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Mayor Pete’s gone missing as U.S. supply chain on verge of collapse

Experts say the crisis has no signs of improving through at least 2022.

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As America’s supply chain is on the verge of complete collapse Secretary of the Department of Transportation Pete Buttigieg is more than willing to pass the buck on the issue, and the Biden administration’s solution involves spending billions of dollars and focusing on vaccines.

According to the Freightos index, the current median cost of shipping one standard rectangular metal container from China to the West Coast of the United States is at a record $20,586. The cost has nearly doubled since July and quadrupled since January.

Cargo ships are sitting off the coast of California waiting for a spot to dock at the ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach. At the beginning of September, there were 40 ships anchored offshore at the Port of Los Angeles. At the end of September that number rose to 73. Some ships are waiting two weeks or more before they can be unloaded.

The already sluggish supply chain has caused businesses to order an excess of supplies to ensure that they do not run out of merchandise due to slow shipments, thus exacerbating the problem. On top of that, as the holiday season approaches, demand for goods and products will further increase, tightening the grip on the supply chain even more. What began as a temporary slowdown of shipping and delivery has now become a crisis that some say has no signs of improving through at least 2022.

“It’s going to get worse again before it gets better,” said Brian Bourke, chief growth officer at SEKO Logistics. “Global supply chains are not built for this. Everything is breaking down.”

Back in February, Biden signed an executive order instructing the government to assess “vulnerabilities in, and strengthening the resilience of, critical supply chains.” This assessment then prompted the White House to create the “Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force to Address Short-Term Supply Chain Discontinuities” in June.

A White House statement details how the Biden administration plans to address the issues in the supply chain. The very first of four tactics listed describes the manufacturing and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines. “The Administration’s COVID-19 Response Team has drastically expanded the manufacture of vaccines and other essential supplies, enabling more than 137 million Americans to get fully vaccinated,” the memo states. However, there is no explanation as to exactly how the dissemination of the vaccine will aid in restoring the supply chain.

The third tactic deals with mining a rare element in China that will supposedly slow the effects of climate change. “The Department of Defense (DOD) has announced an investment in the expansion of the largest rare earth element mining and processing company outside of China to provide the raw materials necessary to help combat the climate crisis,” the White House’s strategy laid out. Again there was no explanation on the relevance of climate change to the supply chain crisis.

The memo then suggests these two policies are somehow necessary in fixing the issues with the supply chain. “These efforts are critical because, as the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis have shown, structural weaknesses in both domestic and international supply chains threaten America’s economic and national security.”

Almost three months later, in late August, the Biden administration named a special Port Envoy, John Porcari, in the Department of Transportation to take the lead on this task force. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg was more than willing to give that task away and pass the buck to Porcari.

“The Biden-Harris Administration is using a whole-of-government approach to work with labor and industry leadership to identify, reduce and eliminate maritime supply chain issues,” said Buttigieg. “Envoy Porcari’s leadership in both the public and private infrastructure sectors make him uniquely qualified to work with stakeholders and federal agencies to address supply chain disruptions.”

In a statement released by DOT on the special task force, the agency touted the possible passage of the Biden administration’s infrastructure plan as an aid to the supply chain crisis. “The Biden Administration is working to secure a historic $17 billion in investments in port infrastructure as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal. The funding would help address congestion and supply chains over time by investing in repair and maintenance backlogs and reduce congestion and emissions near ports,” the statement said. However, the statement did not suggest how that money would help alleviate the issue of understaffing at the ports.  

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