The infrastructure bill: Better than nothing?

Correction: The spending is for a five-year span, not 10 years as I originally wrote.

Click to enlarge. Source: New York Times.

The bipartisan infrastructure bill is better than nothing.  Whether it will be enough to do the job is another question.

Some news articles call it a $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan, but it only includes some $550 billion.  The rest is money that is normally spent each year for highways and other projects.

All these figures are for a planned five-year span.  If the proponents quoted the annual budget cost, they wouldn’t seem so huge.

More spending is certainly needed.  The latest infrastructure report of the American Society of Civil Engineers gives a dismal picture of frequent water main breaks, un-maintained highways and flood control levees whose location and condition aren’t even known.

It says $2.69 trillion in infrastructure investment is needed over the next 10 years, although not all of that would necessarily have to come from the federal government.

I am sure that figure is based on deterioration continuing at the same rate as it is.  The expected climate-related increase in destructive storms and floods will almost certainly increase the strain on roads, rail systems, water and sewerage systems, dams and levees.

The ASCE gives the U.S. a C-minus grade (mediocre, requires attention) on infrastructure overall, which is up from D-plus (poor, at risk) in its previous report, which was in 2017.

The ASCE attributes the improvement mainly to action by state and local governments.  For what it’s worth, the ASCE is a supporter of the Biden infrastructure bill.

The original idea was to have a omnibus bill that would include infrastructure improvements, climate change mitigation and improvement of the social safety net.

The emergency measure enacted last year—the eviction moratorium, the student debt collection moratorium, extra funding for unemployment insurance, etc.—have run out or will soon run out.

A lot of people are going to be hurting next year, and blaming Democrats for not keeping their promises.

Although increased infrastructure spending will create jobs and help the economy, but it won’t be in time to affect the 2022 election.

I blame Senators Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema for being spoilers, I blame President Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for lack of leadership and I blame Senate Minority Leaders Mitch McConnell and Republicans generally for their irresponsible and blindly partisan obstructionism.

But the problem is deeper and more systemic.  Blaming individuals implies that it is by accident of personality that Manchin or McConnell choose to do what they do, and also by accident that people like Manchin or McConnell are in a position to do the damage they do.

We have a political system that prioritizes the wants and needs of monied interests over the public, and makes it nearly impossible to do what’s plainly necessary.  Maybe I’m over-optimistic in sticking in the word “nearly.”

LINKS

American Society of Civil Engineers 2021 Infrastructure Report Card.

What’s in the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package by Heather Long for The Washington Post.

The Infrastructure Plan: What’s In and What’s Out by Actish Batia and Quoctrong Bai for The New York Times.

How Democratic Party Progressives Got Outmaneuvered by Their Corporate Wing by Dr. Jack Rasmus.

Is This the End of the Unreformable Democratic Party? by Michael Hudson.

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