The debate over Joe Biden’s $2 trillion American Infrastructure Plan is heating up — and getting more and more unhinged. Republicans are railing against the president for asking for too much. They promise a filibuster against the bill unless there is a bipartisan agreement — on their terms.
So, what are those terms?
- They want to do less. They have struggled to agree among themselves on a bill somewhere between one-fourth and one-third the size of the Biden plan. You decide a fair price for your car is $10,000. They offer $2,500, or they’ll block any sale. You’d treat that as an insult, not a good-faith offer.
- They want to ignore the pressing needs of the present and the future. Dealing with the growing catastrophe of the extreme weather caused by climate change, they say, is part of a “liberal wish list.” Speed the transition to electric cars, subsidize solar panels and energy efficient housing, increase resiliency of ports, buildings, roads — all scorned as extremism.
- They demand that the spending be “paid for,” even though they had no problem passing a massive tax cut for the rich and corporations without concern for the deficit. But they reject Biden’s plan to pay for the spending by raising taxes on the rich and the corporations.
- They want working people to pick up the tab, not the corporations or the rich. Reversing even a portion of their tax boon for corporations is a “non-starter.” Instead, they want to raise the gas tax and slap “user fees” — tolls for bridges and road, higher taxes on transit fares - on working people.
- They oppose the “liberal wish list” in this bill or in any other. That wish list includes not just climate, but investment in long-term care for the elderly, in childcare facilities and schools, in removing the highways designed purposefully to isolate the poor and African Americans into ghettos. They oppose any effort to help workers organize into unions that might lift their wages and protect their rights at work.
Bipartisanship on Republican terms means a bill far smaller than the size of our problems, that fails to address pressing needs, and that sends the tab to those who can least afford it, as opposed to those who have been making out like bandits.
Bipartisanship on these terms would leave us in a country with an outmoded and inefficient infrastructure, in denial about the climate crisis, with the worst support for children and parents of any advanced industrial country, with even more extreme inequality and racial division.
Not surprisingly, Biden’s bill is popular with a vast majority of Americans. The individual items in his bill, including those that Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell scorns, are even more popular.
Inside the beltway, politicians are debating the definition of infrastructure. Americans are concerned with getting the help they need. Modern roads, clean water systems, advanced broadband, affordable mass transit — all are vital sinews for a healthy economy. Affordable daycare and long-term care for the elderly are essential for families with working parents. Generating millions of jobs by kickstarting the transition to a green economy is a matter of national security — and of common sense.
In the wake of Donald Trump, modern-day Republicans posture as the party of working people. They must hope that working people who vote for them don’t discover that Republicans want to tax them rather than tax the rich or corporations, oppose investing in daycare for their children or long-term care for their parents, and resolutely want to shortchange investing in the future. No wonder Republican rhetoric has grown so extreme. They can’t defend their position; they can only distract from it.