President Joe Biden told America on Wednesday that he wants us to spend $2.3 trillion on America’s infrastructure. Unfortunately, that’s about half true.
Yes, Biden indeed wants to spend that $2.3 trillion on his American Jobs Plan. (In fact, he wants us to spend a lot more than that; in addition to the $1.9 trillion in spending from the American Rescue Plan, his COVID-19 relief package, he’s set to introduce the American Families Plan in a few weeks, which will blow even more of your money on health care and education.)
However, he doesn’t want to spend $2.3 trillion on infrastructure. That’s where he has us a bit hoodwinked. In fact, according to a Fox News analysis, less than half of the money in the infrastructure plan will actually go to what we’d traditionally think of as infrastructure — $750 billion, according to the outlet’s estimate.
And while Biden talked in his speech about “modernizing 20,000 miles of highways, roads, and main streets that are in difficult, difficult shape right now,” the analysis found only 6 percent of the spending will go to those roads and bridges that are in such difficult, difficult shape.
“The White House is casting a very wide net about what constitutes infrastructure — for example, the American Jobs Plan references ‘care infrastructure’ when talking about $25 billion to upgrade child care facilities and a $400 billion expenditure on care for the elderly and disabled. That’s quite different from repairing potholes and rebuilding bridges,” Fox News’ Tyler Olson noted in the Friday article.
As Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell noted, that’s not how this bill is being sold.
“This plan is not about rebuilding America’s backbone. Less than 6 percent of this massive proposal goes to roads and bridges,” the Kentucky Republican told Fox News.
“It would spend more money just on electric cars than on America’s roads, bridges, ports, airports, and waterways combined.”
And yet, what’s the first item on the White House’s fact sheet about what the American Jobs Plan will do? “Transform our crumbling transportation infrastructure.” The first sub-point? “Repair American roads and bridges.”
“One in five miles, or 173,000 total miles, of our highways and major roads are in poor condition, as well as 45,000 bridges. Delays caused by traffic congestion alone cost over $160 billion per year, and motorists are forced to pay over $1,000 every year in wasted time and fuel,” the fact sheet said.
“The President is proposing a total increase of $115 billion to modernize the bridges, highways, roads, and main streets that are in most critical need of repair.”
But that’s under 6 percent of the plan. McConnell was being generous. What gives?
“The first thing to know is there is no hard definition of infrastructure. Economists have no hard definition of infrastructure,” Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies for the libertarian Cato Institute, told Fox News.
In the outlet’s analysis, it said it “broadly counted investments going toward physical repair or building of facilities and systems used by the general public that help the economy.”
“This includes, for example, replacing lead pipes, expanding broadband access and modernizing public schools, in addition to money going to things traditionally associated with the word infrastructure like roads, bridges and ports,” the outlet reported.
“Other items that counted to reach a total of just under $750 billion included $50 billion to preserve infrastructure resilience, $80 billion for Amtrak and $20 billion for road safety.”
Some of the stuff that didn’t fall under this definition?
“[Biden’s] plan will enable automakers to spur domestic supply chains from raw materials to parts, retool factories to compete globally, and support American workers to make batteries and EVs,” the fact sheet said.
“It will give consumers point of sale rebates and tax incentives to buy American-made EVs, while ensuring that these vehicles are affordable for all families and manufactured by workers with good jobs.”
As Edwards pointed out to Fox News, this — along with so many other elements of the program — is a great big corporate giveaway.
“It’s hugely ironic because the leading Democrats have bashed corporate welfare and corporate subsidies for years, and they always claim that Republicans do corporate subsidies,” Edwards said. “But in fact, Biden would subsidize corporations hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars with this plan.
“Manufacturing, $300 billion. Electric vehicles, $170 billion. Broadband, $100 billion. Electric power grid, $100 billion. This is completely unneeded and it’s also very dangerous because we don’t want the federal government manipulating what broadband companies do, what electric power companies do.”
“One of the interesting political things in coming weeks and months will be will the Democrat left, like [Vermont Sen. Bernie] Sanders and [Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth] Warren, kind of come to the realization that, ‘Hey, this is massive corporate subsidies here, which we’re supposed to be against,'” he added.
He’s more interested in this than me since my assumption is that neither will cave. However, all of this comes well above one of the biggest (and most controversial) items in the “infrastructure” bill.
That’s when Biden says he’s “calling on Congress to put $400 billion toward expanding access to quality, affordable home- or community-based care for aging relatives and people with disabilities.
“These investments will help hundreds of thousands of Americans finally obtain the long-term services and support they need, while creating new jobs and offering caregiving workers a long-overdue raise, stronger benefits, and an opportunity to organize or join a union and collectively bargain,” the fact sheet said.
Left-wing Democrats like to call this “care infrastructure,” but it has a solid 0 percent to do with actual infrastructure.
So, what else isn’t infrastructure, as per Fox News’ analysis?
There’s $213 billion for sustainable and public housing. The Department of Commerce would get $50 billion “dedicated to monitoring domestic industrial capacity and funding investments to support production of critical goods.” There’s $45 billion for the government to purchase clean energy goods.
There are plenty of small, nebulous items that clearly have nothing to do with infrastructure, either. These include $14 billion “to bring together industry, academia, and government to advance technologies and capabilities critical to future competitiveness” and “$5 billion for a new Rural Partnership Program to help rural regions, including Tribal Nations, build on their unique assets and realize their vision for inclusive community and economic development.”
So, yes, there is no hard definition of infrastructure. However, I’ll paraphrase former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s writing in a different context: I know it when I see it.
When you have an infrastructure plan where less than one-third as much money goes toward building or rebuilding roads and bridges as it does toward “home- or community-based care for aging relatives and people with disabilities,” you don’t have an infrastructure plan. You have a spending boondoggle, one that doesn’t make America any more competitive but saddles it with a whole lot more debt.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.