got to move,” Mr. Biden said of the need to fix bridges. “We don’t need headlines saying that someone was killed when the next bridge collapses.”

Mr. Biden said that as soon as the White House heard about the bridge collapse, officials immediately contacted Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey.

“Mr. Mayor, you’re doing a hell of a job,” the president said.

Several elected officials took the podium before Mr. Biden, with Gov. Tom Wolf saying the bridge collapse “was a real tragedy” due to the injuries inflicted and the damage to a major thoroughfare, and he assured that the commonwealth is working to fix it. He emphasized that it could have been prevented with investment in infrastructure.

“It made me feel proud that the president of the United States had our back,” Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey said, referring to Mr. Biden’s detour to visit the site of the bridge collapse.

Workers respond to a bridge collapse above Fern Hollow Creek along Forbes Ave. on Friday, Jan. 28, 2022, in Point Breeze’s Frick Park. Kris B. Mamula, Stephanie Strasburg and Andrew Goldstein Witnesses describe what they heard and saw when Pittsburgh bridge collapsed

Gov. Tom Wolf opened the event at Mill 19 in Hazelwood by stressing the need for infrastructure investments, to make sure that bridge collapses like the one this morning don’t happen. He called it a “tragedy” because people were hurt, but also because it could have been prevented if they had invested earlier.

Mr. Wolf said the state is working already to put the bridge “back up,” something that will take time.

Mr. Gainey said the bridge collapse was a “prime example” of why infrastructure investment is so important. He thanked Mr. Biden for pivoting in his schedule to visit the site.

“When we talk about investing in infrastructure, when we’re talking about how important it is, for him to say, ‘I want it come and see it myself,’ as the mayor of this city, it made me feel proud that the president of the United States had our back and said he would do whatever he can to help us restore that bridge,” Mr. Gainey said.

Video: President Biden speaks at Mill 19 in Hazelwood

Visiting the bridge

Mr. Biden was joined at the bridge earlier in the afternoon by Mr. Casey; Mr. Wolf; Lt. Gov. John Fetterman; Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald; Mr. Gainey; state Sen. Jay Costa., D-Forest Hills; and U.S. Reps. Conor Lamb, D-Mt. Lebanon, and Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, among others, as they looked over the scene of the collapsed bridge.

The president spoke to law enforcement officers and political officials, putting his hand on the shoulder of one police officer and saying, “These guys deserve an incredible amount of credit.”

Mr. Biden asked the officer questions about the collapse and the gas leak and surveyed the damage from afar.

Mr. Biden spent time looking across the snow-covered chasm where the bridge once stood. The bus could be seen from the edge, which had been roped off with yellow police tape.

Police had told Mr. Biden they were unsure whether the bridge collapse was caused by an explosion in the gas line, or if the gas line leaked after the collapse.

Peoples Natural Gas spokesman Barry Kukovich said the utility was certain there was no gas line explosion in the 16-inch distribution pipeline that ran underneath the surface of the bridge.

The metal pipeline was in good condition, he said.

“It was a very fine line that was serving the community well,” Mr. Kukovich said.

As light snow fell, Mr. Biden greeted some police and fire officials in front of yellow earth moving equipment parked along the side of the road.

“I’ve been coming to Pittsburgh a long time,” Mr. Biden said, noting that there are more bridges here than any other city in the world. “And we’re going to fix them all.”

Manufacturing and jobs

During his speech at Mill 19, Mr. Biden discussed how Congress is working on a bill that will fund research and development to create new products and partnerships as nations like China begin to surpass the U.S. in investing in the future.

“Other countries are coming up fast, but we can and we must change that trajectory,” he said.

He focused on making new manufacturing jobs in the U.S. and strengthening labor unions so “good folks” are able to get “good-paying jobs.”

In Pittsburgh, that means building on the foundation of the city’s storied industrial past, he said, the collapse of which decimated job opportunities in the region by the 1980s. Now it has a foothold in artificial intelligence and robotics, like those displayed to Mr. Biden by CMU researchers when he toured Mill 19 before his speech.

“We can’t slow down now, we can’t slow down now,“ he said. ”We know what happens when we stop investing in the future in a place like Pittsburgh.”

He continuously emphasized that his Build Back Better plan will result in little to no tax increases for the average American, saying large companies and those who make more than $400,000 yearly will have to start paying more.

“The United States is at a position to out-compete the rest of the world once again,” he said, calling the moment “a real inflection point.”

“Let’s keep building a better America,” he said. “It is completely in our power, I promise you.”

Mick Stinelli: mstinelli@post-gazette.com; 412-263-1869; and on Twitter: @MickStinelli

Julian Routh: jrouth@post-gazette.com; Twitter: @julianrouth

First Published January 28, 2022, 5:00am

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