President Biden is supposed to announce his infrastructure plan on Wednesday. It’s a safe bet that Biden’s proposals will be a huge improvement on those of the last (cough) inhabitant of the White House. If you need to review what a disaster that was, see Trump’s Infrastructure Plan: Sell off the Infrastructure from 2018.
And if you need to review the decrepit condition of U.S. infrastructure, see the Council on Foreign Relations, The State of U.S. Infrastructure — words like “deficient” and “antiquated” come up a lot — and America’s infrastructure is decaying — here’s a look at how terrible things have gotten from Business Insider, February 2019.
So we’re way behind on maintenance, never mind needed improvements.
Ella Nilsen at Vox explains what is expected to be in President Biden’s proposal.
The White House discussed an approximately $3 trillion infrastructure package on a call last week with Senate Democrats, but the price tag and final details are still under discussion, a person familiar with the plan told Vox.
Those close to the Biden White House underscore this is a key part of the president’s agenda, and his goal of steering America’s economy toward clean energy and manufacturing. Biden and Democrats see an infrastructure package as the best way to tackle climate change and get the country to net-zero electricity emissions by 2035, by installing more electric vehicle charging stations on the nation’s roads, modernizing the electrical grid, and incentivizing more wind and solar projects. It could be financed at least in part with higher taxes on corporations and the wealthiest Americans.
This sounds great to me.
In addition to using infrastructure to tackle climate change, administration officials are planning to introduce a second package that deals with the care economy, including child care and paid family leave, universal pre-kindergarten, and free community college tuition, the New York Times first reported and White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed this weekend.
Better and better. Now, let’s talk about getting it passed.
Reconciliation is very much on the table again. In fact, Talking Points Memo reports that Chuck Schumer may try to push through two more bills through reconciliation this year. Yes, two. The covid bill was passed as part of the 2021 budget, which wasn’t passed last year. Another bill could be part of the 2022 budget. And it may be possible to put through a third bill as a revision to the 2021 budget. See TPM for details.
But see also Peter Nicholas at The Atlantic, Why an Infrastructure Deal Everyone Wants May Fail. As usual, within the Democratic Party there is a division between the progressives and the so-called “moderates.” The moderates want to spend less and don’t have the same hair-on-fire concern about climate change that intelligent people do. And the wild card is Joe Manchin, who is making noises about bipartisanship but has given himself plenty of space to land just about anywhere.
Republicans, assuming Republican votes are needed, want to spend a whole lot less and want to include deregulations, assuming there are any regulations left the Trumpers didn’t already kill. “It doesn’t do any good to spend $1 billion on roads and bridges if you can’t get a permit to build the damn road or bridge,” Ted Cruz said. He’s talking mostly about environmental and safety regulations, of course. Who needs those? And, of course, the part about raising taxes to pay for it is off the table as far as Republicans are concerned. And many of them are just whiny little brats.
Consider Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. He should be a Republican whom Democrats have a shot at capturing. He is one of seven GOP senators who voted to convict Donald Trump in the impeachment trial last month. He’s not running for reelection in 2022, so he doesn’t have to worry about a far-right primary opponent. An American Society of Civil Engineers report from 2018 (the most recent year available) found that Pennsylvania’s bridges were 15 years older than the national average and “continue to be in need of repair and modernization.” Nearly a third of Philadelphia’s water mains were installed in the 1800s, the report showed.
But he won’t say he will support the infrastructure package because he’s still pissed about the Dems using reconciliation to pass the covid bill.
Regarding the $3 trillion price tag — I found a Fortune article from bleeping 2016 that said America needs to spend $3.32 trillion to keep its ports, highways, bridges, trains, water, and electric facilities up to date. Biden is proposing $3 trillion to do a lot more than maintenance. I suspect the $3 trillion is just a down payment. But this work needs to be done.
See Greg Sargent, Biden’s next big move could blow up one of the silliest myths in D.C.
You can already see how this game will unfold. Republicans will declare that infrastructure repair could be bipartisan. But Republicans will add both that we can’t spend nearly what liberals want because of the deficit and that we can’t raise taxes to pay for it, because that will be “job-killing.”
But, as I’m sure most of you know, long history and real-world experience has shown us that raising taxes on the rich and on big corporations is not “job killing.” That’s nothing but a myth. And we’re not even talking about all the jobs these infrastructure projects will create. And Republicans oppose any spending that goes to ordinary people, even spending meant to help families (whom Republicans love to claim they support) and workers (ditto).
Finally, see David Atkins, Progressive Priorities Are Good for Democrats in Frontline Districts.
For decades, any time progressives wanted to push the Democratic Party to go big on social democratic priorities, the most common response was this: we can’t do it because it would be bad for candidates in frontline districts.
It was never entirely clear why this would be the case. There was never any real credible polling indicating that voters in purple districts were significantly more concerned about deficit spending than voters in other districts–and in any case, Republicans never seemed to factor those concerns into their own guns-and-butter policy decisions. There was never any indication that purple districts were significantly more opposed to expansion of healthcare–and in fact, the actual policies of the Affordable Care Act have proven very popular even in red states.
Hard-line Republican voters are opposed to anything Democrats do, because that’s what they’re told to think by right-wing media. And right-wing media will be against anything the Democrats do because it’s the Democrats doing it. That’s not going to change.
Maybe going into conservative districts and hiring the menfolk to rebuilt the bridges and hospitals and electric grid would persuade a few conservatives that maybe the Democrats aren’t so bad after all. Maybe. “But whether or not good policy can work as a persuasion tactic, at the very least there’s a growing sense that doing the right thing for the country can both mobilize the left’s voters, and it can do little significant political damage among conservatives that the rightwing media apparatus was not going to do in any case,” Atkins writes.