- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg repeatedly contended Wednesday morning that access to affordable child care is a root problem in the country’s supply chain and labor shortage issues.

During an interview with MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski on “Morning Joe,” Mr. Buttigieg said the U.S. is experiencing a supply chain disruption because the country is still amid the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that child care measures in the $2.2 trillion social welfare package could help ease labor shortages.

The provisions include universal prekindergarten, paid family leave and an enhanced child tax credit.

“When you see those ships that are at anchor in the port, some of those issues actually might have to do with the availability of truckers 1,000 miles inland. Now there are a lot of things contributing to this,” Mr. Buttigieg said.

“One of them is child care, of course, which is why the president’s ‘Build Back Better’ vision is going to be good for the labor market. Also, some of these professions, frankly, just need to be a better job. I mean, if you look at transportation and warehousing compensation in real terms, it is way down from where it was a generation ago,” he said.

Ms. Brzezinski pressed Mr. Buttigieg, noting that he reduced both issues — the supply chain and the labor shortage — to trucking and the quality of life of that job.

“But we have companies across America that are offering people $15, $20 an hour. They’re offering health care for the first time in businesses, where they have 17-year-olds doing the job because they can’t get adults to come to work,” Ms. Brzezinski said. “… Before COVID, before Biden, there was a problem with child care and people still went to work, we are in a very different place right now. And I need to understand the explanation for that. Is it that the [unemployment] checks that many argue that keep Americans from wanting to go back to work? What exactly do you mean, when you say people want a better job?”

Mr. Buttigieg noted that while critics of the Biden administration argued that unemployment checks distributed through COVID-19 benefits packages kept people from returning to work, the labor shortage continued when the unemployment checks ended.

“So, we know that it goes deeper than that. And I do think it has to do with some of these other concerns. Yes, the child care issue is not new, but it is a greater crunch than ever, even compared to a year or two ago, which is why it’s so important for us to support child care,” he said.

He later insisted that child care should not “be ignored” and that 5 million to 6 million jobs were added to the economy after Ms. Brzezinski asked why President Biden’s social spending package would immediately bring people back to work.

“We went for a long time where, I think, a lot of people just assumed that working for poverty wages was the only way out. Now we’re seeing better wages, even in jobs like fast food that were not known for generosity and pay or benefits,” he said. “I do think that’ll have an effect. I don’t think it’ll have an effect overnight.”

• Kerry Picket can be reached at kpicket@washingtontimes.com.

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