Sep 27, 2022

President Biden Delivers Remarks at the Third Meeting of the White House Competition Council Transcript

President Biden Delivers Remarks at the Third Meeting of the White House Competition Council Transcript
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President Biden Delivers Remarks at the Third Meeting of the White House Competition Council. Read the transcript here.

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Speaker 1: (00:00)
Well, thank the team for being here. I know a few folks aren’t able to join us today because of Rosh Hashanah and I’d like to wish a happy holiday to all those who are celebrating. And folks, we meet at a moment to state the obvious of global uncertainty, and in countries around the world, grappling with elevated inflation and an ongoing war in Ukraine is presenting challenges as well. But amidst all of that, here’s what I want the American people to know, because of their resilience, the American people’s resilience, and because of the economic strategy we pursued the United States of America is in a stronger position than any other country to navigate these global challenges, period. Jobs are up. Incomes are up. People are back to work. And American manufacturers are roaring back, excuse me, for the coal. We’re taking inflation very seriously by enacting policies to bring down costs for people.

Speaker 1: (01:07)
And I have to admit to you, my focus is primarily on working class and middle class folks. They’re the ones that get hurt the most, in my view. We now pay the highest prices for prescription drugs in the world and we’re going to bring those costs down, make it easier for people to pay their bills by allowing Medicare to negotiate their drug prices. Now we passed that already, but they’re not going to see it immediately. It’s going to take a moment, but by January no one’s going to pay more than $2,000 a year if they’re on Medicare for the prescription drugs. Negotiating prices across the board for an awful lot of other medicines as well. And so it’s going to be a real game changer. The bottom line for people on Medicare, they’re going to have less inflation. They’re not going to be paying as much money out. And in addition to that, the big part of how we’re going to keep making progress is by increasing competition in the economy.

Speaker 1: (02:04)
That’s where we got the competition council here. And it starts with energy prices. We’ve made historic progress. We’ve made historic progress with the price of gas down $1.30 since the beginning of the summer. In some few states it’s below $3, it’s in the low threes, most places. Although, there are some fires and some other problems that have to do with refining capacity in the far west and the middle west, but we’re going to deal with that as well. Last month, the price of oil worldwide is down, not just last month. In fact, lower than any price since Putin invaded Ukraine, and we’re working off of that as opposed to anything else. We haven’t seen the lower prices reflected at the pump though. Meanwhile, oil and gas companies are still making record profits, billions of dollars of profit.

Speaker 1: (02:59)
But guess what? Price of oil comes down. Guess how long… Don’t you think the price of the pump should come down? Price of gallon of gasoline? But it takes a long time for that to happen in relative terms. And they’re making a lot of profit and the public is paying and it’s part of the inflation. But look, my message is simple to the companies running gas stations and setting those prices at the pump, bring down the prices that you’re charging at the pump to reflect the cost you pay for the product. Do it now. Do it now. Not a month from now. Do it now, and it’s going to save people a lot of money. A little over a year ago I signed an executive order to promote competition with a goal of lowering prices for consumers and raising the wages of workers and encouraging innovation in the economy.

Speaker 1: (03:50)
We made some real progress. When companies have to compete… It’s a simple proposition. When they have to compete, they sell, they make better products. And guess what? The price goes down. Doesn’t go up when there’s competition. And we’ve gotten a lot done already. Today, I’m charging everyone at this table to go even further than we’ve gone so far. I’m directing members of the council to sharpen their focus. Sharpen their focus in lowering the cost for families. Because what’s inflation? Inflation is, at the end of the month do you have less money from your paycheck or more money in your paycheck? I mean, the way that people… That’s how it’s calculated by the vast majority of American people. And so we’ve got to lower cost for families. And this isn’t just some abstract goal, because the problem isn’t just theoretical. Like many of you, I grew up in a family where when the price of gasoline went up it was a conversation at the breakfast table, was a conversation to say for real.

Speaker 1: (04:49)
And families all across America at the end of the month are trying to figure out how they’re going to pay their monthly bills and are they going to have anything left over? As my dad would say, is there going to be any breathing room when it was all over? And what we’re talking about today is something that’s weighing down family budgets, unnecessary hidden fees, unnecessary hidden fees, known in the parlance as junk fees, are hitting families at a time when they can’t afford it. They shouldn’t be paying anyway in my view, but a time when they can’t afford it.

Speaker 1: (05:22)
And let me give you an example. It hits middle working class families especially hard. Things like overdraft on your checking account or your credit card fee is late. Or the huge termination fees are going to stop you from switching from a cell phone. You have one cell phone, you want to go to another cell phone, you want to go to another provider. Well guess what? There’s an incredible fee you have to pay to terminate your… I mean to terminate. You got to pay a fee to go to somebody else for a better deal.

Speaker 1: (05:57)
This council’s going to come back to me, God willing. And the creek not rising as the old saying goes, with a plan for eliminating and reducing fees. Families shouldn’t have to pay these fees. No one’s sneaking surprise charges into bills, like finding out you have to pay $50 processing fee for a hotel room that you’re trying to book. A processing fee. You find out later. Now, no more hiding the price that you’re paying and not letting you know what the hidden fees are. And all… It’s all taking money out of the pockets of average Americans. And thanks to efforts so far, three quarters of the country’s 20 largest banks are getting rid of fees for bounced checks. The average fee for a bounced check is £50. If they’re getting rid of them. And that matters. And if we do all this, we’re on track to lower overdraft fees.

Speaker 1: (06:56)
Catch this, I know the right departments know this, but lower overdraft fees by 50… Excuse me, by $3 billion a year, $3 billion a year, for primarily middle class, lower middle class families are paying because are the ones that usually are the ones in the position that bounce on the check. My administration also cracking down on the airlines. Last month if your flight was canceled or delayed, no top airline explicitly guaranteed to cover your meals if you were away from home and only one guaranteed free re-booking, even when the delay and cancellation was totally their fault. I joke now that for the first time in a long time, a plane doesn’t leave until I get there because it’s Air Force One. But all kidding aside, you’re taking your family somewhere and you’re in a situation where they cancel on you and you have to pay a fee to rebook. Come on man. No, really, it’s just simply not fair. It’s not fair.

Speaker 1: (08:08)
Secretary Buttigieg called them out, and guess what happened? Now, nine airlines cover hotels with meals when you’re away from home and ten rebook for free. It could have cost you up to $200 to have to rebook a flight, and that’s $200 you can pay your monthly bills, your electric bill or whatever for with. And that’s progress. And today, the Department of Transportation releasing new rules to require airlines and search websites to disclose these fees up front, so you have a choice. Go to the airline that doesn’t charge the fee, that doesn’t have the fee. That’s competition. Fees for things like sitting next to your child on an air flight or checking the bags or changing your ticket. By the way, most people would help pay your fee if you’d sit the child somewhere else.

Speaker 1: (09:02)
But all kidding aside. Think about it. Think about it. I mean that… Anyway, I don’t want to get started. But that’s competition. Fees for things like sitting next to your child, checking your bag, et cetera. You should know the full cost of your ticket right when your comparison shopping to begin with and what airline you’re going to fly with, so you can pick the ticket that actually is the best deal for you. Federal Communication Commission is doing the same thing for fees internet company’s charge.

Speaker 1: (09:35)
And the Department of Agriculture is taking a step today to promote competition in meat and poultry markets, which the Secretary Agriculture has explained to me over a year and a half ago, and that is they’re basically… You heard me say before, they’re basically four… Not basically. There are four major meat processing companies and processing chickens as well. There are middle men who buy the livestock from the ranchers and then sell the meat to the grocery stores. And because four of them control 80% of the market, they control the price, so they make more and the ranchers and consumers get less. Rancher gets less for its product and the consumer gets less for what they’re buying. Several months ago, I directed the administration to take action on this issue, and today we’re following through on that commitment by providing grants to small meat processors so they can compete with the big four, and ultimately help provide competition and lower the cost at the grocery stores.

Speaker 1: (10:32)
And I’m expecting this council to build on this momentum and deliver more concrete results by the next time we meet. I’ve said it before, capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism, it’s exploitation. Capitalism without competition is not capitalism, it’s exploitation. And we’re building an economy that works for everyone. That’s what we’re about at this table. And thank everyone here for the work you’ve done on these issues and I look forward to the progress for our next meeting report. And now let’s get down to business. I’m going to turn it over to Brian so you can start the meeting and keep this going. Thank you all very much.

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