As President Biden quickly approaches the milestone of his first one hundred days in office, one big policy question looms: will the Biden Administration be able to pass his signature infrastructure bill?
The bill, called The American Jobs Plan, is an ambitious infrastructure package set to rebuild key aspects of American infrastructure, from highways to bridges, but also to improve water quality, schools and hospitals. The plan also sets in place numerous job opportunities for Americans within the infrastructure projects and many long-term employment opportunities in the clean energy and green infrastructure sector.
The plan, which costs approximately $2 trillion, has been a long time coming, with numerous former presidents hoping to pass infrastructure legislation with varying degrees of success. Biden says the new plan is to repair and rebuild American infrastructure that has fallen into disrepair after years of neglect. Biden hopes to bring American infrastructure on par with that of other countries such as Canada, Australia and many European countries. American infrastructure has been so inadequate that the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the nation’s infrastructure a rating of a C- and an estimate of repairs costing $2.6 trillion over the next ten years.
The large price tag of the Biden administration’s infrastructure package has led to criticism that the cost is not sustainable. However, according to a poll by NBC News, the proposal is popular amongst the majority of the population, with 53% of Americans saying that they support the infrastructure package.
The extensive bill invests in numerous aspects of American society. The core of the bill is investment in transportation systems, which includes $621 billion to improve highways, trains and railways, airports and bridges. Biden has goals of making transportation easier, safer and more environmentally friendly. One critical aspect of this project is reconnecting neighborhoods divided by highways and reimagining current transportation infrastructure to promote economic growth, racial equality and more environmentally friendly neighborhoods. By doing this, the American Jobs Plan hopes to promote environmental justice and support vulnerable communities. Additionally, the American Jobs Plan includes $100 billion for future research and development, an aspect that Biden says is crucial for helping the U.S. remain a competitor on the world stage on issues such as the climate crisis. According to the White House, “The President’s plan will inspire basic research, like advanced pavements that recycle carbon dioxide, and ‘future proof’ investments that will last decades to leave coming generations with a safe, equitable, and sustainable transportation system.”
The plan also allocates around $400 billion and $213 billion to home care services and housing, respectively. These investments will allow for greater support to those on Medicaid or on the waiting list for Medicaid, as well as support for home health workers and the people they serve. Investments in housing will lead to more energy-efficient and affordable housing.
The plan sets aside $100 billion for improving internet access across the country, and $111 billion has been allocated to improving water systems, including in rural areas. A crucial aspect of this is Biden’s goal to replace all lead pipes across the country, which would help reduce lead exposure for millions of people.
For students and young adults, a particularly noteworthy aspect of the bill is the $100 billion invested in workforce development, part of which includes numerous job training programs, career pathway programs for middle and high school students, and community college programs. Biden also plans on investing $100 billion in schools across the country, including $12 billion for community colleges.
A key pillar of the American Jobs Plan is a powerful response to the climate crisis, and Biden has touted the plan as a crucial aspect of America’s fight against climate change. In addition to the numerous investments in eco-friendly infrastructure and environmental justice initiatives, the American Jobs Plan sets standards for coal and gas electricity use in corporations as a way to mitigate carbon emissions.
Although the cost of the American Jobs Plan is staggering, the Biden administration insists the proposal can be paid for sustainably. The plan mainly calls for investment through means such as raising the corporate tax rate by 7%, as well as other strong taxes on corporations and tax minimums for large corporations.
Both Democrats and Republicans believe that America’s infrastructure requires serious investment; however, the question of how much money to spend and where to spend it is causing great divisions between the two parties.
Republicans believe that the bill is simply too expensive, and many fear that the corporate tax hikes could scare away business. Even Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia has been skeptical of the plan, adding that the corporate tax rates are too high and expressing that other Democrats have concerns as well. As a rebuttal, some Republicans have created their own infrastructure bill, which calls for $568 billion to be spent on various infrastructure projects. The plan has been criticized by Democrats for its lack of support for climate change and social justice measures. However, Republicans have added that they are open to negotiations, and over the past few weeks, the White House has hosted bipartisan groups of lawmakers to discuss infrastructure.
A key argument that Democrats have been using to promote the plan is that failing to invest now will only lead to more expensive fixes later. According to the White House press release on the matter, “Last year alone, the United States faced 22 extreme weather and climate-related disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each — a cumulative price tag of nearly $100 billion. Chronic underinvestment in resilience has harmed American transportation infrastructure, disrupting service, making travel conditions unsafe, causing severe damage, and increasing maintenance and operating costs.”
Although there is skepticism about the proposal, the Biden administration hopes to pursue a bipartisan solution and is open to negotiations; however, Biden insists that something must be done immediately to address this critical issue that former administrations have swept aside.
On April 8, President Biden continued on his message that long-term investment was key to American infrastructure. According to NPR, Biden added that “We don’t just fix for today, we build for tomorrow. Two hundred years ago, trains weren’t traditional infrastructure either until America made a choice to lay down tracks across the country. Highways weren’t traditional infrastructure until we allowed ourselves to imagine that roads could connect our nation across state lines.”