Hey, This is a Good Thing
Terry H. Schwadron
Nov, 7, 2021
Long-delayed House passage of the $1.2 trillion hard infrastructure bill for Joe Biden’s signature elicited a ton of media coverage about the machinations to get through the vote itself.
That was a natural consequence of seemingly endless negotiation among Democrats alone on about how closely to link the vote with approval for a second, bigger Joe Biden proposal for climate and social services or human infrastructure, as the White House calls it. They want more spending, not less.
Still, it seemed to point to a Washington-centric, almost breathless focus to who’s-ahead-today rather than to broader meaning — this time among Democrats alone.
For all the time spent on delay, we will forget the fighting in a nanosecond, only to take it up again as the second bill comes to a similar head in two weeks, the debt ceiling issue resurfaces and budgets are needed by the end of year.
We just had elections this week in which parties split directionally on whether we need to boost the economy with government investment, on whether the government should mandate vaccines to make business and working safe, as well as on general upset over a range of cultural issues.
Biden was begging for a win after election setbacks in Virginia and a too-close vote New Jersey, now he has one. Nevertheless, the price of gas and milk is unchanged as a result. I doubt that those two elections would have different results this week either.
Passage was won with the support of 13 Republicans, the loss of a small number of Democratic progressives and all kinds of spending inside it for Alaska and West Virginia that seemed on its face to help secure a few key wavering senators. A lot of hullaballoo was made of a compromise negotiated by a group of centrists from both parties.
But on vote day, once again, 200 Republicans voted against the bill already approved by the Senate’s potent Republican caucus.
Once again, we ask, what’s the value of compromise if both parties don’t support the result? Why must lead-free water pipes and highway improvements be a referendum on Democrats and “socialism”?
The Republican View
Actually, conservative Breitbart News headlined the passage by referring to moderate Republicans bailing out Biden and Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the “so-called Infrastructure Bill,” and more outspoken extreme MAGA Republicans, including Margorie Taylor Green were calling for removal of the “traitors” who would vote to repair bridges and roads.
The sneering Republican refusal to address actual issues facing the country is not just politics as usual. It is a constant, destabilizing force, particularly when combined with all the Big Lies about election fraud and the promotion of every message smacking of racism and authoritarianism as alternative to what we have now.
Indeed, Donald Trump had wanted “infrastructure week” for many weeks in his presidency without proving able to pull off the legislation that Biden now has notched.
Trump was out early with statements that House progressives were “being lied to and played” by moderate Democrats. Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind, chairman of the Republican Study Committee sought to rally Republicans against the bipartisan bill, arguing that it is rotten with carveouts for the Left and nothing for the Right, as if we don’t all use the same dilapidated airports or falling bridges.
Rather than focus on improvements that will add jobs and boost businesses of all sort, Banks listed how many times the bill used the word “equity” in assuring that grants reflct racial/ethnic participation, on funding “zero-emission vehicles” while we face gas price hikes, and how it allows state-mandated carbon reduction programs.
Apparently, it would have been more acceptable if an infrastructure bill formally opened oil and gas drilling everywhere, restored the canceled Keystone Pipeline, funded a Border Wall and cost nothing to implement.
It’s a Good Thing
But ok, we now have the largest single investment of federal resources into infrastructure projects in more than a decade, including a substantial effort to fortify response to climate issues.
The bill, which repurposes unspent covid relief funds, includes $550 billion in new spending and, according to the Congressional Budget Office, will deepen the national debt by $256 billion over 10 years.
But like a house for which you get a mortgage, we’ll be living in an improved situation as we pay for it.
The bill authorizes repairs to roads, ports, bridges, rail, cleaned up water pipelines, public transit, improved internet access in rural areas, electric car power stations and changes for the national power grid, as well as investment in changes to prepare for climate effects and $50 billion to help communities grapple with the devastating fires, floods, storms and droughts.
The Washington Post found lots of small provisions in the bill to aid different groups. There is money for salmon recovery, a line that states enforce laws that ban open alcoholic beverages in cars, a provision allowing states to use some of their funding for recreational trails, research on “wildlife crossing safety” and money for a “healthy streets” program to expand tree cover to mitigate urban heat. The bill also attempts to fast-track permits for infrastructure projects, an issue the Trump administration also attempted to address.
It is 2,700 pages long, and good reading for contractors.