Infrastructure, Family Edition

Town Hall at International Longshoreman's Association Hall - Charleston, SC - July 7, 2019

I once jokingly said on Twitter that if Joe Biden hadn’t followed the calamitous presidency of Donald Trump into office, he would have run out of things to do after the first 100 days in office. At the rate he, Vice President Harris, and Democrats in Congress are moving to enact a bold and ambitious agenda of investment in mainstream America, I may not have been far off.

I say an investment agenda, because that’s the best way I can think of to describe the President’s laser focus on American revival.

In his first 5o days in office, President Biden passed a COVID relief plan that was also the largest direct federal economic stimulus this country has ever seen. The $1.9 trillion plan put money in people’s pockets, supercharged vaccination efforts, and set the US economy up for extraordinary – and just as important, equitable – economic growth.

Before the ink was dry on the President’s signature on the American Rescue Plan, the administration rolled out the American Jobs Plan, their $2.7 trillion core infrastructure proposal. In keeping with the transformative thinking that is coming to define the Biden-Harris administration, the infrastructure proposal broadens the definition of infrastructure to include critical systems necessary for facilitating modern economic activity like broadband access and long-term care for loved ones. What’s more, the President’s plan is funded by raising taxes on corporations, and he’s stumped Republicans as the plan grows more popular when people hear of its funding mechanism. Heck, even corporations like Amazon and Lyft are endorsing the plan.

In an interesting phenomenon, the popularity of President Biden’s strategy is striking Republicans with some FOMO, and they’re at least trying to look like they have a serious counterproposal. They also want to blunt the president’s momentum by any means possible, and know that for spending measures, which are not subject to a 60-vote threshold in the Senate, the only way for them to do so would be to peel off a Democratic vote or two. Some GOP Senators have offered a smaller package, presumably in an effort to coax moderate Democrats, particularly Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

That doesn't seem to be working.

Manchin has been one of the Senators most enthusiastic about spending oodles of money on infrastructure, though he has balked at the 28% corporate tax rate that Biden has proposed. Last week, Manchin poured cold water over Republican efforts to woo him, suggesting that he would spend as much as $4 trillion on infrastructure. Manchin's stand got a big boost when on Monday, the country’s largest coal miners’ union, in what should be considered absolutely blockbuster news, endorsed the President’s plan and its move from coal to renewables.

And as it turns out, the President’s total on the full infrastructure and care package will come in at just about $4 trillion.

So far, the White House has only released the first part of its overall Build Back Better agenda, and that first part has also been the focus of most of the conversations around infrastructure. But they are now ready for Part deux.

Dubbed the American Families Plan, this part of the President’s agenda focuses on child care, health care, and paid family leave. This plan is funded by raising taxes on wealthy individuals.

According to the Washington Post, the American Families Plan will make massive investments to make sure families can flourish along with the economy.
The plan is expected to devote hundreds of billions of dollars to new programs that Biden highlighted during the presidential campaign and that are highly sought by Democrats in Congress. While final numbers had not been determined, the largest efforts are expected to center on roughly $225 billion for child-care funding; $225 billion for paid family and medical leave; $200 billion for universal pre kindergarten instruction; hundreds of billions in education funding, including tuition-free community colleges across the country; and other sums for nutritional assistance, the people familiar with the matter said.
Having paid family leave and adequate child care will shift the tectonic plates of how American workers are able to juggle their professional and personal responsibilities. The changes will most deeply impact women, people of color, and low-paid workers the most, because they also tend to be the workers who work for lower wages and either in industries with low incentives to provide family leave or in small businesses that can ill-afford to do so. Public investment in these areas will not only help workers take time to care for their families (or start one) but also put small businesses on a more equal footing with larger corporations when it comes to attracting talent.

Universal Pre-K, something that was proposed by both President Obama and Hillary Clinton – would transform early childhood development and education for families who lack access to Pre-K either physically or financially. Research shows that prekindergarten education is immensely beneficial to all children, but it particularly helps address the disparities in learning for children from poor and disadvantaged communities and dual language learners (kids who speak one language at home and another in school).

Roads. Bridges. Transit. Ports. Airports. Care infrastructure. Broadband. Child care. Universal Pre-K. Paid family leave.

The President’s view of what constitutes the building blocks of a modern economy isn’t simply forward-leaning, it is also holistic. It is not simply about what allows one to come to work but what allows one to do their best work.

These historic investments, if enacted, won’t just fulfill Biden's campaign promises. They would fundamentally shift the dynamic between American families and the economy that they work so hard to build.


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