Biden's $2.3 trillion jobs plan triggers hot debate
Sweeping proposal underscores sharp political divisions
United States President Joe Biden has recast what has traditionally been considered infrastructure with a $2.3 trillion plan that includes money for jobs programs and caregivers, in addition to bridges and highways.
However, the word "infrastructure" is not included in the sweeping proposal's title.
Called the American Jobs Plan, it also proposes spending billions of dollars on affordable housing, help for schools and labor unions and expanding high-speed internet services, among numerous other priorities.
In a nod to climate awareness, Biden's plan puts development of the electric vehicle industry ahead of any other transportation category. He also wants to spend $10 billion to create a Civilian Climate Corps.
"It's a once-in-a-generation investment in America unlike anything we've seen or done since we built the interstate highway system and the space race decades ago. In fact, it's the largest American jobs investment since World War II," Biden said on March 31 when he announced the plan in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The largest single category of expenditure would be $400 billion toward "expanding access to quality, affordable home－or community-based care for aging relatives and people with disabilities", he said.
The jobs programs and other categories, some of which appear to be geared toward Democratic voting constituencies, could result in no Republicans in Congress supporting the measure.
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy of California said in a statement on Thursday, "Like his so-called COVID bill that spent less than 9 percent to defeat the virus, Biden's so-called infrastructure plan spends less than 6 percent to repair bridges, highways and roads.
"The rest is a 'kitchen sink' of wasteful progressive demands, payoffs for labor unions and radical environmentalists, and job-killing regulations that (New York) Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently likened to the Green New Deal."
Philip Bump, a correspondent for The Washington Post, said Biden's plan adopts current political trends, such as the Green New Deal, and blends them into a larger, and what the White House hopes, is a more politically palatable package.
"The Biden proposal… uses the more politically popular umbrella of infrastructure to incorporate some of those same shifts. None of this is to say that the Biden proposal is the Green New Deal in sheep's clothing; it is, instead, to say that many of the components of the Green New Deal that addressed things like increasing clean energy, improving water and bolstering the economy more broadly are also part of the Biden proposal," he wrote.
Green New Deal proposals call for public policy to address climate change, along with achieving other social aims such as job creation and reducing economic inequality. The name refers to the New Deal, a set of social and economic reforms and public works projects undertaken by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt in response to the Great Depression.
To fund the package, Biden would undo a signature policy of the Trump administration by raising the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said on April 1: "I don't think the American people gave them a mandate to drive our country all the way to the political left. I'm going to fight them every step of the way, because I think this is the wrong prescription for America.
"That package that they're putting together now, as much as we would like to address infrastructure, is not going to get support from our side, because I think the last thing the economy needs right now is a big, whopping tax increase."
Biden told reporters on Friday: "Raising taxes will not slow the economy at all. Asking corporate America just to pay their fair share will not slow the economy at all, it will make the economy function better and will create more energy.
"What do you think would happen if they found out all the lead pipes were up on the Capitol every time they turned on the water fountain," Biden said.
The president's plan includes $45 billion to replace all lead pipes used in water distribution.
In a briefing on April 1, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, "Does he (McConnell) disagree that our nation's infrastructure is outdated and needs (to be) repaired?
"Does he disagree that one-third of the country, which doesn't have broadband access, should have access to broadband? There are a lot of areas where there is agreement … across the political spectrum, from investment and infrastructure, doing more to be competitive with China, and what we're really talking about here is how to pay for it," she said.
According to a new Morning Consult/Politico poll, 54 percent of voters said they support making improvements to infrastructure in the US, funded by taxes on those making more than $400,000 per year and with increases to the corporate tax rate. Another 27 percent said they support improving infrastructure, but only if it can be done without higher taxes.
Some 73 percent of Democrats were likely to support tax