It’s the Debt, It’s the Deficit!

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A bipartisan group of legislators has designed an infrastructure plan across party lines. In order to accomplish this miracle almost everything in the plan that Democrats wanted had to be removed. “There is no such thing as human infrastructure.” “We will not accept a bill that addresses climate change.” Republicans will not raise taxes on the wealthy to pay for the plan and Democrats will not raise taxes on anyone else, so the ‘pay-fors’ are probably inadequate to the costs.

All the Sunday morning shows are screaming about our national debts and deficits as we knew would happen. With the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 Americans have sent tons of dollars to people who were already wealthier than most of us can imagine. These rich people, it was assumed would turn America back into the manufacturing hub that it was fifty or sixty years ago, before communist countries fell for capitalism (if not democracy). That wasn’t what happened. These companies will not pay American workers what they are worth. They will eventually have to pay Asian and African workers more, but that time has not come. Our new capitalist buddy nations do not have lots of environmental laws that must be obeyed. The debt in America went sky high, even if we did just borrow from ourselves. Strike one on our debt level goes to Republicans. What did the nation get for it? Little to nothing besides a booming stock market which benefited the same people as the Tax Cuts.

Then along came the pandemic. Republicans insisted that states should not close, that this was no worse than the flu, that people should keep going to work and school while hospitals had to close their doors and treat only covid patients who were deathly ill. States that chose not to close kept attracting tourists to take the pandemic back to states that closed down. Businesses in closed states were irate with their governors. But when Republicans encouraged people to ignore basic health precautions like wearing a mask because their freedoms were being violated, when they turned pandemic deniers into “freedom fighters” in a useless war on reality, bullies who not only refused to mask up but who beat up on people who did, Republicans prolonged the pandemic and hurt the economy in ways we may never be able to calculate. Strike Two. Our debts from the pandemic I also lay at the feet of the Republicans who did not even want to pass the relief bills to keep America and Americans afloat.

So we do have a lot of debt and very few ways to pay for it unless we raise taxes on the wealthy, which we cannot accomplish with this Congress. Fortunately most of this debt we owe to ourselves. 

Infrastructure plans are job makers, economy boosters, and help us avoid expensive disasters. All our debts so far have offered few long term benefits to most Americans. The money we gave the wealthy has flown the coop to line offshore bank accounts and Swiss bank vaults, to buy yachts and houses and swimming pools and Rolexes and ski trips and fine dining at classy private hotels and on and on. Pandemic dollars simply kept Americans afloat, allowed them to pay rents and feed their children when they couldn’t work. Infrastructure dollars are different. They are injections into the future economic success of America.

This week a pedestrian bridge collapsed onto a highway in our nation’s capital, and a condo, full of wealthy people who could afford to live on a barrier island in Florida where they felt safe, collapsed in eleven minutes, The Washington Post reports. Layer on layer of concrete and steel looking like a horrific pile of pancakes, like a picture of the blitz in England. We mourn but we do not heed the warnings. Do we think that’s the end of infrastructure failures? Well we hope it is, but doesn’t that barrier island flood during tropical rains? That is salt water, a very corrosive liquid which could be undermining more of those buildings constructed improbably on top of columns to allow underground parking. In fact this could be happening all along our coastlines. Can we afford to allow people to continue to live and work in these areas? Should we abandon coastal developments and turn our beaches back into zones where nature can adjust naturally to climate changes? We know this should happen but it is unlikely to happen. People will fight to keep their proximity to oceans and lakes and rivers. Will we keep paying to restore these properties? Will we factor in a certain amount of death and destruction and get used to grief as we have with mass shootings and inner city killings (which are not always limited to inner cities these days).

It is time to spend some money on infrastructure, both physical and human, but it may end up being too little too late, as it always is when Republicans (conservatives) make cuts just to be able to boast about the money they saved. America will go through many changes in the next decades as the world heats up and the ice caps melt, as the oceans rise and the weather gets more extreme. This infrastructure plan does not even address some of the ways we can prepare for the future, for an electrical grid which is adequate to everyone’s needs, for fresh water that will flow to all Americans, to moving populations to more livable areas. This plan, should it pass, just beefs up what we already have. 

After Joe Biden tried to calm Democrats by making the deal into a two-fer, saying that he would veto the infrastructure deal unless he also got a deal on human infrastructure; after the Republicans and the media exploded and almost undid the work of the bipartisan committee; after Joe Biden walked back any intention to make one bill dependent on the other; can the bipartisan plan still pass?

Ask Mitch McConnell. If the Democrats are allowed to get an Infrastructure plan through Congress, bipartisan or not, will it hurt Republicans in the 2022 election. This is not really about money. This is about power and who wins it in the next election. However, the real question is, can the Republicans win the next election if they don’t pass this Infrastructure bill which has been tailor-made for the Republican Party?

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