Results are hard to see in government measures of inflation, which continue to exceed levels forecast earlier this year. The Federal Reserve last month predicted a 2021 inflation rate of 4.2%, well above its 2% target.
But rising concern among businesses and voters alike leave the administration little choice but to make the effort — however modest the impact.
John Porcari, the “ports envoy” Biden appointed in August, has pushed to expand hours of operation at ports that are struggling with backups of container ships filled with imported goods. The port of Los Angeles this week touted one sign of progress: a drop in the average “dwell time” for rail cargo to 4.4 days from more than 13 days earlier.
The range of these efforts reflect unpredictable effects of the pandemic: Since it turned the economy upside down in early 2020, the coronavirus has scrambled patterns of work, manufacturing and consumption in ways that have left some sectors short of labor and made high-demand goods hard to find.
“We were all so obsessed with the health care response,” observed Raimondo, who was governor of Rhode Island when the pandemic hit. “We were obsessed with jobs. I don’t think anyone predicted how disruptive it would be to the supply chain.”
“There’s a lack of transparency and trust in the supply chains,” Raimondo explained. “Don’t underestimate the value of information-sharing in this problem.”
Government has limited ability to alter private-sector outcomes in the world’s largest economy, leaving the ultimate value of the administration effort in doubt. But even skeptics say the urgency of supply-chain problems demands the effort.
“My guess is it doesn’t add up to very much,” said Jason Furman, a former economic adviser to President Barack Obama who has sounded alarms about inflation. “But it’s absolutely worth doing regardless. They should be trying.”