Joe Biden is embarking on the largest government initiative in more than half a century, “unlike anything we’ve seen or done since we built the interstate highway system and decades of the space race,” he says.
But when it comes to details, it sounds as boring as fixing the pipes.
“Under the American Jobs Plan, 100% of our nation’s lead pipes and service lines will be replaced, so every child in America can turn on the faucet or fountain and drink clean water,” tweeted the President.
Can you imagine Donald Trump tweeting about lead pipe repair?
Biden is excited about rebuilding America’s “infrastructure,” a word he uses constantly, although it might be the most boring term in all public policy.
The old unwritten rule was that if a president wants to do something really great, he has to justify it as critical of national defense or else summon the conscience of the nation.
Dwight Eisenhower’s National Interstate Highway and Defense Act was designed to “allow rapid evacuation of target areas” in the event of a nuclear attack and move munitions quickly from city to city. Of course, in the years that followed, it proved indispensable to the economic growth of the United States.
The huge American investment in higher education in the late 1950s was fueled by the Soviets’ Sputnik satellite. The official purpose of the National Defense Education Act was “to ensure a skilled workforce of sufficient quality and quantity to meet the national defense needs of the United States.”
John F Kennedy launched the race to the moon in 1962 so that space would not be “ruled by a hostile flag of conquest.”
Two years later, Lyndon Johnson’s “unconditional war on poverty” sent America’s conscience reeling from the Kennedy assassination.
But Biden is not raising the nation against a foreign power, not even China stands out in contrast, nor is he basing his plans on lofty calls for national greatness or public morals.
“I was chosen to solve problems,” he says simply. He is Mr. Fix-it.
The first of these problems was a pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans (Biden has a card in his pocket with the exact number on it) and the consequent financial difficulties.
In response, Congress passed Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, the most important parts of which are not checks for $ 1,400 now mailed to millions of Americans, but checks for $ 3,600 paid by a child. low-income families, which will cut child poverty in half.
Now comes his $ 2 trillion American Jobs Plan, which not only finances roads and bridges, but also a host of things the nation has neglected for years: schools, affordable housing, home care, broadband access, basic research, renewable energy. and the transition to a non-fossil economy.
Why isn’t Biden touting these initiatives for what they are, huge public investments in the environment, the working class, and the poor, rather than rescue checks and road repairs? Why not agitate America with a vision of what the nation can be if it exchanges a fraudulent trickle-down economy for genuine bottom-up innovation and growth?
Even the official titles for your initiatives – Rescue Plan, Job Plan, and Family Plan to be released soon – are nondescript, like plumbing plans.
The reason is that Biden wants Americans to feel confident that he is tackling the biggest problems, but he doesn’t want to create too much of a stir. The country is divided with such bitterness and anger that any upheaval is likely to provoke virulence.
Talking too much about fighting climate change and losing all those whose livelihoods depend on fossil fuels or who do not see climate change as an existential threat. Focus on reducing child poverty and lose everyone who thinks that well-being causes dependency. Talk too much about critical technologies and miss out on those who think the government shouldn’t pick winners.
Rescue checks and road repairs can be boring, but they are very popular. Sixty one percent of Americans support the American Rescue Plan, which includes 59% Republicans. More than 80% Support increased funding for road construction, bridge repair, and expanded broadband access.
Biden has made everything so bland that Congressional Republicans and their business backers have nothing to criticize except his proposal to pay for repairs by raising corporate taxes, which most Americans support.
This is smart policy. Biden is embarking on a huge and time-consuming job of repairing the nation’s physical and human foundations while managing to keep most of a bitterly divided country with him. It might not look like a glamorous job, but when you’re knee-deep in mud, it’s hard to argue with a plumber.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism