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President Biden on Wednesday unveiled a $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan that he called a “once-in-a-generation investment in America.”
The American Jobs Plan includes more than $600 billion in funds to repair and modernize the country’s roads, bridges, ports and rail systems. The proposal also calls for major investments to develop electric-vehicle infrastructure, expand high-speed internet to rural communities, build affordable housing, retrofit public buildings and upgrade the nation’s drinking water systems. The bill includes measures that go beyond the traditional definition of infrastructure, like $400 billion to improve caregiving for elderly people and people with disabilities, investments in research and development and the elimination of exclusionary zoning laws.
Biden proposes to pay for the plan by raising corporate tax rates and closing a number of corporate tax loopholes. According to the White House, these reforms will fully fund the American Jobs Plan over the next 15 years.
The release of Biden’s initial infrastructure proposal will likely lead to an extending period of negotiations that could change the substance of the bill dramatically before it reaches Congress for a vote. The broad concept of improving America’s infrastructure has significant support from members of both parties, and Democratic leaders have said they would like the final legislation to be bipartisan. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday called this specific plan “the wrong prescription for America” and predicted it “is not going to get support from our side.”
Why there’s debate
Supporters of the plan have praised Biden for recognizing the massive investment they say is needed to restore America’s crumbling infrastructure and prepare the country for the economy of the future. They argue that the physical infrastructure projects in the bill will create millions of jobs, promote economic growth and help the U.S. transition to green energy. Others say that elements like clean water projects, elder care and rural broadband will address long-standing issues that stunt the country’s growth.
A number of critics argue that America’s roads and bridges aren’t in nearly as bad shape as the bill’s proponents say and question the need for major federal infrastructure investment at all. Many on the right have echoed McConnell’s belief that Biden’s bill is a Trojan horse for Democratic policies that have little or nothing to do with actual infrastructure. Some say corporate tax hikes intended to pay for the plan will stifle the economy and reduce jobs.
Some on the left say Biden’s plan doesn’t go far enough. A group of progressive lawmakers have released their own infrastructure proposal that calls for $10 trillion in spending on green energy projects and climate justice initiatives over the next decade.
Unlike the relatively swift process that was used to pass Biden’s coronavirus relief bill, negotiations on the infrastructure plan are expected to drag out well into the summer and possibly into the fall.
In the next few weeks, Biden is expected to unveil the second plank of his jobs agenda: A massive investment in what the administration is calling “human infrastructure.” That bill will reportedly include up to $2 trillion for education, childcare and other social programs.
Poor infrastructure holds back the U.S. economy
“Most Americans, however, have little idea how far this country has fallen behind on meeting these needs. Yet, without modern infrastructure, the US cannot create decent jobs, social justice or climate safety. After decades of delay, now is the time for President Joe Biden to go big.” — Jeffrey Sachs, CNN
Biden’s plan will create millions of jobs
“A large-scale federal infrastructure investment program that is deliberately designed for maximum workforce impact can help accelerate reemployment, prevent scarring, and boost long-term inclusive and sustainable growth.” — Marcela Escobari, Dhruv Gandhi, and Sebastian Strauss, Brookings
Government projects can help the U.S. economy grow after the pandemic subsides
“We need to spend a lot to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, fight climate change, and more. And public investment can also be a major source of jobs and growth, helping to pull us out of the stagnation trap.” — Paul Krugman, New York Times
Biden is bringing back the era of big government after decades of neglect
“There are many reasons Biden is choosing, rightly, to do this now, when his Democratic predecessors were so much more cautious and incremental. The competitive and military threat from China, the nation’s demand for a burst of growth after the disaster of Covid-19, and the increasingly dire threat from climate change all figure into it. But the biggest reason is that the nation has come to a collective realization that the old industrial policy, fashioned in the late 1970s and 1980s, is no longer working.” — Noah Smith, Bloomberg
Though not technically infrastructure, investment in eldercare is desperately needed
“America is about to get hella old. And as someone with an aging mother, with whom I’ve had a lot of conversations about this stuff, planning long-term care is a really daunting proposition in this country. It’s a massive hole in our safety net.” — Jordan Weissmann, Slate
The plan will ultimately cost less than doing nothing
“Focusing on the size of the investment is misleading when you consider the high cost of not making it.” — Bernard L. Schwartz and David Rothkopf, USA Today
Biden’s plan is a liberal wish list disguised as an infrastructure bill
“The plan itself is really a big bait-and-switch. ... A fraction of the spending is actually devoted to traditional infrastructure projects that serve all people, such as roads, ports, schools and other public facilities. Meanwhile, hundreds of billions are set aside to build “affordable housing,” push power generation away from carbon-based fuels and promote union organizing.” — Henry Olsen, Washington Post
Throwing trillions of dollars at a problem isn’t the way to solve it
“It may be easy for many to believe that if Americans just summon the collective will to print trillions of dollars and/or tax it away from billionaires, the country can finally upgrade its infrastructure, do whatever it takes to achieve net zero carbon emissions and save the planet from a climate catastrophe. But it is not so simple.” — Mark Joffe, The Hill
The plan isn’t ambitious enough to address climate change
“While this plan represents some of the boldest thinking we’ve seen from the Democratic Party in the last decade, the fact is it’s not bold enough to defeat the crises facing our country now.” Sunrise Movement political director Evan Weber to Vox
The proposal lacks a cohesive vision
“In truth, Biden’s New American Jobs Plan has a kind of pray-and-spray quality to it, as if put together by a committee of publicly spirited people each of whom had their own view of what must be done for the environment, infrastructure and jobs. Each had a good idea, which was incorporated into the plan, but the ideas don't exactly cohere.” — Robert Reich, The HIll
A better plan would focus exclusively on traditional infrastructure
“The nation needs an infrastructure bill that focuses on infrastructure — and that means roads, bridges and the like. Unless the Biden administration reverses course, this isn’t it.” — Editorial, Las Vegas Review-Journal
Supporters exaggerate how damaged U.S. infrastructure really is
“Those clamoring for more infrastructure spending often claim that our roads and bridges and so on are ‘crumbling,’ and that infrastructure investment will ‘pay for itself’ in higher economic growth. Both of these claims are highly overstated.” — Robert Verbruggen, National Review
The federal government shouldn’t be funding infrastructure
“There is no need to subsidize infrastructure if it can be moved out of the government and supported by user fees. Rather than spending $2 trillion, we should privatize infrastructure where feasible and cut taxes and regulations on the rest.” — Chris Edwards, Washington Examiner
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