Are These So Called 'Roads' And 'Bridges' Even Infrastructure, Joe Biden?
Photo by Ed Schipul (2006), Creative Commons license 2.0

President Joe Biden formally unveiled his big infrastructure bill yesterday, touting the $2 trillion package of infrastructure projects as a way to create an assload of good jobs, to move the American economy toward green energy and economic equality, and of course to fix America's run-down roads, bridges, railways, and other physical infrastructure. It's called the American Jobs Plan, and it's pretty darned ambitious! What's more, it's just the first part of Biden's plan for making the economy fairer for everyone: The second half will focus on "human infrastructure" like childcare, education, and suchlike, and it will drop in a few weeks. That one will be called the American Family Plan, and we have to compliment whoever's coming up with the names for these proposals for keeping them simple and direct. It's a pretty good American Branding Plan.

For a detailed look at what's in the proposal, take a look at the administration's fact sheet, which not only details what's in each part of the package, but also why we need it. USA Today also has a very clear overview, too. We won't try to hit everything here, just some of the stuff that really got our attention.

For starters, there's the roads-n-bridges stuff that automatically comes to mind when you say "infrastructure." That includes $115 billion for fixing the roads and bridges that are in the saddest shape, with projects prioritized by decrepitude. Beyond that, the bill allocates $85 billion for modernizing public transportation, and $80 billion to finally address a long long list of repairs that Amtrak has been waiting to get funded.

The administration will also build social justice into its infrastructure plans, with an eye to redressing transportation policy that has hurt communities of color (think of all those neighborhoods divided by freeways). That extends to the modernization of public transit, since as the fact sheet notes, "Households that take public transportation to work have twice the commute time, and households of color are twice as likely to take public transportation." In a very real way, crappy public transit creates and maintains inequality.

Other funding will go to make the places we live safer and more sustainable — energy savings and the switch to a green economy are built into all parts of the bill. There's $213 billion for building or retrofitting some two million buildings, including 500,000 new or rehabbed units of housing that will be affordable for middle- and lower-income families. New or remodeled schools that will be more energy efficient will get $100 billion, and there's also other funding to upgrade public housing, remodel Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics, and clean up pollution at old oil wells and coal mines.

Also, how's this for an idea: $111 billion to ensure that all Americans have clean, safe water. Included in that will be the replacement of all lead water pipes in the country. ALL of them, finally.

Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-South Carolina) will also be very glad to see the plan includes $100 billion to make affordable broadband available across the country, because however much we hate Twitter, being online is just plain necessary for doing modern life.

And then there's all the cool green stuff! $174 billion to make widespread adoption of electric vehicles possible. That includes building a network of 500,000 EV fast-charging stations across the country, eliminating one of the biggest deterrents to EV use. Plus electric buses for transit fleets, and moving as quickly as possible to electrify the federal government's huge fleet of vehicles, including postal delivery vans (doing that will also give automakers a guaranteed market and spur EV development to meet it). And yes, there'll be tax incentives and rebates for people buying EVs too.

But wait! There's more! $400 billion to improve caregiving for elderly people and folks with disabilities, including funding to expand a Medicaid program that makes community-based care available, and to eliminate a backlog that has kept people from getting the care they qualify for. The plan would also improve caregiver pay: The work is primarily done by women of color, with an average wage of just $12 an hour.

Finally, there's an assload of money for research and development in clean energy tech, plus $100 billion for worker training. The whole thing would be paid for by rolling back part of the Trump tax cuts, which also upsets Republicans, because it would be better to pay for infrastructure by repealing Obamacare and most of Medicaid too, probably.

This is all good stuff, so of course a lot of Republicans are pretending that anything that isn't a road or a bridge isn't really infrastructure. Take South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem. Please!

I was on a call with the White House today with all the governors talking about the specifics of this package, and I was shocked by how much doesn't go into infrastructure. It goes into research and development, it goes into housing and pipes and different initiatives, green energy, and it really is not an honest conversation we're having.

Yes, Governor, it really isn't an honest conversation we're having.

According to Noem (and the rest of the Republicans suddenly spewing the same talking point), pipes are suddenly not infrastructure, and neither are a lot of the physical things in the world, because it's very important to pretend that everything a Democratic president does is wasteful, as if there will be no economic benefit from preventing lead poisoning in American children. No More Mr. Nice Blog points out that Noem may sound especially clueless — pipes not infrastructure? — but she has a LOT of company, like Sean Hannity complaining that Amtrak isn't infrastructure, and neither are schools or hospitals, especially not if you blow that money on making them energy efficient. We have more coal than we know what to do with, after all.

Newsmax also fixates on the $650 billion in spending for roads, bridges, ports, and stuff, declaring everything else Not Infrastructure, including the freaking power grid. And then there's Breitbart, which dismisses the entire plan with scare quotes around "Infrastructure," listing the main items in the bill and suggesting that not even railroads count.

It's almost enough to make us call for some spending to overhaul our public discourse. America's logic infrastructure is in terrible shape!

[USA Today / American Jobs Plan fact sheet / NYT / No More Mr. Nice Blog / Photo by Ed Schipul, Creative Commons license 2.0]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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