President Joe Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal, the American Jobs Plan, is nothing if not ambitious.
It’s “not a plan that tinkers around the edges,” the president said when he unveiled it Wednesday in Pittsburgh. “It’s a once-in-a-generation investment that we haven’t seen since we built the interstate highway system and the space race.”
And it could create millions of well-paying jobs, especially in fields related to clean, renewable energy. That seems reasonable, when careers like wind turbine technician are already among the fastest growing in the nation. (Listen up, N.C. legislature.)
Under this public works plan, the U.S. would invest billions in roads and bridges — built to withstand the ravages of climate change; electric vehicles and public transit; homecare for the disabled and elderly; domestic manufacturing — to bolster the electric-battery industry, for one thing; affordable housing amd high-speed broadband — especially in rural communities; an improved power grid; upgrading and building public schools; and research and development, much of it delivered via the National Science Foundation.
Some will consider many items in Biden’s proposal to be peripheral, hardly in keeping with “infrastructure.” Others will note that investing in human infrastructure ensures that Americans are ready and prepared to go to work.
Another way to look at it is that improved roads accomplish little for the American people if children are still drinking water delivered through lead pipes.
And it’s more than a jobs plan — it offers the realization of a brighter future for America — and, through our leadership, for the world.
“I’m convinced that if we act now, in 50 years people are going to look back and say this is the moment when America won the future,” Biden said.
The proposal has received pushback, of course — as would anything Biden proposes, or anything this momentous. It’s notable that the plan has been criticized not only by his Republican colleagues, but also by Democrats who fear the plan isn’t ambitious enough.
But if it works, many will line up to take credit — even those who vote against it.
Some are also opposed to Biden’s plan to pay for his proposal by raising taxes on corporations, from 21% to 28% (which would still be lower than the 35% it was before the 2017 Republican tax cut). The plan also has provisions to keep corporations from avoiding taxes by moving their mailboxes overseas, and would close some other loopholes.
But it makes good sense to get the money from corporations. That’s where the money is. Corporate America is not hurting — it has continued to rack up record profits, even in the midst of a pandemic.
It’s certainly preferable to putting even more debt on the national credit card.
Infrastructure is, traditionally, a boring political topic. Paving roads and repairing bridges isn’t “sexy”; it doesn’t send boots to voting booths the way hot-button issues do.
But we sure notice potholes and asphalt patches on the roads — and crumbling school buildings and a patchy electrical grid.
The United States is lagging behind much of the industrialized world when it comes to maintaining the infrastructure that allows us to move goods and services — either on roads or electronically. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the U.S. infrastructure a grade of C-minus overall in March — but most of the categories were in the “D” range, which indicates that a “large portion of the system exhibits significant deterioration” and that many elements are “approaching the end of their service life.”
Both Republican and Democratic politicians have agreed for some time now that our infrastructure needs attention — they just haven’t agreed on how big to go or how to pay for it.
Biden’s plan will likely go through several revisions before it receives a vote, but we give him credit for presenting a project that’s both practical and forward-looking. It recalls an era of American expertise and pride on the world stage.