Jen Psaki On Supply Chain Shortages Impacting U.S.: ‘The Tragedy Of The Treadmill That’s Delayed’

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White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki appeared to joke about supply chain issues currently impacting the U.S. economy during Tuesday’s press briefing.

Psaki made the remark when asked a question from a reporter about the actions that President Joe Biden has taken on the issue.

“It was clear in March of 2020 when COVID hit that the supply chains across the world had been disrupted, even as the sort of work to fight back against COVID proceeded,” the reporter said. “People, it was, it was crystal clear that things were not improving on supply chains. You couldn’t get dishwashers and furniture and treadmills delivered on time, not to mention all sorts of other things. So why is–”

“The tragedy of the treadmill that’s delayed,” Psaki quipped.

REPORTER: So just a question on the timing on the supply chain issue —

PSAKI:  Yeah.

REPORTER: — actions that the President has taken.  It was clear in March of 2020, when COVID hit, that the supply chains across the world had been disrupted.  Even as the sort of work to fight back against COVID proceeded, people — it was crystal clear that things were not improving on supply chain.  People couldn’t get dishwashers and furniture and treadmills delivered on time, not to mention all sorts of other things.  So why is it —

MS. PSAKI:  The tragedy of the treadmill that’s delayed.

REPORTER: Right, the tread — the problem.  But serious — the serious point is: Why didn’t the President act sooner in a more aggressive way?  I know there was a task force announced at some time this — earlier this summer, but essentially, the President waited until, you know, now — right before the holiday season — to take these series of actions. 

Why didn’t the President act sooner?  And is that a reflection of the fact that his administration has failed to kind of anticipate and is much more reactive to these kinds of things rather than getting ahead of them, as they should?

PSAKI:  Well, that’s not actually true.  The President formed of task force at the very beginning of the administration.  And what we know from the global supply chain issues is that they are multifaceted. 

Right now, we’ve been focusing on the ports and issues at the ports.  And what leaders at these ports will tell you is that they’ve seen an increase in volume dramatically, as it relates to last year — a year ago — 20 percent, 30 percent increase in volume.

But there are other issues that have impacted the global supply chain that we’ve been working to address through our task force from the beginning.  One of them is the fact that manufacturing sites around the world have been shut down because of COVID. 

We’ve been working to be the largest supplier of COVID vaccines to countries around the world for a range of reasons: It’s morally right, but also to help address those global supply chain issues and the impact that manufacturing and the slowdown in manufacturing can have on the global supply chain.

Another issue that people will tell you and you’ve done some reporting on — many of you — is the shortage of drivers that we’ve — we have seen.  And there’s been some reporting on it recently, but this has been an issue throughout the course of the year.  The DMV, as they — has expedited their approval of commercial driver’s licenses.  In 2021, an average of 50,000 commercial driver’s licenses and learning permits have been issued each month, 60 percent higher than 2021 numbers. 

We’ve also been working with unions to help address the shortages of workers, whether they are at — they are at ports or whether they are driving issues or other components that impact the supply chain. 

So, I think the important thing to understand here is that there are multiple issues that are impacting the supply chain.  And some of that is that, as the economy has turned back on, more people had expendable income — wages — to buy more goods.  More people are buying more goods.  People have started to also buy more things online than going into stores.  And so that is also impacting the volume, and there’s a need for more.

So, we’ve been working on this since February, and we’ve seen the uptick perhaps related to the fact that, this season, sometimes people are buying even more goods.  But we’ve been working on it since February.

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