Both major parties agree that the country’s infrastructure is in desperate need of repair. But they haven’t been able to agree on a proposal or how to pay for it for years.
President Biden unveiled a $2 trillion package in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, claiming that it would result in “transformational progress.” Biden stated that this is “not a plan that tinkers around the edges,” but rather a “once-in-a-generation investment” that will result in “good-paying jobs” and “grow the economy.”
He framed his effort as similar to other investments made by the federal government in history, such as the space race in the mid-twentieth century.
Biden stated that his proposal would be paid for in 15 years by raising corporate taxes. He said he’s open to new ideas, but Biden vowed Wednesday that no one earning less than $400,000 per year would see their taxes raised. “Period,” he explained.
The president noted that millions of people lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic, while the top 1% increased their wealth. That, he says, “shows how distorted” the US economy is.
“Well, it’s time to change that,” said Biden, adding, “It’s time to build our economy from the bottom up and the middle out, not the top down.”
Republicans are already irritated by the proposed taxes and the scope of Biden’s plan, as well as where the money would be spent. Climate change and the environment are heavily emphasized in the proposal, which includes transitioning the auto industry from gasoline-powered vehicles to electric, establishing a Climate Conservation Corps, and incentivizing private investments in wind and solar power.
The effort to encourage the transition from gas to electric vehicles alone would receive more funding — $174 billion — than the plan would spend on highway and bridge repairs — approximately $115 billion.
“A transportation bill, I think, needs to be a transportation bill, not a Green New Deal,” Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., the ranking Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said during a recent hearing with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “It needs to be about roads and bridges.”
Biden’s proposal includes $100 billion for high-speed broadband expansion, $100 billion for new school buildings and upgrades, and $100 billion for power line expansion and improvements. It also includes measures to address racial injustices, such as replacing all of the country’s lead pipes and service lines, as well as $105 billion for improving and expanding mass transit and reconnecting neighborhoods that have been decimated and cut off from surrounding areas due to highway construction.
How some on the left feel
Without GOP support, it’s unclear whether Democrats will try to pass the bill through the Senate on party lines. As many issues as Biden will face with Republicans in attempting to gain support for this plan, he must also keep an eye on his left flank.
“It’s disappointing,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, told NPR’s Danielle Kurtzleben before the package was unveiled. “Its size is disappointing. It is insufficient.”
While she supports some aspects of the measure, such as improving water supplies, she is concerned about the amount of money it would allocate “Papitas are small French fries. It’s insignificant.”
In fact, Ocasio-Cortez believes that spending up to $10 trillion is not even “progressive.” This is a figure that several Democratic presidential primary candidates have used to describe their infrastructure and climate change plans. A $10 trillion bill has already been introduced by Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan.
“I think it’s just the floor,” Ocasio-Cortez said, noting that this is a “planetary crisis, and we’re the richest country in the world.” despite the fact that the United States is the richest country on the planet.
Labor leaders, who were instrumental in Biden’s election victory, have largely endorsed the package.
“We are cognizant that workers will disproportionately suffer if we do not make the transition to a green economy in the right way,” United Auto Workers union President Rory Gamble said in a statement. “We also need to ensure that this transition is stable, reliable and creates quality union-wage jobs and flexible to market demand not relying on a one-size-fits-all solution.”
The head of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, Terry O’Sullivan, praised the bill, saying it “will restore our economy and create hundreds of thousands of good union jobs.”
“We also look forward to working with the Administration on insisting that the renewable industry does not short-change and cheat working men and women of good family-supporting pay and benefits on the jobs building this infrastructure,” he added.