November 18, 2021
WASHINGTON – Ahead of next week’s Thanksgiving holiday, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) spoke on the Senate floor this week to bring attention to the skyrocketing food costs and supply chain issues families are facing. As Democrats continue pushing forward on their reckless tax-and-spending package, Blunt cited comments from Obama administration economists warning against the risk of even higher inflation due to excessive government spending.
Following Are Blunt’s Remarks:
“Madam President, one of the most striking things I think we're
beginning to notice this year is that the holidays are really taking on a
really different look than we've seen in a long time. Actually, for about a
generation now, we've seen more choices and, more often than not, declining
prices which made it possible for American families to have things that in the
past they hadn't thought were possible for them to have.
“The pandemic, of course, was a big obstacle a year ago as people were forced to alter or cancel their plans for their families to get together. And I think many of us were really looking forward to a more traditional holiday season this year. Hopefully, that season still allows people to get together. But I think we're also beginning to see people think they're going to have to scale back their celebrations or be prepared to pay a lot more for them.
“Maybe just simply paying a lot more to get there to start with as gasoline costs have gone up dramatically. I think we're about 46% higher in our gas costs than we were a year ago. For a lot of families, that's a deciding item on whether you can actually get to grandma's house or not.
“This time, the change in plans isn't because of the virus. It's because of inflation and supply side issues that, frankly, the government has done a lot to help cause.
“Jason Furman, who was the chairman of President Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, said recently that, this is his quote, 'the original sin was the size of the American Rescue Plan.' It contributed, according to Jason Furman, he said, 'it contributed to both higher output and also higher prices.'
“Now, what he was talking about, the American Rescue Plan—this was the so-called COVID relief plan from March. It was a law that Democrats passed entirely by themselves despite a lot of warnings that the economy was already beginning to recover and putting another $2 trillion into the economy, including, Madam President, a lot of money that went to state governments that clearly didn't need it and local governments that maybe needed it a little more than the states did.
“But we had states who were having all-time high revenues. We'd already helped states in a number of different ways, and then, suddenly, we had to beat all of that by sending money to states, sending $2,000 to everybody, almost, and think that wouldn't have any impact.
“I'm not sure who we were trying to save in this effort for relief. There was no reason to believe in March that the economy wasn't headed on the way back. What we did in March with that legislation was just pour more fire on an economy that was already about to roar back in a good way.
“The warnings were right on the money. In October, inflation rose 6.2% over the cost a year ago. That's the highest increase in inflation in 30 years. A lot of Americans alive today, a lot of—certainly a lot of Americans who are in the workforce today don't remember the inflation of the 70s and the early 80s that made it just hard for families to keep up, made it hard for families to buy a house, made it hard for families to pay the basic bills. I hope that we're not going to get a strong reminder of that. But it certainly looks like we are.
“The prices for many of the things that will be on the Thanksgiving table are going up. The New York Times about two weeks ago had a front page article that this would be the most expensive Thanksgiving ever, and then they went through that list of things to talk about that.
“The price of turkeys, by the way, has gone down a little bit in the last few days. It was projected at 20% higher. It's only 18% higher, so your principal protein on the Thanksgiving table will cost 20% more, 18% more than it did a year ago. Other protein is even higher than that.
“Potatoes are 17% higher than they were a year ago. Green beans are 39% higher than they were a year ago. I don't know if you're beginning to see a pattern here or not, but there clearly is one. Butter is about 30% higher than it was a year ago. If your grandmother's recipe for stuffing—or as my grandmother called it dressing. We had turkey and dressing when I was growing up—if it includes onions, onions are 51% higher than they were a year ago.
“So between labor shortages, the high cost of raw materials, and more expensive transportation, the food supply chain is just about as messed up as the rest of the supply chain. We don't import nearly as much food as we may import other things, but that food supply chain isn't working for us either.
“Now, shoppers are already beginning to see bare spaces on grocery store shelves. Places you were going six months ago when you had a choice or even six weeks ago when you had a choice, suddenly there's one item there of what you're trying to buy or maybe no items of what you're trying to buy. There’s just simply not a choice that you can make at the store because the product you want to get is not there, and not just a brand name product, the product is not there in growing cases.
“Wait times for ocean freight, we've all seen those pictures now of the backup of ships waiting to get to the port in every port in the country. Wait times about 45% longer than it was last year at this time. Shipping rates from China are around 400%, four times higher than they were a year ago. Things that cost $2,000 a container now are much more likely to cost something like $12, $15, or even $20,000 just for the container, moving the container from where it's filled up to where it gets off the boat at one of our ports.
“Traffic jams at the big ports are a problem in every place. There's a shortage of 80,000 truck drivers to move things once they get unloaded. You know, we made it so appealing for some people to stay home from work that they have, at this point, still decided not to go back to work or decided to retire early.
“You know, they were getting that enhanced unemployment check for a couple of years, decided that maybe that life in the truck, which is a hard life, or that life on the dock, which is a hard life, or that life at the grocery store stocking shelves, which can be challenging every single day, or any other job was just not a job that they were going to go back to.
“I mentioned President Obama's economic adviser earlier. Well, he said another pretty revealing thing in the same time when he talked about supply-side problems. He said, and this is his quote also, 'it'd be foolish to count on a return to normal within the next year.'
“And then he said, 'inflation is likely to remain uncomfortably high.' Now, I'm not going to talk about what his personal economic circumstances may be, but if they're uncomfortably high for him, they're painfully high for lots of families.
“And so here we go again, by the way. Not only was the $2 trillion bill done just by one party, not a single Republican voted for it in March. Not only did that feed the flames of inflation, but now we're right back talking about a bill that if every program was extended through the 10 years would be a $4 trillion or $5 trillion bill.
“It's impossible to understand how you wouldn't see that as another thing that's going to really create great risk. We've had every warning sign we could possibly have.
“When Washington pays people not to work, it gets awfully difficult to fill all the open jobs. When Washington gives people money that Washington has borrowed or just simply kind of made up, that's awfully hard.
“You know, the predictions that had been made about what happens in excessive unemployment payments, the predictions that have been made about money borrowed and put into the economy that we don't have have actually turned out to be right on target.
“And so Republicans are warning again: if our colleagues on the other side continue to plan to move forward with another—however number you want to describe it. I think it's very fair if all these programs are extended to describe it as $4 trillion to $5 trillion.
“It's fair to describe it as $2 trillion if actually you start these programs that people will like having government take this new responsibility and then think they could actually stop after one year or two years or three years.
“Nobody believes that. And, frankly, I don't know anybody on the other side who thinks that's the plan. They understand the plan is to have a $2 trillion price tag and a $5 trillion ultimate payout for the things that that price tag starts to pay for.
“Let's talk about the pain that you can have as you tighten your belts, not just for the holidays but for the foreseeable future. Transportation, food, home heating in the winter, doesn't get much more basic than that.
“And if transportation costs go up, gasoline goes up 46%, food goes up 15% to 20%, home heating costs are projected in many places to go up somewhere between 50% and 100%. Even if you got a little bit of a raise at work, that raise is immediately taken away by just the basic fundamental things you have to have.
“We need to work with our friends on the other side, and we need our friends on the other side to see the warning signs of what's happened with what's been done this year already and exactly understand what will happen.
“If we do more of the same, we're going to get more of the same. And more of what's happening right now is not what the people we work for need or deserve. And I hope we get serious about the things that our actions create. And with that, Madam President, I'd yield back.”