Biden administration unveils a sweeping $2 trillion infrastructure bill

Infrastructure Week is Here (No, Really)

Biden administration unveils a sweeping $2 trillion infrastructure bill

The Biden administration has specifically called out the Interstate 81 viaduct in Syracuse as being a historic infrastructure investment that led to the division and decline of an established Black neighborhood. The American Jobs Plan dedicates $20 billion to reconnecting communities bulldozed and blighted by highway projects. (jimcchouch/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

President Joe Biden is heading to Pittsburgh today to formally unveil the American Jobs Plan, an ambitious infrastructure proposal that not only sets out to change the way Americans live, work, learn, and get around town but also aims to reverse the damage inflicted on vulnerable communities by past infrastructural overhauls.

While many of the plan’s core goals, such as mending crumbling bridges and building out high-speed nationwide broadband enjoy broad bipartisan support, how exactly the eye-watering $2 trillion price tag will be funded is likely to receive pushback from Republican members of Congress and potentially from moderate Democrats as well.

Last month, Congress passed the Biden administration’s similarly all-encompassing $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, the American Rescue Plan, without a single Republican vote.

A 7 percent corporate tax hike from 21 percent to 28 percent will be the core source of funding for the American Jobs Plan. Previous to the sweeping tax cuts enacted by the Trump administration, the top tax rate for American corporations was set 14 percent higher than its current level, at 35 percent—the Biden White House’s bump to 28 percent brings the rate halfway to its pre-2017 level. Per NPR, the global minimum tax for U.S.-based multinational companies would also be increased to discourage offshoring and corporate loopholes would be closed while corporate tax scofflaws would be greeted with greater enforcement actions. Individual tax rates, including those for the wealthiest Americans, would not be increased under the proposal.

Per a 25-page summary released in advance of the proposal’s official unveiling, the American Jobs Plan envisions:

  • Using $213 billion to “produce, preserve, and retrofit more than two million affordable and sustainable places to live” including building and rehabilitating a half-million homes for low- and middle-income homebuyers.
  • Earmarking $100 billion for the modernization and construction of new public schools with an additional $25 billion being dedicated to upgrading child care facilities and $12 billion more for improving community college infrastructure.
  • Taking care of American veterans through an $18 billion investment in Veterans Affairs-operated hospitals and clinics; an additional $10 billion would go toward the modernization, sustainability, and resilience of federal buildings.
  • Dedicating north of $300 billion to improve drinking water infrastructure ($111 billion), enhance the country’s lagging digital infrastructure by expanding a high-speed nationwide broadband network ($100 billion), and repair the flailing American electric grid ($100 billion) while generating millions of new jobs focused on green energy, resilience, and conservation.
  • Setting aside an additional $50 billion in building out infrastructure resilience as a means of safeguarding critical resources and services while defending vulnerable communities during natural disasters and other events.
  • Putting $400 billion toward “expanding access to quality, affordable home- or community-based care for aging relatives and people with disabilities.”
  • Investing $580 billion in American manufacturing, research and development, and job training initiatives.

And last but not least, the bill proposes $621 billion in transportation infrastructure-related repairs and renovations, including $115 billion dedicated to fixing 20,000 miles of highways and roads and 10,000 bridges. As for bridges, the proposal would fund much-needed repairs at the ten most “economically significant bridges in the country in need of reconstruction.” Aging and overwhelmed airports ($25 billion), ports and waterways ($17 billion), and public transit systems ($85 billion) would also benefit and a total of $174 billion would be used to boost the domestic electric vehicle market.

What’s more, $20 billion would be dedicated to expanding and improving existing road safety programs while funding a new Safe Streets For All program. An additional $20 billion would be used to kick-start an initiative aiming to reconnect urban communities—largely communities of color—divided and thrown into decline by previous transportation investments a la I-81 in Syracuse, New York, and the Claiborne Expressway in New Orleans, both of which are called out in the proposal. The funding will also ensure that new projects set out to “increase opportunity, advance racial equity and environmental justice, and promote affordable access.”

Reads the proposal summary:

“The United States of America is the wealthiest country in the world, yet we rank 13th when it comes to the overall quality of our infrastructure. After decades of disinvestment, our roads, bridges, and water systems are crumbling. Our electric grid is vulnerable to catastrophic outages. Too many lack access to affordable, high-speed Internet and to quality housing. The past year has led to job losses and threatened economic security, eroding more than 30 years of progress in women’s labor force participation. It has unmasked the fragility of our caregiving infrastructure. And, our nation is falling behind its biggest competitors on research and development (R&D), manufacturing, and training. It has never been more important for us to invest in strengthening our infrastructure and competitiveness, and in creating the good-paying, union jobs of the future.”

The summary adds that “… unlike past major investments, the plan prioritizes addressing long-standing and persistent racial injustice” and targets “40 percent of the benefits of climate and clean infrastructure investments to disadvantaged communities.”

The selection of Pittsburgh to unveil the American Jobs Plan is, of course, a highly symbolic and somewhat provocative one. Once famous as a bastion of blue-collar values, the formerly soot-covered industrial powerhouse has successfully reinvented itself as a leading technology and innovation hub with an overriding emphasis on building a greener, cleaner future.

The White House estimates that, if passed with the proposed corporate tax hikes in place, the ten-year American Jobs Plan would be fully paid for within the next 15 years and reduce the deficit during the following years.

A complementary, social infrastructure-focused proposal with a similar price tag, the American Families Plan, is expected to be made public by the White House in the coming weeks.