Press "Enter" to skip to content

President Biden’s Infrastructure Bill with Ken Alex and Ethan Elkind

By Rochelle Gluzman and Judah Marsden

Special Episode

President Biden has introduced his proposal to improve the nation’s infrastructure and help implement a more robust green energy system over the next 8 years in his roughly $2 trillion infrastructure plan, called the American Jobs Plan. 

While ambitious and in need of crucial bipartisan support, the American Jobs Plan targets more than just the nation’s deteriorating infrastructure. President Biden aims to use this plan to benefit communities of color, rural Americans, women and care workers, and anyone left behind by today’s economy. It also aims to tackle climate change in myriad ways and put the United States in position to out-compete China. 

However, given the difficulty of getting a bill of this magnitude passed in Congress (if it passes at all) the resulting plan will look very different from President Biden’s initial proposal. So the question is, what will remain?  

At present, the version of this plan with “bipartisan” support is one bereft of the actual climate solutions, and many progressives in Congress have stated that they will not support the plan without the crucial climate components. 

The Biden Infrastructure Plan aims to cover a wide range of problems in the United States. Here is a brief overview of the scope and reach of this plan. 

According to the White House Fact Sheet, the American Jobs Plan aims to: 

  • “Fix highways, rebuild bridges, upgrade ports, airports and transit systems… 
  • Deliver clean drinking water, a renewed electric grid, and high-speed broadband to all Americans. Build, preserve, and retrofit more than two million homes and commercial buildings, modernize our nation’s schools and child care facilities, and upgrade veterans’ hospitals and federal buildings… 
  • Solidify the infrastructure of our care economy by creating jobs and raising wages and benefits for essential home care workers. Revitalize manufacturing, secure U.S. supply chains, invest in R&D, and train Americans for the jobs of the future… 
  • Create good-quality jobs that pay prevailing wages in safe and healthy workplaces while ensuring workers have a free and fair choice to organize, join a union, and bargain collectively with their employers.”

A major part of the American Jobs Plan also involves reworking the current transportation infrastructure. A decline in public investment in transportation infrastructure over the past few decades has left transportation systems in less than ideal conditions. In order to address this situation, President Biden is calling on Congress to invest in all facets of transportation from roads to bridges to rails. 

According to the White House Fact Sheet, the plan involves an investment of an addition $621 billion to:

  • “Repair roads and bridges
  • Modernize public transit
  • Invest in reliable passenger and freight rail service
  • Create more jobs in electrifying vehicles
  • Improve ports, waterways, and airports.
  • Redress historic inequities and build the future of transportation infrastructure
  • Invest resources wisely to deliver infrastructure projects that produce real results”

In order to make American Infrastructure more resilient to the effects of climate change, President Biden and his team propose to invest $50 billion to defend vulnerable communities from the effects of climate change and safeguard critical infrastructure and services. Additionally, in order to protect vulnerable communities and the environment from harm, the Biden plan aims to maximize the resilience of land and water resources by protecting and restoring nature-based infrastructure, or forests, grasslands, watersheds, oceans, etc.

The American Jobs Plan also proposes to rebuild clean drinking water infrastructure to ensure all communities have access to drinkable, non-polluted water. To do this, President Biden proposes a replacement of all lead pipes and service lines by calling on Congress to invest $45 million in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and in Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act (WIIN) grants. Additionally, this plan seeks to modernize existing but aging water systems to support a clean water infrastructure across rural America. 

In addition to revitalizing the country’s digital infrastructure by building high-speed broadband and reducing the cost of broadband internet, the American Jobs Plan also aims to upgrade the power infrastructure. The country’s electric grid needs an upgrade. With a more resilient grid, according to the White House Fact Sheet, President Biden hopes to achieve lower energy bills, improved air quality and public health, the creation of many good jobs to support this new infrastructure, and a tangible means of achieving 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2035. 

To achieve all this, the presidents calls on Congress to invest $100 billion to:

  • “Build a more resilient electric transmission system…
  • Spur jobs modernizing power generation and delivering clean electricity…
  • Put the energy industry to work plugging orphan oil and gas wells and cleaning up abandoned mines…
  • Remediate and redevelop idle real property, and spur the buildout of critical physical, social, and civic infrastructure in distressed and disadvantaged communities….
  • Build next generation industries in distressed communities…
  • Mobilize the next generation of conservation and resilience workers.”

To tackle the crisis of unaffordable housing, President Biden aims to invest in building energy efficient, resilient and affordable homes, schools, learning facilities, veterans hospitals, federal buildings and more. With this, he proposes to solidify the infrastructure of the care economy which, as evidenced by women and essential workers during the Coronavirus pandemic, has been veering towards crisis for some time. Under Biden’s plan, there will be an expansion of long-term health services under Medicaid, as well as the creation of more care-jobs with the choice to join a union. 

Lastly, Biden’s infrastructure plan seeks to invest in research and development, to revitalize manufacturing and small businesses, and help train citizens to succeed in jobs for the future – jobs that include building a green energy economy. To do this, according the the White House Fact Sheet, the president calls on Congress to:

  • “Invest in R&D and the technologies of the future…
    • Advance U.S. leadership in critical technologies and upgrade America’s research infrastructure…
    • Establish the United States as a leader in climate science, innovation, and R&D…
    • Eliminate racial and gender inequities in research and development and science, technology, engineering, and math…
  • Retool and revitalize American manufacturers and small businesses:
    • Strengthen manufacturing supply chains for critical goods…
    • Protect Americans from future pandemics…
    • Jumpstart clean energy manufacturing through federal procurement… 
    • Increase access to capital for domestic manufacturers…
    • Create a national network of small business incubators and innovation hubs…
    • Partner with rural and Tribal communities to create jobs and economic growth in rural America…
  • Invest in Workforce Development:
    • Pair job creation efforts with next generation training programs…
    • Target workforce development opportunities in underserved communities…
    • Build the capacity of the existing workforce development and worker protection systems..”

 While the American Jobs Plan is comprehensive, expansive, and climate oriented, getting such a broad set of solutions to pass through Congress is proving difficult. Even under the rubric of infrastructure, and the promise of jobs and progress, the reality is that Congress likely will not pass the American Jobs Plan in anything close to its original form. However, this plan is gearing towards treating the climate crisis like a crisis, and imagining the American infrastructure through the lens of climate resilience and sustainability is one big step in the right direction. 

It remains to be seen what comes of this ambitious effort.

Resources