Photo from the Tribune Review.
By Terrance Turner
March 31, 2021
Today, at a union training center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, President Joe Biden introudced the American Jobs Act. The sprawling, ambitious bill will invest about $2 trillion over the next eight years (amounting to about 1 percent of America’s GDP per year) to repair, rebuild, and reinvent infrastructure in the United States. Its goals are multifold, from roads and bridges to caregiving and climate change.
“It’s time to build our economy from the bottom up and the middle out,” Biden said, emphasizing the need for more good paying and union jobs. “Wall Street didn’t build this country; you, the middle class, built this country. And unions built the middle class.”
The White House fact sheet on the bill outlines the reasons for its creation: “The United States of America is the wealthiest country in the world, yet we rank 13th when it comes to the overall quality of our infrastructure. After decades of disinvestment, our roads, bridges, and water systems are crumbling. Our electric grid is vulnerable to catastrophic outages. Too many lack access to affordable, high-speed Internet and to quality housing […] The American Jobs Plan will invest in America in a way we have not invested since we built the interstate highways and won the Space Race.”
“It is not a plan that tinkers around the edges,” Mr. Biden said, quoted by the New York Times. “It is a once-in-a-generation investment in America. Unlike anything we have seen or done, since we built the interstate highway system and the space race decades ago.” In fact, Biden said today, it is “the largest American jobs investment since World War II.”
Vox has compiled a list of the bill’s highlights, which I have augmented by selections from the White House Fact Sheet. Here are the toplines of what’s in the American Jobs Plan:
- “The $621 billion in infrastructure spending is the largest chunk of Biden’s plan, aiming to modernize 20,000 miles of highways, roads, and main streets, fix the 10 most economically significant bridges in the country, and repair 10,000 smaller bridges. Biden’s plan calls for $85 billion to modernize public transit and $80 billion to be put toward Amtrak for repairs and improving train corridors.” – Vox
- The Department of Transportation states that there’s a “repair backlog” of over $105 billion, including 24,000 buses and 5,000 rail cars.
- The American Rescue Plan will double federal spending for public transit and work to end the repair backlog.
- “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,” the White House says. Thus the President’s plan proposes $115 billion to modernize bridges, highways, roads, and main streets that are in need of repair. As summarized below:
- “The President’s plan will modernize 20,000 miles of highways, roads, and main-streets.”
- “It will fix the ten most economically significant bridges in the country in need of reconstruction.”
- “It also will repair the worst 10,000 smaller bridges, providing critical linkages to communities.”
- Invests $174 billion in the electric vehicle market, building out a network of 500,000 EV chargers on roads by 2030.
- Plan will support U.S. workers to make batteries and electric vehicles (EVs)
- Establish grant/incentive programs for local government/private sector to build 500,000 EV chargers by 2030
- The plan also calls for the electrification of 20 percent of the school bus fleet, and using federal procurement to electrify the entire federal fleet, including the US Postal Service,” Vox says.
- “It also talks about giving consumers point of sale rebates and tax incentives to buy American-made electric vehicles, incorporating a plan from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).”
An estimated 6-10 million homes still receive drinking water through lead pipes and service lines, according to the White House Fact Sheet. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintain that there is no safe level of lead exposure for children. Lead exposure can slow learning and cause kidney/brain damage in children. Thus, Biden’s plan:
- Eliminates all lead pipes and service lines in drinking water systems, and puts $56 billion in grants and flexible loans to states, tribes, and territories to upgrade drinking, wastewater, and stormwater systems.
- Calls on the federal government to contribute $45 billion in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, a federal-state partnership to ensure safe drinking water.
- Invests $100 billion to build out the nation’s high-speed broadband infrastructure to 100 percent coverage, including in remote and rural areas. Biden’s plan also commits to working with Congress to reduce the price of broadband, but doesn’t specify exactly how.
- Invests $213 billion to build and retrofit over 2 million homes and commercial buildings, including community colleges, aging schools, child care facilities, veterans’ hospitals, and federal buildings.
- Biden’s plan calls for 1 million affordable housing units to be produced or retrofitted, and over 500,000 homes for low- and middle-income homebuyers to be built or rehabilitated.
- The plan also calls for the elimination of exclusionary zoning.
“As the recent Texas power outages demonstrated, our aging electric grid needs urgent modernization. A Department of Energy study found that power outages cost the U.S. economy up to $70 billion annually,” the White House said. “The President’s plan will create a more resilient grid, lower energy bills for middle class Americans, improve air quality and public health outcomes, and create good jobs, with a choice to join a union, on the path to achieving 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2035.” President Biden is calling on Congress to invest $100 billion to build a more resilient electric transmission system.
- Primary goal: creation of a “targeted investment tax credit” that incentivizes buildout of at least 20 gigawatts of high-voltage capacity power lines.
- Puts $16 billion toward plugging “orphan” oil and gas wells (which have been abandoned by defunct companies that can’t afford to plug them) and abandoned coal and uranium mines
- According to Pew Trust, the EPA estimates that there are about a million such sites, which can leak methane and contaminate groundwater.
- Plan also works towards funding environmental resiliency jobs including restoring forests, wetlands, and watersheds.
- The plan calls for $10 billion to create a Civilian Climate Corps to conserve public lands and waters, one of Biden’s campaign promises. Conservation advocates argued that environmental restoration and resilience jobs like these can put people to work even more quickly than clean energy jobs.
- “Some of the earliest job wins you’re going to see are going to be in the restoration space,” Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, told Vox. “They don’t require materials or construction, new fabrication of different goods and materials. The only thing that’s needed is money.”
- Invests $100 billion to modernize the nation’s electrical grid, and extend and expand the production and investment tax credits to accelerate clean energy jobs and projects in wind, solar, and other forms of renewable energy.
Per Vox, “The bill also includes some ideas that might stretch the traditional definition of infrastructure:
- Bolsters unions by calling on Congress to pass the pro-union Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. Biden’s plan similarly asks Congress to tie federal investments in clean energy and infrastructure to prevailing wage laws, and requires that investments in transportation meet existing transit labor protections.
- Bans “exclusionary zoning” and harmful land-use policies, including minimum lot sizes, mandatory parking requirements, and prohibitions on multifamily housing.
- Expands long-term care under Medicaid,increasing access to home and community-based services and giving more people the chance to receive care at home. The Biden administration’s plan aims to increase the quality of care-giving jobs and offer home health workers more chances to unionize and increase their wages.
- As part of a plan to target workforce development in underserved communities, Biden’s plan would put$5 billion over eight years to support evidence-based community violence prevention programs, and invest in job training for formerly incarcerated individuals.
- $400 billion toward expanding access to quality, affordable home- or community-based care for aging relatives and people with disabilities.
“It’s worth repeating that this wide-ranging plan is Biden’s opening bid, not a final product,” Vox noted. “The next few months of negotiations with Congress will ultimately determine how many of these provisions will make it into a final bill — and it will take even more negotiations to get that bill passed.”
Biden said his proposal would be paid for in 15 years by raising taxes on corporations, NPR reports. The corporate tax rate would be raised from 21% to 28%, and Biden’s “Made in America” tax plan would close loopholes that allow businesses to store money in offshore accounts. The president said he’s open to other ideas, but Biden vowed Wednesday that no one making less than $400,000 a year would see their taxes increased — “period.”