Biden seeks a new view of infrastructure, far beyond asphalt

President Joe Biden is giving himself lots of latitude when he defines infrastructure for the purpose of spending money on it. It’s not just steel, but home health care workers. Not just excavating dirt, but building “dignity.”

The Republican Party says if it’s not a pothole, port, plane or bridge, forget about it. Never mind that Donald Trump, like Biden, wanted schools to get a piece of an infrastructure pie.

At least in theory, everyone likes infrastructure and is willing to spend big on it. That’s why the definition of infrastructure matters as Biden tries to sell the country and Congress on the largest such package in generations.

In short, the bulk of Biden’s plan does not fit the traditional understanding of infrastructure, meaning below the structure, or foundational. Biden and his team have performed rhetorical gymnastics to make almost everything in the package sound infrastructure-ish.

For example, strengthening the right of workers to join unions does not resemble concrete in an underpass. But a White House fact sheet argues that stronger union rights would “put in place an infrastructure to create good middle-class jobs,” an argument that could be used to justify domestic spending on lots of things. Democrats are adding another layer to the definition as they take part in a weekend event about the “care infrastructure.”

The Republican National Committee, on the other hand, has taken a strict and distorted view of what counts as infrastructure, for the purpose of scoring points against Biden.

Roads, bridges, waterways, ports and airports count, but public transit, utilities and other foundational elements of the economy and daily lives don’t, the GOP contends.

Here’s the RNC in an email Wednesday:

“Biden’s non-infrastructure bill hikes taxes by $2 trillion … all while only spending 7% of the bill on roads, highways, bridges, waterways, ports, and airports combined.”

And one from April 1:

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“Joe Biden’s ‘infrastructure’ plan is not really about infrastructure, it is another multi-trillion dollar far left wish list. Just take a look at the actual bill. Only 7% of the bill’s spending is for what Americans traditionally think of as infrastructure.”

The claim that only 7% of the proposed money goes to traditional infrastructure is false. It’s 30% to 40% by traditional yardsticks. And at least some of the rest is closely related to infrastructure, if not a classic example of it.

Based on what the GOP describes as traditional, infrastructure spending would be limited to $157 billion for bridges, highways, roads, main streets, airports, inland waterways, ports and ferries.

But that narrow focus omits other transportation-related spending, like $85 billion for public transit, $80 billion for Amtrak rail service and $20 billion to improve road safety.

In all, even the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a deficit-hawk organization that does not like footloose government accounting or wasteful spending, described $621 billion in Biden’s plan, or roughly 30%, as “transportation infrastructure.”

Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, a Senate Republican leader, says if Biden just went for that 30%, “you’ve got an easy bipartisan win here.”

By any cogent definition, of course, a …read more

Source:: Headlines News4jax

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