Recently, President Biden proposed a $2 trillion dollar plan that is marketed as an infrastructure plan upgrade amid an economic crisis caused by the pandemic. However, this bill also includes housing, education, and numerous projects that aren’t typically considered “infrastructure” to many Americans.
So, should infrastructure be only limited to roads and bridges? And why does this infrastructure bill, also known as the American jobs plan today include things that a lot of Americans do not consider to be infrastructure?
Well, the most concise answer would be: Yes, projects like housing, education, and even the Internet should be considered infrastructure because infrastructure is simply the basic facilities and structures a society needs to operate, so the country’s definition of infrastructure evolves over time.
For example, in the 1800s, there were very few people that considered trains to be part of infrastructure. However, they seem to have become integral to American society, making them a key component of infrastructure. In addition, broadband internet may have not been considered a basic need merely 20 years ago, but in modern day today, it is necessary for many basic societal functions, such as clean water, reliable internet, and housing. In order to adapt to the changing global world, our definition of infrastructure must evolve, and projects such as, building a world- class transportation infrastructure (fixing highways, bridges and upgrading transit systems), rebuilding clean water infrastructure, and high speed broadband should definitely be included in this bill when it is ready to be voted on.
Although the Americans Jobs plan is still being negotiated, Biden has currently proposed some really promising projects that include (but are not limited to) fixing highways, bridges and upgrading airports, investing in reliable passenger and freight rail service, create good jobs electrifying vehicles, and ultimately investing in technologies to reduce plant warming greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the Council on Foreign Relations, “the systems currently in place were built decades ago, and economists say that delays and rising maintenance costs are holding economic performance back.” Not only has the costly maintenance held us back economically, there are also many problems regarding being able to access a necessity as basic as clean water because of the lead pipes. Research conducted by scientists at the EPA show that lead pipes are still carrying water into millions of homes 30 years after the Safe Water Drinking Act was passed. The Safe Water Drinking Act as amended establishes the minimum standards to protect tap water by reducing the maximum allowable lead content to be a weighted average of 0.25% calculated across the wetted surfaces of the pipe, pipe fittings, and plumbing fittings in order for the water to be “lead free.” However, a data analysis by ARM reports suggests that now these lead pipes contain significantly more lead in America’s Tap water than the government has revealed. Scientists have continued to urge the government to require more rigorous testing. Unfortunately, scientists were ignored as the previous administration was rushing to finalize its revisions of the Lead and Copper rule amid the pandemic.
These two key problems of rising maintenance costs, increase in lead in pipelines and many others regarding infrastructure have earned the United States a grade of a D+ in the most recent American Society of Civil engineer’s 2017 report. A D+ means that the conditions were below the standards of modern day.
If America still wants to be one of the front runners of the international economy and compete with countries like China …. investing in new infrastructure and maintenance of current infrastructure would stimulate the economy with the so-called multiplier effect. Increasing efficiency and reliability and lowering transportation costs would boost long term US competitiveness, shock the economy and create jobs. A study done by the University of Maryland showed that infrastructure investments added as much as $3 to the GDP growth for every dollar spent⎼⎼ with bigger effects during recession.
The bill also included some major investments in combating climate change. However, Republican and moderate Democratic negotiators are unwilling to invest in clean energy or carbon reduction in the way that many scientists feel is imperative to battle the ongoing climate crisis.
Biden has been open to working with lawmakers on the other side of the aisle, but any infrastructure bill that doesn’t include climate change legislation is a failure, as we are on the brink of facing the consequences of not acting quickly to address climate change. If we don’t demonstrate bold solutions to combat climate change to cut carbon emissions by 45% by 2030, our planet will not be livable by 2050. Our country is terribly behind in carbon reduction, and it is time that we pass the American Jobs Plan — passing bold legislation that will benefit the economy, create good paying jobs, and tackle climate change.