America is rolling up its sleeves and getting to work.
In August, the United States Senate passed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill on a bipartisan basis. Nineteen Republicans joined all 50 Democrats and independents in approving the largest investment in America’s economic future in more than a decade.
As we go to press, the popular bill awaits its future in the House of Representatives, where some members are holding out for an even more ambitious $3.5 trillion bill to accompany the current legislation on its way to the president’s desk. The additional spending would include support for veterans’ hospitals and at-home caregivers, as well as expanded training programs for American workers.
Even in its current form, the infrastructure bill promises to invest $550 billion in new spending (in addition to already scheduled improvements) for the following:
- The largest federal investment in public transit in history;
- The largest federal investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak;
- The single largest dedicated bridge investment since the construction of the interstate highway system;
- The largest investment in clean drinking water and wastewater infrastructure in American history, delivering clean water to millions of families;
- Making it possible for every American to have access to reliable high-speed Internet;
- Tackling the climate crisis by making the largest-ever investment in clean energy transmission and Electric Vehicle infrastructure;
- Electrifying thousands of school and transit buses across the country; and
- Creating a new Grid Deployment Authority to build a clean, 21st century electric grid.
This legislation is good news for working people across America. It will pave the way to millions of good-paying jobs — many of them union jobs — and set us on the course toward a cleaner, healthier and more efficient economy. In addition, it will enable our country to better compete with rapidly emerging countries elsewhere in the world.
A new consensus
The infrastructure bill now before the House of Representatives reflects a new consensus that the federal government has an obligation to “promote the general welfare,” as stated in the Preamble of the United States Constitution.
This awareness also reflects the obvious conclusion that 40 years of deferred maintenance, restricted investment and anti-union policies have failed the American people.
Case in point: It’s been five months since President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). Also known as the COVID-19 Stimulus Package, this law already has had a pivotal effect on reducing and reversing the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Just one of its provisions, the Expanded Child Tax Credit, is expected to reduce child poverty in the United States by half!
Here are some of the other features of the ARPA, which The Washington Post called “the biggest anti-poverty program undertaken by the federal government in more than half a century”:
- Providing up to $1,400 in direct payments to individuals in lower- and middle-income households;
- Expanded tax credits to help families pay for child care — potentially enabling millions of mothers to go back to earning incomes;
- Adding $60 billion in revenue by raising some taxes on wealthy corporations and individuals. Most of these funds would pay for grants to COVID-impacted businesses such as restaurants, concert venues and airlines;
- Providing temporary financial relief to devastated cities, states and tribal governments;
- Throwing an economic lifeline to schools, colleges and universities hit hard by the pandemic;
- Providing funds to build housing and provide rental assistance;
- Allocating funds for COVID vaccines, testing and other healthcare needs.
Significantly, the American Rescue Plan also provides essential loans and regulatory relief to endangered pension plans, helping to ensure the retirement security of millions of people who worked all their lives to earn it.
Working families, especially here in the Southwest, have been missing from Washington’s sight for too long. The infrastructure package and the American Rescue Plan put working people back in the spotlight.
We have much more to accomplish, of course, like passing the PRO Act to restore the voices of people on the job. In the meantime, though, it’s nice to see America starting to roll up its sleeves and get to work the way it should.