AUDUBON, N.J. — On March 31, you probably heard, President Joe Biden introduced a $2.2 trillion proposal to repair and modernize America’s transportation system, invest in research and technology, and expand the industrial sectors that are curbing climate change.
By themselves, those provisions make Biden’s American Jobs Plan a great leap forward in how the White House regards its responsibilities to nature, and to the nation. Biden’s impressive plan, though, is considerably more expansive and significant than that. Along with the conventional updates to roads, bridges, airports, and marine infrastructure it calls for small increases to corporate taxes to finance tens of billions of dollars to:
Quickly expand U.S. manufacturing of electric vehicles and renewable energy equipment.
Build a nationwide network of recharging stations for electric vehicles.
Modernize rail transportation.
Electrify the federal government’s fleet that numbers hundreds of thousands of vehicles.
Deliver high-speed broadband Internet service to every corner of the country.
Modernize the American electric transmission network, the largest machine on Earth.
Build new energy-efficient schools, homes, hospitals, and health facilities.
Replace lead water pipes with safe delivery infrastructure.
Expand and modernize water and wastewater treatment networks.
Increase wages for health care workers.
Vastly increase research and technology development capacity.
If all the numbers are added up, the president’s plan directs 40 percent of the spending to disadvantaged areas in urban and rural America, making the big proposal a signal bid to strengthen the administration’s grassroots political support. That may be working. Public opinion polls indicate that Republican voters largely support Biden’s plan even as their elected leaders in Washington lay down the familiar and illogical crossfire — it’s too big, too costly, unnecessary, and a threat to business.
Just as in so much of what Republican lawmakers say and do these day, they are hopelessly wrong and out of touch. The plan reinforces the value of government to foster public investment in private initiatives that generate innovation, jobs, and wealth. It represents another hopeful branch on the tree of relevance and rational behavior that Biden planted with his election last November.
If the plan is approved with its current provisions still intact, Biden will have set in place measures to make the United States competitive in the largest industrial sectors of the 21st century — clean energy, electrical transmission, electrified transportation, and all the research and technology development needed to join those sectors in a digitized global network of manufacturing, operations, maintenance, and communications. In effect the American Jobs Plan is the most extravagant tribute to Earth Day since the 1970s when Congress passed the foundation environmental statutes to safeguard land, water, air, species, and public health.
— Keith Schneider