For four years, former President Donald Trump promised an infrastructure proposal that never appeared. President Joe Biden has now rolled out a plan with a more than $2 trillion price tag. Stakeholders should resist trying to score immediate political points and consider instead how to stop the United States from crumbling into ruins.
Usually government-funded infrastructure refers to things like roads, bridges, railroad tracks and airports. The United States has skimped on it for decades. Willingness to fund massive projects like the interstate highway system in the 1950s gave way to an unwillingness to fund almost anything.
Japan has bullet trains. China has new airports. We have broken bridges, potholes, blackouts and a last-century rail system.
The Biden administration’s new proposal would fund all types of transportation projects, including electric vehicle charging stations, rebuilt and expanded water systems and ubiquitous broadband. Public schools, veterans hospitals and public housing would be modernized.
Some Republicans have derided inclusion of what they call a Democratic wish list. The plan includes universal pre-K education, free community colleges, caregiving for seniors and people with disabilities, and oil and gas site cleanup.
Those expenditures aren’t normally thought of as infrastructure, and they would add billions to the bill’s cost. But opposition to those kinds of costs misses the point.
This bill is titled the American Jobs Plan because millions of jobs, from manual labor to advanced engineering, would be involved. COVID-19 should have taught us that workers can’t be on the job if they don’t have the backing of infrastructure in the form of education, childcare and help with family members who cannot take care of themselves.
A more productive workforce makes as much economic sense as does a more efficient train system. Including all types of infrastructure in a proposal this large also makes sense.
The infrastructure needs of the U.S. cannot be met by states and private enterprise, at least not on the scale required. This is a job only the federal government can do. It is also a job that taxpayers, especially corporations that profit most from a modern infrastructure, should be willing to pay for.
The usual suspects rolled out opposition almost before the president officially announced the contents of the bill. Kneejerk rejections aren’t the proper response to a proposal this large, this complex and this necessary.
All elected officials should take seriously the consideration and vigorous debate this bill requires. America’s infrastructure, the nation’s businesses and the citizens who rely on both need the nation’s senators and representatives to do their work, not just play politics.
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