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.
Over the years there’s been serious talk about four-lane highways to serve Scottsbluff, Fremont and Norfolk. Proponents of better roads know what a difference they can make in the local economy. Here in the Scottsbluff region, the Heartland Expressway already is creating economic benefits carrying local traffic, commercial vehicles and tourists to locations around the Panhandle.
We in western Nebraska 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, Nebraskans across the state learned how difficult it is in making 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 would help us 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 with increased taxes.
Biden appears eager to get his infrastructure plan off the drawing board, but his approach could be overly aggressive.
He should consider a more measured approach. Attacking infrastructure needs more slowly 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 more quickly than other nations. These favorable circumstances buy 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; however, a bloated government hungry for tax dollars certainly could threaten our nation’s long-term prosperity.