President Biden Uses State of the Union to Condemn Putin, But Talks Domestic Policies, Too

By Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch
Mar 02 2022 |
President Biden and attendees of the State of the Union rise in applause to recognize Oksana Markarova, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States. Photo via @POTUS on Twitter

That included manufacturing. “Just look around and you’ll see an amazing story. The rebirth of the pride that comes from stamping products ‘Made In America,'” Biden said.

President Joe Biden delivered the 2022 State of the Union address on Tuesday night, using the speech to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to holding Russian dictator Vladimir Putin accountable for his invasion of Ukraine, pledging that “when the history of this era is written, Putin’s war on Ukraine will have left Russia weaker and the rest of the world stronger.” 

But while Biden focused the beginning of his remarks on Ukraine — including a touching moment in which attendees took part in a standing ovation in honor of guest Oksana Markarova, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States — he also spent a good portion of the speech discussing his policy priorities.

Notably, that included the pledge that his administration will prioritize Buy American preferences that reinvest taxpayer dollars into Made in America products. Biden said:

“The federal government spends about $600 billion a year to keep the country safe and secure. There’s been a law on the books for almost a century to make sure taxpayers’ dollars support American jobs and businesses. Every administration says they’ll do it, but we are actually doing it. We will buy American to make sure everything from the deck of an aircraft carrier to the steel on highway guardrails are Made in America.” 

The federal government, of course, is about to spend a whole lot of money rebuilding infrastructure, and it will be vital that Biden makes good on his promise to Buy American as work gets underway. All too often, U.S. infrastructure has been built with imported materials when there are American workers and companies ready and able to do the work — and those imports often have led to some real bad results.

But credit where credit is due: Biden was saying all the right sort of things on Tuesday, and he didn’t leave the manufacturing talk to infrastructure, either. Ongoing supply chain shortages and the need to pivot to clean energy to address climate change all are challenges that also have created enormous opportunity for manufacturing, Biden said.

There were 369,000 new factory jobs created in the U.S. in 2021, and more are on the way, as automakers like General Motors and Ford have announced billions of dollars worth in investments in facilities to make electric vehicles, Biden noted.

Meanwhile, Intel is set to build a $20 billion “mega site” in Ohio to manufacture semiconductors, a new complex that will include “up to eight state-of-the-art factories in one place” and create 10,000 new, good-paying jobs, Biden said. (Good-paying indeed — Fortune reported the average salary at the new plant will be $135,000 a year.)

Intel is prepared to do even more, Biden told Members of Congress. Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger, who attended Tuesday’s address, told the president that the company is “ready to increase their investment from $20 billion to $100 billion” if Congress sends the Bipartisan Innovation Act to Biden’s desk. (Both the Senate and the House have passed versions of that legislation, and now must reconcile the two measures.)

And Gelsinger wasn’t the only special guest with manufacturing ties at the State of the Union address, by the way.

Joseph “JoJo” Burgess from United Steelworkers Local 1557 also attended, sitting with First Lady Jill Biden. A military veteran, Burgess helps train steelworkers at U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works facility in Pennsylvania.

Manufacturing jobs like the ones that Burgess helps train Americans for can strengthen and grow the middle class. But decades of offshoring led to factory closures and job loss. In the past year, we’ve seen additional impacts, like supply chain shortages and growing inflation.

Biden said growing American manufacturing will help address these challenges:

“Lower your costs, not your wages. Make more cars and semiconductors in America. More infrastructure and innovation in America. More goods moving faster and cheaper in America. More jobs where you can earn a good living in America. And instead of relying on foreign supply chains, let’s make it in America.” 

That last line earned thunderous applause from the Members of Congress in attendance, along with chants of “USA, USA, USA,” a unifying cry rarely heard on Capitol Hill these days.

Seriously, you just have to watch it:

In his remarks, Biden also talked about the need to grow apprenticeship programs to create opportunities for workers with “skills not degrees.” And he even touched on a pet peeve of Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul, echoing Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown’s desire to “bury the term ‘Rust Belt.'”

As Paul tweeted: