Infrastructure after Inept Disrupture

Update 483: Plans for Infrastructure
After Years of Trump’s Inept Disrupture

Tomorrow night, President Donald Trump and Vice President Joe Biden face off in the last presidential debate of 2020. If you were tempted to press mute during the first debate, someone will do that for you tomorrow. 

It’s one last chance for Trump to explain an F grade earned on the politically and economically central issue of infrastructure. And a last chance for Biden to convince voters that his ambitious infrastructure plan can succeed politically and economically.

Ahead of what may prove to be a shallow set of exchanges, we take a deep dive into infrastructure, which Donald Trump in 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020 have made core to their respective campaigns. More below. 

Best,

Dana

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Vice President Joe Biden is putting infrastructure at the center of his campaign. In 2016, Donald Trump touted a $1 trillion infrastructure plan to rebuild roads, bridges, and highways. But infrastructure legislation has yet to materialize — a consequence of Trump’s focus on repealing the Affordable Care Act and implementing a large tax cut. 

Biden’s infrastructure plan is $700 billion larger than what he originally proposed during the primary. The current $2 trillion plan is bolder and more progressive, due in part to the pandemic as well as the efforts of progressive activists and champions like Sen. Sanders and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez. 

Below, we examine Biden’s infrastructure plan, focusing on economic and social infrastructure, transportation, and the environment.

Transportation Infrastructure

Large-scale infrastructure plans routinely enjoy support from over 70 percent of the public. Biden’s plan would lay a foundation for more sustainable growth over the next decade while empowering labor unions. Some notable areas include: 

  • Repairing U.S. Transport Infrastructure — Unspecified

    With 20 percent of U.S. roads in disrepair, Biden has proposed investing $50 billion during his first year to revitalize existing roads, bridges, and highways and shore up the underfunded Highway Trust Fund. He will also invest in freight infrastructure by increasing funding of various grants to $3.5 billion. 
  • Modernizing the Rail System — Unspecified 

    “Amtrak-Joe” Biden’s plan promises to shrink travel time from D.C. to New York by half, rebuild the Hudson River Tunnel, expand the Northeast Corridor, and jump-start high-speed rail networks in the Midwest and West. Biden will also work to electrify the rail system to reduce diesel emissions. 
  • Growing Municipal Transit — Unspecified

    Many residents of moderate to large-sized cities don’t have access to affordable, quality public transit and rely on personal vehicles, which are expensive, increase emissions, and create traffic. Biden’s plan would revitalize municipal transit networks for cities with populations above 100,000 by building light rail networks, upgrading current systems, improving pedestrian infrastructure, and increasing labor standards for transit workers. 

Infrastructure for Communities

Biden’s plan also includes investing in social infrastructure to improve the workforce, including: 

  • Universal Broadband — $20 billion

    Biden’s proposed infrastructure package will invest $20 billion in rural broadband infrastructure. Due to the pandemic, many schools and jobs are being conducted from home. But roughly 42 million Americans lack broadband access, and rural Americans are ten times more likely than urban residents to lack quality access to the Internet. Biden’s infrastructure plan will close the internet divide but falls short of the FCC’s estimate of $80 billion needed to get every American online. 
  • Public Schools — $100 billion

    Biden has committed $100 billion to fix crumbling public school infrastructure across the country, especially in low-income communities and communities of color. In 2017, America’s public school facilities received a D+ grade, and over half are in need of significant improvements. Schools face an estimated $38 billion annual investment gap in infrastructure funding, forcing them to take on additional long-term debt. 
  • Affordable Housing — $100 billion

    Biden’s infrastructure plan includes $100 billion for an Affordable Housing Fund. The bulk of this fund ($65 billion) will provide incentives to develop and rehabilitate low-cost housing. The fund is a part of a broader effort to fight discrimination and expand housing options for low-income individuals. 

The “Biden Green Deal”

Joe Biden’s plan for a clean energy economy is far-reaching and comprehensive. From urban planning and housing construction to mass transit and trade policy, the former VP pledges to make a $2 trillion accelerated investment in green energy — all in his first term. Some notable areas include:

  • Power Sector — Unspecified 

    Joe Biden plans to overhaul America’s sprawling, decentralized power network in an effort to decarbonize the electric grid by 2035. This will likely necessitate an “all of the above” approach to power sources, including doubling down on solar and wind energy development, as well as a mix of renewables like geothermal energy, hydropower, and nuclear power. 
  • Auto Industry — Unspecified

    Biden’s plan calls for all American-built buses to run on zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and aims to convert the existing stock of 500,000 school buses to zero emissions. The plan also includes the construction of 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations, tax credits for consumer swaps, and credits and grants for electric vehicle manufacturing.
  • Environmental Justice — Unspecified

    Joe Biden will draw heavily on the expertise of his running mate Senator Harris, who has a long history in environmental justice. Sen. Harris and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez recently re-introduced The Climate Equity Act, which aims to address the needs of communities of color in environmental policy. Biden’s plan follows it closely. 

    The Harris/Ocasio-Cortez legislation would stand up an Office of Climate and Environmental Justice Accountability within the White House and require the federal government to rate the effect that every environmental legislation or regulation would have on low-income communities. Additionally, Biden calls for investments in safe drinking water by repairing water pipelines and sewer systems, power plants, industrial facilities, landfills, and other idle community assets.
  • Agriculture and Conservation — Unspecified

    In Biden’s plan, a newly-created Civilian Climate Corps would undertake various conservation projects, including planting trees, managing forests, restoring wetlands, removing invasive species, and enhancing the carbon intake of natural and working lands. Biden also wants to give farmers financial assistance to adopt climate-friendly farming practices and technologies. He also proposes a voluntary “carbon farming market” that rewards farmers for the carbon they sequester on their land — creating a new income stream for farmers.

Achievable and Worthwhile

Biden’s plan will cost between $3 and $5.5 trillion over 10 years per the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Biden’s team has said that the proposal would be paid for with a mix of tax increases on the rich and corporations but has made no mention of other taxes like user fees or a gas tax. Regardless, the plan is estimated to create millions of jobs, expand the tax base, and create the foundation for sustainable and improved economic activity. 

Trump failed to produce on a campaign promise aimed at manufacturing and the Midwest to fund infrastructure bigly. Then he got elected and got the hare-brained idea that you could raise a trillion dollars for infrastructure entirely through a handsome tax break and never let go. Congress, sanely, wasn’t buying and the results are less than zero because we’re years further behind now. 

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