Biden asks Congress “to act now” and pass American Rescue Plan, warns against “the unique cost of inaction”

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U.S. President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Friday called on Congress to “act now” and pass his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, underscoring “the unique cost of inaction” in not quickly passing a COVID relief bill.

“You have to act now – there is no time to delay,” Biden said during a meeting with his economic team. “We have learned from past crises that the risk is not doing too much. The risk is not doing enough,” Biden added.

“And it’s not just me saying that. It’s a consensus among the vast majority of economists in the country, right, left and center, including former President Trump and George W. Bush,” the president said.

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Biden said it was not just necessary to get quick help to the American people who are being hit the hardest as a result of the pandemic and the financial fallout, it was also crucial to grow the economy and reopen schools and businesses.

The president mentioned that 900,000 more Americans filed for unemployment last week and 30 million Americans don’t have enough food to eat this week while interest rates are at historic lows and the “return on smart investments in the economy have never been higher.”

Speaking in the Oval Office, Biden mentioned the problems that children face not going to school and how parents are missing out on job growth and opportunity by being forced to stay home to care for their children during the pandemic.

In the room were Vice President Kamala D. Harris, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, chief economist and economic policy adviser Jared Bernstein, and director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese.

Yellen highlighted the benefits of “acting now and acting big.” She also agreed with Biden about the risk not being about doing too much.

Yellen said the president’s plan is based on “smart investments to get our economy back on track.”

“The president is absolutely right. The price of doing nothing is much higher than the price of doing something – and doing something big. We need to act now, and the benefits of acting now and acting big far outweigh the costs,” she said.

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Reed full remarks by President Biden and Treasury Secretary Yellen Before an Economic Briefing
THE PRESIDENT:  Well, folks, I’m going to have a discussion here with Secretary Yellen and my economic team to discuss the economic consequences of the Congress failing to pass our American Rescue Plan.  There is an overwhelming consensus among economists left, right, and center that this is a unique moment in this crisis, and the cost of inaction is high, and — the cost of inaction is high and that it’s growing every day. 
 
The crisis accel- — itself is accelerating.  Nine hundred thousand more Americans filed unemployment — for unemployment insurance in this week alone.  Thirty million Americans don’t have enough food to eat this week. 
 
And interest rates are at historic lows, and the return on smart investments in the economy have never been higher.  And it’s not just me saying this; as I said, it’s the consensus among the vast majority of leading economists in the country — as I said, left, right, and center — including advisors to former President Trump and George W. Bush. 
 
And so I’ve been meeting all morning with other folks, as well.  The notion here is the — we have to act now; there’s no time for any delay.  And so we can end up with 4 million fewer jobs this year, according to Moody’s, a Wall Street firm, and it could take a year longer to return to full employment if we don’t act and don’t act now. 
 
We could see an entire cohort of kids with a lower lifetime earnings because they’re deprived of another semester of school.  Millions of parents and maybe some of you — millions of parents are — particularly moms — are forced to stay home, reducing the family wages.  And if they’re a single-wage earner, it’s really difficult.  And future job prospects that — they have no choice but to stay home and take care of their children.  Millions of people are out of work, unemployed.  Future millions are held back for no good reason other than our failure to act. 
 
So, the choice couldn’t be clearer.  We have learned from past crises the risk is not doing too much; the risk is not doing enough.  And this is the time to act now. 
 
And I’ve asked Secretary Yellen, who has been leading this effort, to come in, and we’re going to go into some detail among ourselves, but I think she has a statement to make, as well.
 
SECRETARY YELLEN:  Thank you very much, Mr. President.
 
THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Madam Secretary.
 
SECRETARY YELLEN:  Well, there is a huge amount of pain in our economy right now, and it was evident in the data released yesterday.  Over a million people applied for unemployment insurance last week, and that’s far more than in the worst week of the Great Recession.  And economists agree that if there’s not more help, many more people will lose their small businesses, the roofs over their heads, and the ability to feed their families.  And we need to help those people before the virus is brought under control. 
 
The President’s American Rescue Plan will help millions of people make it to the other side of this pandemic, and it will also make some smart investments to get our economy back on track. 
 
I want to emphasize, the President is absolutely right: The price of doing nothing is much higher than the price of doing something and doing something big.  We need to act now, and the benefits of acting now and acting big will far outweigh the costs in the long run.
 
Q    Mr. President, what do you think of the Johnson & Johnson results?
 
THE PRESIDENT:  I’m waiting to hear from — I’m waiting to hear from the team on the detail of it.  I saw the news reported this morning.  I haven’t had a chance to speak with Dr. Fauci. 
 
One point I want to make that the Secretary made — now let’s get this straight: It’s not only that people will be badly, badly hurt if we don’t pass this package, in terms of increased rate of death, in terms of poverty — a whole range of things — but we will also be hurt long term, economically.  Economically. 
 
We need to make this investment so the economy can grow the remainder of this year and next year.  The investments now will help the economy grow.  It will not, in fact, put — be a — put a drag on the economy, us spending this money.  It’ll do the exact opposite. 
 
So, thank you all very much.
 
Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba covers the White House, the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions for Today News Africa in Washington D.C. Simon can be reached on simonateba@todaynewsafrica.com

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