Biden’s $1T infrastructure bill historic, not transformative

WASHINGTON , The $1 Trillion infrastructure bill signed into law by President Joe Biden is a landmark achievement in a time of deep divisions in politics. The compromises required to reconcile the political divide indicate that the spending may not be as transformative for the U.S. Economy as Biden promised.

Biden’s $1T infrastructure bill historic, not transformative

WASHINGTON , The $1 Trillion infrastructure bill signed into law by President Joe Biden is a landmark achievement in a time of deep divisions in politics. The compromises required to reconcile the political divide indicate that the spending may not be as transformative for the U.S. Economy as Biden promised.

The president has seen infrastructure as proof of government's ability to function again, despite the fact that the U.S. is struggling through a pandemic as well as increasing inflation. He instructed his Cabinet to monitor the future investments in roads and bridges, power grid, broadband, ports, broadband, water systems, and electric vehicles, to make sure they are successful.

Biden stated, "It's difficult, but we can still work together to do something important for the American people." It will create millions more jobs. It will boost the economy. We'll win the global economic competition with China and other countries in the second quarter.

After the deal passed on Nov. 5, Biden waited to sign it until lawmakers returned from recess so that they could participate in a big bipartisan event. The White House announced that Mitch Landrieu (the former mayor of New Orleans) would coordinate the spending on infrastructure.

On Monday, the White House lawn will be host to governors and mayors from both political parties as well as labor and business leaders. The president will be welcoming Republicans, including Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy. Maine Sen. Susan Collins. New York Rep. Tom Reed. Alaska Rep. Don Young. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.

The president started the process of selling it the wider public with , a visit last week to Baltimore. On Tuesday, he'll visit New Hampshire to inspect a bridge that's on the state's "redlist" for repairs. Wednesday will see him travel to Detroit to stop at General Motors’ electric vehicle assembly plant.

To reach a bipartisan agreement, the president had more than half of his original $2.3 trillion infrastructure spending goal cut. Since some of the spending in the package had already been planned, the bill that became law Monday actually includes $550 billion in new spending over 10 year. The administration views the bill as a federal project that includes a wide range of investments and potential ways to improve the lives of people with clean drinking water, high-speed Internet and other benefits.

Interviews with historians, engineers and economists by The Associated Press praised Biden's efforts. They also stressed that $1 trillion wasn't enough to reverse decades of government failure to upgrade and maintain the nation's infrastructure. Politics forced a compromise in terms of possible impact on climate and ability to outpace other countries this century while remaining the economic leader.

"We have to be realistic about where our infrastructure gaps are in terms of level of investment and we need to see that it is not going solve our infrastructure problems across this country," stated David Van Slyke of Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

Biden tried unsuccessfully to link the infrastructure package to a larger package of $1.85 trillion in spending on families, health care, and a shift towards renewable energy to address climate change. The Senate and House have not given enough support to this measure from their narrow Democratic majority. Biden is still working to appease the critics of the larger package, such as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), while also retaining the most liberal Democrats.

Even though tensions continue to build over the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, by Trump supporters who falsely believed that Biden had not been legitimately elected president, the haggling over infrastructure has demonstrated that Biden can still bring together Democrats as well as Republicans. The result might not be able to meet the existential threat from climate change, or the transformative legacy left by Franklin Delano Roosevelt (whose portrait hangs in Biden’s Oval Office).

Peter Norton, a historian in the University of Virginia’s engineering department, stated that "Yes, Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act” is a significant deal. "But, the bill isn't transformational because it mostly consists of more of the same."

Norton compared the lack of action on climate change with the beginning of World War II when Roosevelt and Congress reoriented America's entire economy following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Within two months, auto production was stopped. Four years later, dealers were unable to sell new cars because factories were focusing on war materiel and weapons. A 35 mph national speed limit was established to reduce fuel consumption.

Norton stated, "The emergency that we face today warrants an equivalent emergency response."

Biden, for his part has viewed compromise as both a necessity (and a virtue). It is a signal to the rest the world that democracies are capable of functioning and counters the rise of an authoritarian China in technology and economic terms. He noted that all parties had to sacrifice a bit in order to reach an infrastructure agreement that was impossible to achieve with former presidents Barack Obama or Trump.

Biden stated that neither side received everything they wanted in the deal. "That's what compromise looks like."

19 Senate Republicans supported the agreement, including Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell. Thirteen House Republicans voted in favor of the infrastructure bill. Trump was furious and issued a statement criticizing McConnell, Old Crow, and other Republicans for their cooperation on the "terrible Democrat Socialist Infrastructure Plan."

McConnell said that the country "desperately requires" the new infrastructure money, but he indicated that he will skip Monday's signing ceremony. He told WHAS radio in Louisville that he had "other things to do."

There are many ways to analyze the size of the infrastructure bill. White House staffers based their research on the historical benchmark of the construction of the interstate highway network between 1957 and 1966. Biden can claim that an additional $550 billion of infrastructure spending would more than double the cost for the highway system if adjusted for inflation.

The bill addresses decades of deferred repairs as well as the removal of lead water lines. This is a reflection of the fact that infrastructure funding has been inadequately funded by the government for many decades. Biden's spending, judging by the enormity of the need is only a small part of closing a huge gap.

Ray Fair, a Yale University economist, examined the size of America's infrastructure gap in a September paper. The sharp decline in infrastructure investments as a percentage of the U.S. overall economy began in 1970. This trend was shared by all other countries, although some countries did invest less in infrastructure later.

Fair concluded that "the overall results suggest that the United States became less futur-oriented and less concerned about future generations" around 1970. This change has persisted.

Fair examined Biden’s infrastructure bill and calculated the amount of the shortfall if infrastructure investments continued at their 1970 pace. Biden's spending was about 10% of the $5.2 trillion gap.

Fair stated, "The bottom line is that current infrastructure bills are quite modest."

Updated Date: 15 November 2021, 15:12

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