White House press secretary Jen Psaki struck a joking tone about late holiday gifts in response to a question about ongoing issues in the US supply chain on Tuesday, and blamed the issue primarily on a surge of consumer spending.
The press aide quipped that Americans could face “the tragedy of the treadmill undelivered” in response to a reporter’s inquiry about Americans unable to get large appliances as well as smaller items delivered in a timely fashion.
Earlier this year, the New York Times’s Michael Shear pointed out, “it was crystal clear” that supply chain issues existed, with Americans couldn’t “get dishwashers, and furniture, and treadmills delivered on time, not to mention all sorts of other things”.
“The tragedy of the treadmill undelivered,” she joked.
Her quip comes as the problems facing the US supply chain are escalating, and the Biden administration has announced steps to address them. Last week, President Joe Biden said during a national address that two ports in California hit hardest by backlogs would move to 24/7 operations, and he called on retail companies to take similar steps to move cargo from the docks to store shelves.
“[W}e need the rest of the private sector chain to step up as well. This is not called a supply chain for nothing,” he said during a national address.
According to Ms Psaki, the backlog at the Port of Long Beach reached historic levels over the past several days, with as many as 100 ships waiting off the coast to dock at one time.
While much of the delays are isolated to west coast ports for the moment, experts have warned that they could spread across the country if not addressed.
Ms Psaki’s assertion that a surge in consumer spending is contributing to global supply chain issues is correct; however, there are other issues also compounding the situation. At home, ongoing labour shortages in ports, trucking and rail companies are affecting the speed at which goods travel across the company, while other logistical issues arising from the Covid-19 pandemic are also causing delays.
Abroad, some major ports around the world as well as manufacturing centers are still experiencing delays resulting from Covid-19, which most recently caused a shutdown of a terminal at one of China’s largest ports, the third-busiest in the world.
While the Biden administration was quick to announce action after the news of massive delays at US ports went national, the White House has faced questions regarding why these issues weren’t addressed before they became critically problematic.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg found himself a target of some of that criticism after it was reported in news outlets that he is currently on paternity leave from the Department of Transportation following the birth of twins adopted by Mr Buttigieg and his husband.
Right-wing commentators pounced on the issue, complaining about a wide range of supposed issues including the secretary’s sexual orientation; one YouTuber, Steven Crowder, even caught backlash after suggesting that any man who takes paternity leave after the birth of a child is somehow weak.
While much of the conservative criticism on the issue has been focused around culture war issues, questions remain about whether Americans will see supply chain issues resolved to some extent before the holiday shopping season kicks off into full swing following Thanksgiving later this month.