Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Sunday that the supply chain issues wracking the U.S. economy are likely to “continue into next year.”
Mr. Buttigieg, who has been on paternity leave since early August, told CNN’s “State of the Union” the current situation is unlikely to be lessened anytime soon.
“A lot of the challenges that we’ve been experiencing this year will continue into next year, but there are both short-term and long-term steps that we can take to do something about,” he said.
The reality that there may not be any immediate fix to the problem of empty store shelves across much of the country poses a major political problem for President Biden. It also comes at a time when much of the White House’s domestic agenda has stalled in Congress and inflation has dragged down hopes for a post-COVID-19 recovery.
Mr. Buttieg on Sunday attempted to spin the consumer shortages caused by faltering supply chains as a benefit. He told CNN the sight of empty store shelves is, in part, the result of an economy booming with excess demand.
“Look, part of what’s happening isn’t just the supply side, it’s the demand side,” Mr. Buttigieg said. “Demand is off the charts, retail sales are through the roof … Demand is up because income is up, because the president has successfully guided this economy out of the terrifying recession.”
Last week, images of more than 60 cargo container ships crammed with goods and supplies, waiting outside two California ports, received wide attention. The ships are expected to be stuck for months at the ports before they can be unloaded.
The backlog has many fearing that widespread shortages in consumer goods will impact the holiday shopping season. Mr. Buttigeg refused to address such concerns, arguing simply that the upcoming holidays would be better than last year because of the receding threat of COVID-19.
“Every family makes its own preparations for Christmas,” he said. “What I know is that the holidays are going to be a lot better this year than they were last year because a year ago millions of Americans were sliding into poverty … a year ago a lot of us were gathering with loved ones over a screen.”
While short on immediate solutions to the supply chain crunch, Mr. Buttigeg added the situation only strengthens the need for Congress to pass the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package.
“There is $17 billion in the president’s infrastructure plan for ports, alone, and we need to deal with the long-term issues that have made us vulnerable to these kinds of bottlenecks when there are demand fluctuations and disruptions,” he said.
At the moment, the infrastructure bill is being held hostage by far-left House Democrats who demand its passage only after the Senate approves President Biden’s $3.5 trillion social spending bill.