April 1, 2021

Infrastructure Plan

“President Joe Biden outlined a huge $2.3 trillion plan Wednesday to reengineer the nation’s infrastructure.” AP News

Highlights of the plan:

  • Put $621 billion into transportation infrastructure such as bridges, roads, public transit, ports, airports and electric vehicle development
  • Direct $400 billion to care for elderly and disabled Americans
  • Inject more than $300 billion into improving drinking-water infrastructure, expanding broadband access and upgrading electric grids
  • Put more than $300 billion into building and retrofitting affordable housing, along with constructing and upgrading schools
  • Invest $580 billion in American manufacturing, research and development and job training efforts
  • Raise the corporate tax rate to 28% to fund the plan


See past issues

From the Left

The left generally supports the proposal, but some call for additional spending on green technology.

“Here’s an indication of just how poorly the United States is doing when it comes to building and maintaining roads, bridges, water systems and other infrastructure. In March, the American Society of Civil Engineers, which periodically grades U.S. infrastructure in terms of its condition and needs, said we were finally scoring better than a D for the first time in 20 years. Don’t reach for the Moët — the overall grade was still C-minus, with a $2.5-trillion gap between what we needed to invest over the coming decade and what we were projected to spend.”
Editorial Board, Los Angeles Times

“Besides fixing up 20,000 miles of roads, [Biden] wants to do everything from electrifying the yellow school bus fleets to getting rid of lead pipes that taint the water supply to a $400 billion commitment to helping the elderly and disabled… Expect resistance from the Republicans on [the] tax hikes. But there’s a whole lot of other stuff that they’re going to find very attractive. It’s hard to imagine politicians throwing their bodies in front of a plan that’s going to fix their downtown bridge and get broadband service out to the folks in remote areas.”
Gail Collins, New York Times

“Republicans are already making the case that last time millions in taxpayer dollars were squandered on green energy jobs that never materialized. They are road-testing a new slogan about what’s coming: ‘Solyndra Syndrome.’… Solyndra was indeed a failure: As part of a federal program to support promising companies, the Obama administration gave a $535 million loan to the firm. But their solar panel technology struggled to compete against low-cost panels from China, and the company eventually went bankrupt…

“But the whole point of the loan program was to take risks, in the knowledge that some of them wouldn’t work out. And other loans paid off spectacularly well. You may have heard of another up-and-coming green tech company that got a $465 million loan at around the same time, enabling it to start making passenger cars. It’s called Tesla. It paid back its loan with interest, and today has more than 70,000 employees. Republicans spent years trying to turn the Solyndra failure into a scandal. What they didn’t mention is that despite the loss the government took on it, the program that funded that loan quickly turned a profit, eventually earning billions.”
Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent, Washington Post

Critics note that “The bill would be improved by directing a higher percentage of its climate funding toward research and development…

“Ultimately, the fight against climate change will be won or lost in the developing world. The U.S. accounts for 15 percent of global CO2 emissions, and barring a world-historic catastrophe in China and/or India, our share of that pie is going to decline in the coming decades. Either these countries are going to gain access to the technology necessary for achieving sustainable prosperity or they are going to pursue the unsustainable kind. No Chinese or Indian leader is going to endorse degrowth or radically higher energy prices unless they want their government toppled. Breakthroughs in green technology are our best hope. We should spend as much as we can on trying to discover them.”
Eric Levitz, New York Magazine

“There’s no slowing climate change or protecting us from its worst insults without reforming the way we farm. Agriculture generates 10 percent of US greenhouse gas emissions; and our most important growing regions, from the fruit and vegetable fields of California to the Midwestern corn belt to the citrus groves of South Texas and Florida, are increasingly vulnerable to climate-related shocks like polar vortex-driven freezes, droughts, storms, and wildfires… Yet the 27-page fact sheet on Biden’s American Jobs Plan says very little about agriculture, mentioning it just twice in passing.”
Tom Philpott, Mother Jones

From the Right

The right opposes the proposal, arguing that it’s too costly and includes substantial spending on things that are not infrastructure-related.

The right opposes the proposal, arguing that it’s too costly and includes substantial spending on things that are not infrastructure-related.

“As laid out in a 2019 study from three economists and a 2020 essay in National Affairs by Eli Lehrer, our infrastructure is, in general, basically fine. The physical condition of interstate highways has actually improved in recent decades, for example, while buses have gotten younger on average and the quality of bridges has remained steady. And America looks good in the international context, with admirably low commute times (despite increases in congestion) and fast broadband…

“Further, most of America’s genuine infrastructure problems are best handled at the state and local level, rather than by having the federal government subsidize politically preferred projects.”
The Editors, National Review

“Any successful effort to improve the nation’s bridges, roads, public transit, ports, airports, tunnels and water systems should go hand-in-hand with reducing regulatory barriers. Carrying out a building project today requires compliance with a slew of environmental regulations, labor standards and authorizations by various government entities. The regulations can slow the pace of work to a crawl, and increase its costs…

“And the balance of spending in this infrastructure proposal should be more heavily weighted toward … infrastructure. Biden wants to spend $400 billion — nearly 20% of the total cost of the bill — on improved in-home care for the elderly and people with disabilities, while only allocating $115 billion for roads and bridges.”
Michael R. Strain, Bloomberg

“[Mr. Biden] proposes to build ‘broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas’ by subsidizing government-owned and nonprofit networks. But the Trump Federal Communications Commission unleashed private broadband investment by liberating providers from Obama net neutrality rules, streamlining regulations and limiting how much cities could extort them to install 5G sites. In 2019 providers built over 46,000 cell sites, up from a mere 708 in 2016…

“Mr. Biden is also redefining infrastructure as social-justice policy and income redistribution. He promises to target 40% of ‘climate and clean’ investments ‘to disadvantaged communities’—defined in part by race—and tie federal spending to union prevailing wages. His plan also includes $213 billion for affordable housing, $100 billion for retrofitting public schools, $25 billion for child-care facilities and $400 billion for increasing home-health care…

“Note the political irony of all this. Mr. Biden says ‘public investment’ has fallen as a share of the economy since the 1960s, and he has a point. But the main reason is that government spending on social welfare, entitlements and public unions have squeezed out public works. Now he’s redefining social welfare as public works to drive more social-welfare spending.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“If you take [the] $2 trillion [cost] at face value and combine it with the $1.9 trillion Biden and the Democrats already spent in their COVID relief bill (most of which had nothing to do with COVID relief), we’re talking $31,758 of new spending for every household in the United States. That’s more than all the wealth of all the nation’s billionaires put together. And that’s on top of our annual $4.48 trillion budget, and before you add in another $2 trillion in education, childcare and social program spending reportedly on the way soon…

“Given that the median household income in the United States was $65,712 before the pandemic, Biden is on his way to blowing through an entire year’s budget for every family in the country. When the president calls this a ‘once-in-a-generation investment,’ he means that after he’s done, we will be broke for a generation.”
Dan McLaughlin, New York Post

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