Joe Biden has said that his $ 2 billion plan to rebuild America’s “crumbling” roads, bridges, railroads, and other infrastructure would compete with the space race in its ambition and bring about economic and social change on as large a scale as the New Deal. The president has also promised that his “once-in-a-generation” investment will reverse long-standing racial disparities exacerbated by past national mobilizations.
Embedded in its extensive infrastructure agenda, the first part of which Biden unveiled this week, are hundreds of billions of dollars dedicated to projects and investments that the administration says will promote racial equity in employment, housing. , transportation, healthcare and education, while improving financial outcomes. for communities of color.
“This plan is important, not just why and how it is built, but also where we build,” Biden said at a union carpenter training center outside Pittsburgh last week. “It includes everyone, regardless of race or zip code.”
His proposal would replace lead pipes and service lines that have disproportionately harmed black children; reduce air pollution that has long damaged Black and Latino neighborhoods near ports and power plants; “Reconnect” neighborhoods isolated by previous transportation projects; expanding affordable housing options to allow more families of color to buy homes, accumulate wealth, and eliminate exclusionary zoning laws; rebuild the public housing system; and prioritize investments in “frontline” communities whose residents are predominantly people of color, often the first and most affected by climate change and environmental disasters.
The plan also allocates $ 100 million in workforce development programs targeting historically underserved communities and $ 20 million to upgrade Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and other institutions serving minorities (MSI), and quadruple the funds for the Manufacturing Extensions Association to drive investment in “rural minority-owned businesses.”
Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party (WFP), said it was clear that Biden had been listening to activists and understood the intertwined challenges of racial injustice, climate change and economic inequality.
“This is not racially neutral, it is actually quite aggressive and specific,” she said, pointing to the coalition of voters and black women that helped Biden get the Democratic nomination and win the White House.
Perhaps the most daring thing about the proposal is a $ 400 billion investment in the care of elderly and disabled Americans. In his speech, Biden said his agenda would create jobs and raise wages and benefits for the millions of “invisible, underpaid and undervalued” caregivers, predominantly women of color.
Ai-jen Poo, Co-Founder and CEO of the National Alliance of Domestic Workers, called it “one of the most impactful plans to address racial and gender inequality in our economy.”
Poo said the coronavirus pandemic, which disproportionately harms women and people of color, shows how critical care workers are to the nation’s well-being. And yet many of these workers still struggle to take care of themselves and their families.
Poo believes that Biden’s plan can do for care and the economy what previous employment programs did for manufacturing, turning dangerous, low-wage jobs into opportunities for upward mobility and safety. Homecare workers have been excluded from job protections – Poo said this effort puts them at the forefront.
“There is nothing more fundamental and empowering for our economy than taking good care of families,” he said. “Without that, nothing else can work; we can’t even build roads, bridges and tunnels without care.”
Biden’s plan also envisions $ 100 billion for high-speed broadband internet along with provisions to improve access and affordability, which White House officials say will help bridge the digital divide between white, black and white families. Latinas.
“The Internet is a tool we all trust,” said Angela Siefer, executive director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance. “And when certain segments of the population, particularly those who have historically been excluded, do not have access to the tools, they fall further behind.”
Biden said his plan would help lower costs by increasing competition and providing short-term subsidies for low-income households. Siefer said these measures are important, but was skeptical that rates would drop enough to make high-speed internet affordable for low-income families without more permanent subsidies.
Improving digital literacy is also critical to tackling racial inequality, Siefer said, adding: “To really achieve equity, we have to go beyond thinking: let’s make it available.”
The proposal also includes $ 5 billion for community violence prevention programs, an investment that Black and Latino activists have long argued will help reduce the impact of gun violence.
The administration has suggested that additional efforts will be made to close the racial wealth gap, such as universal pre-kindergarten, affordable higher education and enhanced family leave, in the second part of what could be a $ 4 trillion program.
Republicans accuse Biden of handing over a “Trojan horse” to fund progressive initiatives.
“Biden’s plan includes hundreds of billions of spending on left-wing politics and blue state priorities,” the Republican National Committee said. He highlighted parts of the bill that aim to address racial and gender inequality, such as “$ 400 billion for an ‘unrelated’ home care program that ‘was one of the main demands of some union groups.’
While many senior Democrats welcomed the plan, many progressives have said it doesn’t go far enough. They have called for $ 10 trillion over the next decade to tackle climate change, including stronger investments in renewable energy and the goal of shifting the US to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
Biden has said he is open to negotiation and hopes to attract Republicans to the plan. The president suggested that Republicans will be quick to act if they learn that drinking water on Capitol Hill flows through lead pipes.
As Congress begins the process of turning Biden’s plan into legislation, progressive groups are mounting a campaign to pressure lawmakers to adopt an even more ambitious agenda. WFP is part of a coalition of groups organize protests to demand that Congress produce a “transformative economic recovery.”
“If you’re going to be big and bold, be big and bold and solve the problem completely,” Mitchell said. “We are in a moment of crisis and we will not have another chance.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism