Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg predicted more supply chain bottlenecks, saying they will continue as long as the pandemic continues.
“If a shoe factory closes in Vietnam in September for a COVID outbreak, you’re going to see the effect of that at the mall in December or January,” Buttigieg, who received criticism recently for taking a leave of absence during a supply chain crunch affecting ports and freight lines, said during a televised interview on Wednesday.
The United States is “seeing goods move through our system and reach shelves at record levels,” he said, blaming the shortages on high demand.
The supply chain issues could prove to be more politically damaging for the Biden administration if bottlenecks persist during the Christmas shopping season. At the same time, data released by the Labor Department shows that the year-over-year prices increased by 5.4 percent in September, the largest annual increase since January 1991.
About a week ago, the Biden administration announced it secured commitments from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to move to operate 24 hours per day, seven days per week. The move was touted by White House secretary Jen Psaki on Monday, who claimed there is “serious progress” being made in dealing with bottlenecks.
But data from the Marine Exchange, which tracks port operations in California, reported an increase in container ships off the coast of California. As of Wednesday, there were 167 ships sitting outside the ports, up from 157 on Monday.
During the Trump administration, the number of containers that passed through the Port of Los Angeles broke several records, according to reports and city data. In 2018, about 9.5 million containers were transported, compared to 7.3 million containers passing through during Biden’s first year in office, the data shows.
Buttigieg said that the White House is “also talking with the key ground logistics companies,” adding: “But there’s no question that there are challenges that will persist as long as this pandemic continues, and it’s both things that are going on here in the U.S. Because we’ve already got a brittle system that has been under-invested in for decades and things happening around the world.”
Some economists, meanwhile, have said that federal policies under the Biden administration have likely exacerbated the problem.
“The net effect of President Biden’s policies has probably been to worsen the supply disruptions to a certain degree,” Brian Riedl, a senior fellow for economic policy at the Manhattan Institute, told the Daily Caller. “And that was by shooting a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill at an economy that was only $420 billion below its potential performance.”