Guest Op Ed
Congressman Gus Bilirakis (FL-12th)
Thursday, December 2, 2021
Every American has noticed empty shelves and experienced delivery delays for many products, including: new vehicles, toilet paper, toys, and smartphones. Supermarkets, restaurants, and school cafeterias also report missing shipments. Experts are also predicting that the supply chain crisis will lead to a less than merry Christmas for many American children as toys are expected to be in short supply this season, according to the Toy Association. Just this week, President Biden was forced to admit that he could not guarantee Christmas presents will arrive on time this year. I refuse to stand silently by and watch as America’s ability to ensure the safe and efficient movement of goods, people, and services throughout our transportation network continues to be diluted.
Our priority focus right now should be strengthening our nation’s economy and increasing our global competitiveness. The policies of this President and Democrat leaders in Congress are exacerbating or simply ignoring the underlying supply chain crisis. These policies include the mishandling of the COVID response in ways that are prolonging unemployment and worker shortages across the economy and pushing for a multi-trillion-dollar spending spree that is driving up prices of everything from gas to groceries. These efforts only serve to weaken American competitiveness and shrink our economy.
The supply chain problem is a complex one that boils down to the fact that America relies heavily on the import of goods. About 90% of all goods are shipped across an ocean. China has been implementing partial shutdowns due to new COVID cases, and has forced power cutbacks amid an energy shortage. In fact, factories across Asia are shipping fewer goods. To make matters worse, there aren’t enough workers to process, move, sell, and deliver all the goods coming into U.S. ports across the country fast enough. A national shortage of truck drivers is also making it harder for goods to quickly reach warehouses, which themselves are understaffed. Once goods do arrive in the U.S., there are often still big backups. For example, in LA, a record 70 cargo ships were waiting to get into the LA and Long Beach ports in mid-September. Together, these two ports handle roughly 40% of the nation’s imported goods. What’s more, the cost to ship those goods skyrocketed as containers filled up faster than China — where most containers are made – could produce them, which has caused additional delays.
The current supply chain crisis exposes the country’s dependence on foreign imports and how close to its limit its transportation system operates. There is little redundant capacity. Once bottlenecks develop, cargo gridlocks, and remains stranded offshore on ships that overcrowd the coastline, creating additional safety and environmental risks. For example, clustering a large number of container ships waiting to be unloaded increases the risk of large anchors damaging our underwater infrastructure, such as pipelines. This unfortunately was likely the case with the recent Huntington Beach oil spill. Rather than responding to an oil spill, prevention is the best way to avoid environmental damage. This environmental and economic harm could have been avoided in the first place had this Congress and the Biden Administration remained focused on our core transportation network assets, instead of the green and social infrastructure fantasy they have advanced after months of infighting.
Despite calls from the private sector for help addressing growing supply chain issues, like expanding capacity, the Biden Administration has only further fueled the crisis by increasing energy costs, triggering significant inflation through reckless unchecked spending, and attacking American businesses. Ironically, it is now the private sector that the Administration is calling on to “step up” and fix the supply chain problems.
This week, President Biden tried to downplay the importance of the supply chain crisis and trivialize the hardship it has placed on Americans by comparing it to the shortage of Cabbage Patch Dolls and Beanie Babies in the 1980s and 1990s. However, the reality is quite different. As the New York Post recently lamented, “the dual effects of the supply chain bottleneck and inflation, which is at a three-decade high, have made many basic goods hard to find, including bicycles, cars, clothing, furniture, food and even Christmas trees.” The truth is simple, this situation is an urgent crisis that warrants immediate attention. The global supply chain issues we are experiencing reinforce the fact that we must strengthen domestic production, manufacturing and distribution channels. We must also halt reckless spending packages that aim to reshape the social fabric of this country and instead work on real solutions that focus on moving goods and people safely and efficiently throughout our great country and around the world.