Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill is historic, not transformational

Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill is historic, not transformational

Washington The trillion-dollar infrastructure bill that President Joe Biden signed into law represents a historic achievement at a time when politics is deeply divided. But the compromises needed to bridge the policy gap suggest that spending may not be as transformative as Biden has promised the US economy.

Faced with weak support as the United States continues to slide through the pandemic and high inflation, the president has treated infrastructure as evidence that the government can function again. Ahead of Monday’s signing ceremony, he instructed his cabinet on Friday to strictly monitor upcoming investments in roads, bridges, water systems, broadband, ports, electric vehicles and the power grid to ensure they pay off.

“It’s tough, but we can still come together to get something big done for the American people,” Biden said. “It will create millions of new jobs. The economy will grow. We will win the global economic competition that we are participating in in the second quarter of the twenty-first century with China and many other countries around the world.”


Biden delayed signing the infrastructure agreement after it was passed on November 5 until lawmakers return from congressional recess and can join in a bipartisan event. Monday’s rally on the White House lawn will feature governors and mayors from both parties, labor leaders and businessmen. Sunday night before the signing, the White House announced that Mitch Landrieu, the former mayor of New Orleans, would coordinate the implementation of infrastructure spending.

The president kicked off his sale to the wider public with a trip last week to the port of Baltimore. He will travel to New Hampshire on Tuesday to visit a bridge on the state’s “red list” for repairs, and Detroit on Wednesday for a stop at General Motors’ electric car assembly plant.

In order to achieve a bipartisan deal, the president had to halve his initial ambition of spending $2.3 trillion on infrastructure. The bill that will become law Monday actually includes about $550 billion in new spending over 10 years, with some expenditures already planned in the package. However, the administration still viewed the bill as a national project with a wide range of investments and potential ways to improve people’s lives with clean drinking water and high-speed internet.


Historians, economists, and engineers interviewed by the Associated Press welcomed Biden’s efforts. But they stressed that $1 trillion was not nearly enough to overcome decades of government failure to maintain and modernize the country’s infrastructure. The policy essentially imposed a trade-off in terms of the potential impact not only on climate but also on the ability to outrun the rest of the world this century and remain the dominant economic power.

“We have to be vigilant here about our infrastructure gap in terms of investment level and dig deep into these eyes, and that this is not going to solve our infrastructure problems across the country,” said David Van Slick, dean of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.

Biden also tried unsuccessfully to tie the infrastructure package to passing a broader package of $1.85 trillion in proposed spending on households, health care and a shift to renewable energy that could help tackle climate change. This measure has not yet gained sufficient support from the narrow Democratic majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives. Biden continues to work to placate skeptics of the broader package such as Senator Joe Manchin, DW.Va. , while also sticking to the more liberal Democrats.


Bargaining over infrastructure showed Biden can still bring Democrats and Republicans together, even as tensions continue to rise over the January 6 attack on the US Capitol by Donald Trump supporters who mistakenly believe Biden was not a legitimately elected president. However, the result is a product that may not stand up to the existential threat of climate change or the transformative legacy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whose portrait hangs in the Biden Oval Office.

“Yes, the Infrastructure and Jobs Investment Act is a big deal,” said Peter Norton, professor of history in the University of Virginia’s Department of Engineering. “But the bill is not transformative, because most of it is very similar.”

Norton compared limited action on climate change to the beginning of World War II, when Roosevelt and Congress redirected the entire American economy after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Within two months, there was a ban on car production. Dealers did not have new cars to sell for four years as factories focused on weapons and war materiel. To conserve fuel consumption, a national speed limit of 35 mph has been introduced.


“The emergency we face today requires a similar emergency response,” Norton said.

For his part, Biden treated compromise as a necessity and a virtue. It is evidence for the rest of the world that democracies can function and resist the economic and technological rise of authoritarian China. When the deal with Republican senators was first announced in June, he suggested everyone had to give in a little in order to achieve the infrastructure deal that eluded former presidents Barack Obama and Trump.

Neither side got everything they wanted in this deal, Biden said at the time. “That’s what it means to waive.”

The agreement eventually garnered the support of 19 Republican senators, including Senate Republican Party leader Mitch McConnell. Thirteen House Republicans voted in favor of the infrastructure bill. An angry Trump issued a statement attacking McConnell’s “Old Crow” and other Republicans for collaborating on a “terrible Social Democratic infrastructure plan.”


McConnell says the country “absolutely needs” the new infrastructure money, but noted that he plans to skip Monday’s signing ceremony, telling WHAS Radio in Louisville, Kentucky, he has “other things” to do.

There are multiple ways to analyze the size of the infrastructure bill. White House aides focused their research on the historical standard for building the interstate highway system from 1957 to 1966. By that measure, Biden could rightly claim that an additional $550 billion in infrastructure spending would be more than twice the cost of the interstate system when modified. by inflation.

But the bill also addresses years of delayed repairs and removal of leaded water pipes, reflecting the fact that the government has failed to adequately fund infrastructure for several decades. Judging by the scale of the need, Biden’s spending is just beginning to fill a massive gap.

Yale University economist Ray Fair examined the size of the US infrastructure gap in a September paper. He found a sharp decline in infrastructure investment as a percentage of the total US economy starting in 1970, a trend that no other country shared, although some countries began investing less in infrastructure somewhat later.


Fair concluded, “The overall results therefore indicate that the United States became less forward-looking, and less concerned with future generations, beginning in 1970.” “This change is continuing.”

When Fair looked at Biden’s infrastructure bill, he examined the size of the shortfall if infrastructure investment continued at the pace of 1970. He found that Biden’s spending covered about 10% of the $5.2 trillion gap.

“The bottom line is that the current infrastructure bill is very modest,” Veer said.

Copyright 2021 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *