We’ve heard a lot about how much President Joe Biden’s infrastructure proposal would cost. At $2.3 trillion, it’s a hefty proposal, so hefty, in fact, that we don’t blame lawmakers looking for ways to trim down the package. The American Jobs Act costs a lot because it would do a lot.
The plan includes modernizing 20,000 miles of roads, fixing or replacing 10,000 bridges, 100% national broadband coverage, replacing lead drinking water lines and overhauling the U.S. economy to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
We Nebraskans would benefit from items on Biden’s to-do list, but we need to decide if the benefits are worth the investment.
This year there’s been serious talk about four-lane highways in Fremont, Norfolk and Scottsbluff. Proponents of better roads know what a difference they can make in the local economy. Here in Kearney, the addition of the Kearney East Expressway already is creating building action in east Kearney. A new sewer main in the area will accommodate the new businesses that are locating along the expressway.
We in the Kearney area also can appreciate the value of bridges. They cut miles off trips from farm to market or from state to state. After the 2019 floods, we learned the hard way what it’s like to make do without bridges where they’re needed. Bridges are essential for commerce and safety, but they require enormous investments of public capital, so it’s necessary at times for Uncle Sam to contribute funding, as Biden suggests with his infrastructure plan.
The president also is introducing a new definition of infrastructure by suggested a heavy investment in a national broadband network. Here in Nebraska, construction of a solid broadband network that would help us to diversify and strengthen our agriculture-based economy.
While we can see the benefits of the president’s infrastructure proposal, it is an expensive pill to swallow. He proposes to pay for the plan with an additional $2.1 trillion in tax revenue. In other words, we would invest money to create jobs and recharge the national economy, and then pay for it later with increased taxes.
Biden appears eager to get his infrastructure plan off the drawing board, but his plan could be overly aggressive. He should consider a more measured approach. Attacking infrastructure needs a more calculated approach that wouldn’t harm our opportunity to lead the world with our modernized infrastructure. Fortunately, the U.S. appears to be emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic much faster than other nations. This fact buys us time for Democrats and Republicans to negotiate strategic reductions in the American Jobs Act and transform it into a pay-as-you-go strategy.
Our nation has hundreds of thousands of open jobs. Slowing down the infrastructure proposal isn’t going to leave anyone out of work, but a bloated government certainly could threaten our nation’s long-term prosperity.