1 April 2021


Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

Biden's Infrastructure Bill Will Struggle in Congress


America's infrastructure is falling apart, and everyone knows it. This journal has been reporting on its condition for years, and the American Society of Civil Engineers has not upgraded its opinion of US infrastructure in that time. The ASCE rates it C- overall, with many categories scoring much lower. President Biden announced yesterday that he wants to spend about $2.3 trillion over a decade on upgrading it, along with some other things. While the need is great and repair would benefit the entire nation, the bill will struggle in Congress as virtually no member of the Republican Party will vote for it and because not all Democrats are on board yet.

The spending would be the largest effort to develop America's infrastructure since President Eisenhower built the interstate highway system. The nation needs it. There is a water main break in the US every 2 minutes. The ASCE estimates 43% of US roads are mediocre or poor. A third of America has no access to broadband internet. About a third of US schools use portable buildings (mobile homes) to address capacity shortfalls, and 45% of those buildings are in fair or poor condition.

The Biden definition of infrastructure is quite broad. About half of the money would go to things like reducing carbon emissions, modernizing schools and houses, manufacturing hubs and eldercare facilities. While these things are necessary, there is a legitimate argument that these things are not infrastructure in the same way that airports, roads and bridges are.

The most immediate effect of all this spending would be jobs. America is still more than 9 million jobs short of where it was this time last year, pre-Covid. Putting people to work is necessary and getting them to “build back better,” would make the overall economy more efficient.

Paying for all of this is where the trouble arises. The administration wants to raise the corporate tax rate to 28% from the 21%, where Mr. Trump put it in a massive cut from 35%. The US Chamber of Commerce is already pushing back on this, arguing that raising the gas tax, for instance, would make those who use roads pay for the roads. This is a legitimate argument; who will pay and how much? This journal would rather see a surcharge on incomes of limited duration (everyone will benefit so everyone should pay).

A few Democrats are against the bill as it stands. They believe that spreading this spending out over such a long period of time will make it less effective as an economic booster. While they are right, it is hard to see how to improve the situation. More money or a shorter time-frame risks greater and greater waste. However, when it comes time to vote on the bill, they will settle. No Democrat wants to face the voters in 2022 having voted against infrastructure spending.

The main difficult will be the Republicans in Congress, the Party of No. As Mitch McConnell, the Minority Leader in the Senate, summed up, "This proposal appears to use 'infrastructure' as a Trojan horse for the largest set of tax hikes in a generation. . . . Democrats keep trying to use important issues as smokescreens for unrelated agendas."

Moscow Mitch went on to say that it was "not likely" he would vote for such a bill (even if it bathed his home state of Kentucky in money) if it raised taxes or included deficit spending. The rest of the party will follow him on that. They cannot survive a primary challenge if they vote for higher taxes, and the party is again paying lip-service to the idea of fiscal responsibility now that a Democrat is in the White House. In short, they will not vote to fund any of this.

It is completely adorable that the Biden administration is hoping to get some Republican votes for the bill. Bipartisanship is cute, but it's nonsense. The Party of No does not want to govern, does not want to lead, does not want anything but to thwart the party that does.

The bill will pass sometime in July. It will get through the Senate under reconciliation rules that avoid the filibuster. Vice President Harris will provide the tie-breaking vote there. The House will pass the bill on strict party lines. The Republicans who vote against it will still try to claim credit when the jobs return to their constituencies.

© Copyright 2021 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.

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