"Two years ago, I began my campaign here in Pittsburgh, saying I was running to rebuild the backbone of America," President Joe Biden said Wednesday at the unveiling of the first part of his infrastructure plan. "And today, I return as your President to lay out the vision of how I believe we do that—rebuild the backbone of America." In his speech, Biden centered jobs and the people who will occupy them, as well as his intent to "rebuild the middle class. We're going to bring everybody along," he said. "Regardless of your background, your color, your religion, everybody gets to come along."
Biden wasn't reticent about placing this proposal in history: "It’s a once-in-a generation investment in America, unlike anything we’ve seen or done since we built the Interstate Highway System and the Space Race decades ago." A couple of bigwig CEOs agree. Bernard L. Schwartz, CEO of BLS Investments, and David Rothkopf, CEO of the Rothkopf Group, write in USA Today: "It is not however, just a jobs plan. It is also a growth plan. Investing in infrastructure increases productivity and attracts additional investment." They point out that economists with S&P have estimated that this hard infrastructure plan, coupled with the "soft" infrastructure plan that is forthcoming, could "inject $5.7 trillion into the U.S. economy and raise per capita income by $2,400."
In what must be making Donald Trump gnash his dentures, that S&P bullishness showed Friday with big stock gains: "The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 64 points, or 0.2%, to 33,045, and the S&P 500 jumped 0.72% to cross 4,000 for the first time. The Nasdaq rose 1.48%." That's what happens in a real infrastructure week.
As Schwartz and Rothkopf explain, those gains are in spite of Biden's plan to rescind Trump's tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy. Because the outlays are spread out over eight years, the annual spending falls at less than $300 billion a year, paid for with those higher tax rates—from 21% to 28% with companies losing the ability to set up overseas shell companies and required to pay taxes on foreign earnings. Biden would also end tax breaks for fossil fuel companies, and focus IRS audits on corporations. "Focusing on the size of the investment is misleading when you consider the high cost of not making it." Swartz and Rothkpf write. "The president of the American Society of Civil Engineers has estimated that on average over the next 20 years, the cost of not fixing our infrastructure will amount to $3,300 per person."
It's those tax hikes that have Mitch McConnell and his Republican pals (and a few Democrats) declaring war. McConnell rejected it before it was fully unveiled. "Unfortunately, this looks like it's not going to head in the direction that I had hoped," McConnell said at an event in Kentucky on Monday. "My advice to the administration is, if you want to do an infrastructure bill, let's do an infrastructure bill. Let's not turn it into a massive effort to raise taxes on businesses and individuals."
Just like he was on the wrong side of the wildly popular American Rescue Plan for COVID-19 relief, he's on the wrong side of this one. A Morning Consult/Politico poll shows people are absolutely fine with taxes being raised on people making $400,000 a year and corporations—54%, in fact, including 52% of independents. In fact, 57% of voters said "they would be more likely to support Biden's plan if it includes taxes on those high-earners." Meanwhile, a plurality of Republicans (42%) say that they want infrastructure improvements but don't think taxes should be raised to do it. They presumably think starving elderly, disabled, and poor people is a better plan, as usual.
The plan is getting high marks from Amy Stelly of New Orleans, too. Why does that matter? Here's the beginning of her story: "Since she moved back home to Tremé almost a decade ago, Amy Stelly has waged a campaign for the removal of a highway that cuts through her New Orleans neighborhood." She had a hard time getting local leaders and neighbors on board, because "Nobody thinks you can get rid of a highway," she said.
But on Wednesday, the White House called out that highway, the Claiborne Expressway, as an example of the historic inequity Biden's intends to address in his infrastructure plan. Stelly was "floored," she told The Washington Post when they called for her response. Until that call, she didn't know her efforts had been recognized. "I'm thrilled to hear President Biden would call out the Claiborne Expressway as a racist highway." Biden's team has earmarked $20 billion in this plan to "reconnect" the neighborhoods destroyed by old transportation projects.
"This plan is important not only for what and how it builds, but also important to where we build," Biden said in Pittsburgh. "It includes everyone, regardless of your race or your zip code. Too often, economic growth and recovery is concentrated on the coast. Too often, investments have failed to meet the needs of marginalized communities left behind."
This fact sheet from the White House provides the top lines of the plan. It's about $2 trillion worth of plans to provide jobs, tackle climate change, and replace the nation's crumbling infrastructure. It would do everything from creating a grid of electric car charging stations across the country to replacing every lead water pipe. By 2030, every American could have access to high-speed internet in their home and as many as 2 million homes and housing units would be constructed, renovated, or retrofitted to be safe, connected, and energy efficient.
The largest chunk of funding would go to traditional infrastructure: $621 billion for transportation including roads, bridges, ports, airports, public transit, and electric vehicle charging stations. It would "will modernize 20,000 miles of highways, roads, and main-streets," the White House says, and "will fix the ten most economically significant bridges in the country in need of reconstruction. It also will repair the worst 10,000 smaller bridges, providing critical linkages to communities. And, it will replace thousands of buses and rail cars, repair hundreds of stations, renew airports, and expand transit and rail into new communities."
Biden ended his speech Wednesday with an appeal to Republicans, because he had to no matter how much of an exercise in futility it is. "Historically, infrastructure had been a bipartisan undertaking, many times led by Republicans," he said. "It was Abraham Lincoln who built the transcontinental railroad. Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican—the Interstate Highway System." He's approaching this like COVID-19 relief plan, saying he will "bring Republicans into the Oval Office; listen to them, what they have to say; and be open to other ideas. We'll have a good-faith negotiation with any Republican who wants to help get this done. But we have to get it done."