Jun 23, 2021 - Podcasts

A wake-up call for manufacturing

According to a speech scheduled to be delivered today, the director of the National Economic Council, Brian Deese, will say the economic disruption of the pandemic shows that America needs an industrial policy that invests in more manufacturing jobs.

  • Plus, the Biden administration says it won’t meet its July 4th COVID vaccination goal.
  • And, what you need to know one month ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.

Guests: Axios' Hans Nichols and Ina Fried.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Dan Bobkoff, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, Amy Pedulla, Naomi Shavin, and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected].

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NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Wednesday, June 23rd.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what we’re watching today: the Biden administration says it won’t meet its covid vaccination goal. Plus, one month out, what you need to know about the Tokyo Olympics.

But first, today’s One Big Thing: the pandemic’s wakeup call for manufacturing.

An Axios exclusive: according to a speech scheduled to be delivered today, the Biden Administration will say the economic disruption of the pandemic shows that America needs an industrial policy that invests in more manufacturing jobs. Hans Nichols is here with the scoop. Hans. So let's go back to the beginning of the pandemic. How did that reveal the current situation with American manufacturing?

HANS NICHOLS: PPE, right? There wasn't enough personal protective equipment for our first responders and medical workers. And that really awakened -- this was during the Trump administration -- that America had sort of a supply line problem.

They didn't actually manufacture things that they needed to protect its own citizens. And so this conversation started happening then, it probably started happening during Donald Trump's campaign in 2016, when he talked about hollowed out America, how he's going to bring back manufacturing jobs. Joe Biden's sort of seizing on this, taking it up to one more level and saying, we need to invest a lot more in supply chain and R and D and we need to have the hand of government guide a lot of this and that free markets alone can't help America.

NIALA: How much is all of that going to cost? And who's going to pay for it?

HANS: Okay. The overall price tag is around 4 trillion, right? This is the Build Back Better agenda that Biden campaigned on.

So Brian Deese is the director of the National Economic Council, he's one of the main domestic and economic policy drivers in the Biden Administration. He worked on the campaign prior to that, he worked in the Obama White House. He's really taken the lead on this.

What's happening today is that the Brian Deese is really giving the whole intellectual architecture for the whole theory of the case. But, you know, look, they need Congress for all this.

I mean, the side story to this is that Deese will be meeting Congressional officials, Senators, as well as over on the House side, trying to figure out just how to get a $1.2 trillion, package across the line, right? They're talking about 4 trillion on what they think the economy, what they think America, needs to sort of be self-reliant.

And that's the case they're making here. This is about self-sufficiency and self-reliance, and that the next pandemic or the next crisis comes along, America may not have the luxury that it had this time in trying to play catch-up.

NIALA: How are they going to overcome the systemic problems that led manufacturing to leave the U S in the first place? As you said, this has been going on for decades.

HANS: So they basically want to have government work as a starter engine. And they feel that they've diagnosed market inefficiencies and that if the government goes in with R and D, as it did in the 19th century, as it did after World War Two, that it can go in and make investments that benefit the entire economy.

So what they're trying to do is sort of kickstart, jumpstart, those sectors of the economy. But the numbers, you know, they're not great, right? I mean, since the peak in 1979, you've seen like a 35% decline in manufacturing jobs and that doesn't even account for population increase, right? We saw some of them come back under president Donald Trump. Before the pandemic, about 500,000 manufacturing jobs came back, but then he lost all of them during the pandemic.

And he was definitely down at the end of his presidency. So this is Biden's attempt to, uh, and Deese’s attempt to sort of make the argument for why there should be these kinds of investments.

NIALA: Axios’ Hans Nichols covers the Biden administration. Thanks Hans.

HANS: Thanks for having me.

NIALA: In 15 seconds, we're back with the top COVID headlines of the day

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today!

Here are some of the Covid stories we’re watching today - Yesterday, the Biden administration said it will likely not meet its goal of vaccinating 70% of US adults by July 4th. Still, the White House said most Americans can safely celebrate the holiday since cases and deaths remain at low levels throughout the country.

The CDC also said yesterday that every adult covid death at this point is entirely preventable thanks to the available vaccines. It also says the vaccines are still effective against the Delta variant, which is becoming the dominant strain in the U.S.

Former CDC director Tom Frieden spoke about the Delta variant yesterday on Axios Re:Cap and told host Dan Primack that Covid is here to stay -

TOM FRIEDEN: The virus is not done with us yet, and we see this when new organisms enter the human race, they adapt quickly to people and they learn. And unless we learn and adapt quickly, we're going to have more and more problems in the coming months and years.

And finally -- South Africa is experiencing a full-blown third wave of the coronavirus as daily cases have doubled over the past two weeks. The New York Times says Africa overall has one of the lowest vaccination rates of any continent with just 3.3 doses administered per 100 people. Compare to North America - we’re at 69 doses per 100.

NIALA: Today marks one month to the start of the Olympics. So we invited our Chief Technology Correspondent and Axios' favorite Olympics attendee Ina Fried to tell us what we should be looking forward to. Welcome, Ina.

INA FRIED: Hey Niala, great to be here.

NIALA: Other than you, who can attend the Olympics this year?

INA: So there will be media from around the world. There will be the athletes and very small, official delegations from the various countries but that's about it from outside of Japan. Japan did make the decision this week that it will have some amount of local fans. So people from within Japan can go to the events to about 50% capacity with a maximum of 10,000 spectators at any one time.

NIALA: What kind of COVID-19 procedures are going to be in place for these games?

INA: Very strict for all the people that are coming from around the world, whether you're an athlete or a journalist like myself, you're going to have to test negative before you travel to Japan, test negative when you land and then very limited travels. So basically I'll just be going to and from my hotel and the events, and it's fairly similar for the athletes as well. It's a protocol that relies very heavily on isolation and not so much on being vaccinated.

NIALA: For those of us watching on television, it's probably not going to look that different Ina, who should we be keeping an eye out for?

INA: So a lot of familiar names from the past - the U.S. women's basketball team got announced this week. It's a lot of the folks that you would expect. A lot of athletes that we'll all be watching starting with of course, Simone Biles for the U.S., Allyson Felix in track. Softball is making a return to the Olympics and a couple of Olympians from quite a while ago - pitchers Cat Osterman, and Monica Abbott are both going to be helping the U.S. try and win as softball returns to the Olympics. Some names that won't be there, Ryan Lochte for swimming, missed out on a chance.

NIALA: Ina Fried is Axios’ chief technology correspondent, and next month covering the Olympics for us. Thanks, ina.

INA: Thanks, Niala.

NIALA: Yesterday we told you that you can now text me directly! We’re using a service called Community. And yes, to answer some of you: this is real, and it’s really me texting you back. So far, we’ve heard from listeners in Canada, Missouri, Georgia, and more. It’s so great to get questions, feedback, and story ideas from you all! Here’s the number again if you’d like to join in: text me at 202-918-4893.

And let me throw out a question I’d love to hear your answers to: what does freedom in the U.S. mean to you, in 2021? Do you think as a country we’ve changed what we mean when we talk about freedom? As we head toward the Fourth of July holiday we’re reflecting on that -- record a voicememo on your phone, include your name and where you’re from, and send it to that new number: 202-918-4893. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts.

That’s all for today!

I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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