Infrastructure Bill in Trouble

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A question being asked over and over is will any Republicans vote for Biden’s Infrastructure Bill? There are plenty of other questions. Will Biden tone down the bill in the hopes of making it bipartisan? What will Biden have to put in or get rid of to get Joe Manchin (D-WV) to vote for the Infrastructure Bill. 

Can we risk raising the deficit? Will this bill really jump start the economy? Will this bill offer Americans large numbers of good-paying jobs? Will corporations flee if we raise corporate taxes? Will we see inflation, or even out-of-control inflation? 

Do we take out all the clean energy sections of the bill because Republicans refuse to accept that climate change is real, that humans can affect climate, and that climate crises are on the way if we don’t mend our ways? 

Does racial inequality affect our economy? Does the lack of racial equality affect our national psyche and justify spending to achieve racial justice? Isn’t there just a plain old morality aspect to this initiative also? Democrats can see that racial inequality could be a fatal flaw that eventually ends our democracy. Why can’t Republicans?

It is disheartening to accept that Republicans and Democrats have opposite answers to all of these questions. Even the American people are not as divided on many sections of the Infrastructure Bill as our Senators and Representatives are. In polls most Americans like the Infrastructure Bill.

Democrats Have the Con

Technically Democrats may have the con but Republicans are still calling the shots. They are suddenly very concerned about the deficit, which Trump began exploding during his chaotic term in office. 

Republicans don’t think government should fix highways, or tackle racial justice or the needs of America’s children and parents in a culture where both parents work or where there are many single parents. They say that all of these things should be done by private businesses, although private business has never shown any serious interest in taking on these services, or has done it in ways that offer only low-paying jobs, that don’t encourage quality outcomes or provide a living wage. So, Republicans are intent on killing the Infrastructure Bill or limiting it to fixing highways, bridges, and roads. Getting the lead out of our cities is a bridge too far for the GOP.

Biden is constantly chided in the media for promising to be bipartisan and then finding ways to pass bills with only Democrat votes. Infrastructure is a bill that could be passed under the reconciliation process because it is a bill that affects the budget. But now Biden also has a Joe Manchin problem and the majority the Democrats have in the Senate is so thin that one person can ditch the entire bill. Biden can only be bipartisan by abandoning his mission.

Why We Should Say Yes to the Infrastructure Bill

I am no economic genius but I believe America needs this bill to pass right now. Without it Americans who have been hurt the most by the pandemic, Americans who have lost their jobs, whose jobs may not come back, will be set adrift, unable to afford mortgages or rent or child care or even a car to get the family to work and grocery stores and pharmacies and doctors.

The corporate world has done well during this recession. CEO pay rose and the stock market has made big gains. Only people who are already wealthy benefitted from gains like this. We are already losing our middle class. We are already becoming a nation of the very rich or the very poor, and the very rich say that it is poor people’s fault that they are poor. There are no actual studies that prove that poor folks are responsible for their own poverty but rich folks find it liberating to believe it.

Since the GOP and common sense tells us that there must be some ‘pay-fors’ to offset the costs of such a pricy bill, the only place we have to look to is taxes. Taxes will have to go up. The current tax structure favors corporations whose tax rate went from 35% to 21%, which I considered obscene at the time. We already had a large gap in wealth equality in America and we made it bigger. What sense does that make? The theory was that those at the top would spread the wealth and invest in America, but the stock market dictated that corporations would invest their windfall in their stockholders and their own infrastructure. Companies did not come rushing back to America either.

So in yesterday’s Washington Post, corporations, of course, came down against any raise in their tax rate. They don’t feel any responsibility to help pay for new, updated infrastructure or to prop up the consumer class. A bit short-sighted to neglect your customers in a capitalist system, wouldn’t you agree?

Wealthy people in the world, not just America, have become like those hoarders you see on TV, except they are hoarding money, stashing it in vaults, in offshore accounts, just to see it pile up and to glory in the fact that they own it. I don’t see what good this sequestered cash does for anyone. How many yachts can one person own? Will they ever hoard enough money or gold or gems to make them feel secure about their future wealth. What fun will it be to own all that cash if the world is falling apart around you? Gluttony for any commodity is a sin. Watching this hoarding is painful when clearly it would give more pleasure to a hoarder who did something world altering with their riches. Spend some of your cash to make America or the planet better and it will lift your spirits. It will hardly put a dent in your wealth if you are astute about it.

What’s in the Infrastructure Bill

According to npr.com, not all of the $2 trillion in the bill is accounted for, but here are the key numbers.

$115 billion to repair and rebuild bridges, highways, roads

$100 billion to expand high-speed broadband across the entire nation

$100 billion to upgrade and build new schools

$100 billion to expand and improve power lines and spur shifts to clean energy

That’s only $413 billion.

NPR tells us that there are also embedded plans to fund efforts to build out clean energy infrastructure

And to advance the US economy to compete with China

There are plans to improve “Human Infrastructure” to be introduced a bit later which include spending on education, childcare and other social programs.

$174 billion

Fund a Climate Conservation Corps for conservation projects, projects in environmental justice, to catalyze shift from gas to electric vehicles.

Rebates and tax incentives for car buyers to buy electric.

Pay for transition of thousands of transit and school buses from diesel to electric.

Incentives for state and local charging stations.

To speed up private investments in clean energy

Racial Justice

Replace all lead pipes.

$85 Million to expand and improve mass transit

$20 Billion to reconnect urban neighborhoods cut off, bulldozed, or blighted by highway development.

I realize these amounts do not add up to $2 Trillion.

How does Biden Intend to Pay for All This

Raise corporate taxes from Trump cut levels of 21% to 28% (they used to be 35%).

Raise global minimum tax for US multinational corporations (stop shifting profits to tax havens).

In Conclusion

American citizens should fight for this bill to pass. They should be in favor of keeping the bill intact. We should let the Democrats have the con instead of allowing Republicans to remain in control through opposition. How will we even know which party has the best ideas if we don’t try the Democrats’ way. There will not be a better time to find out than right now when we need stimulus the most. Many Americans never recovered from the Great Recession and then they got hit with the pandemic. Pass the bill, lift people back up into the middle class. They promise that they will become good little consumers, they will buy stuff once again, although they may be more careful consumers.

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