Falling Apart: America’s Infrastructure

Each year the American Society of Civil Engineers grades the quality of American infrastructure. On average, American infrastructure has scored in the D’s — barely a passing grade. Republicans and Democrats both recognize that this poses a severe problem because unstable infrastructure is dangerous; for example, crumbling bridges and roads cause accidents that threaten the safety of American drivers. There is no contention on whether American infrastructure needs improvement because the evidence is in front of us. If everyone agrees that America’s deteriorating infrastructure is a problem, why is President Biden’s infrastructure plan not universally supported?

Funding is a considerable factor affecting the possibility of bipartisan support for Biden’s plan. The proposed legislation is not cheap, with a price tag of $2 trillion. The Republican platform emphasizes minimizing government spending, which extends to infrastructure spending, and is why few Republicans support Biden’s infrastructure plan. Democrats do not perceive this significant expense as a problem because they see infrastructure improvement as necessary, despite the high cost. To offset concerns about adding to the federal debt, Biden proposes increasing the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28% to fund the plan. However, raising corporate taxes is wildly unpopular among Republicans, especially since they just succeeded in reducing the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% in 2017. Most Democrats support increasing corporate taxes, and many support increasing them above the 35% rate before 2017, so raising the corporate tax rate 7% is something Democrats would likely support regardless of whether it was paying for infrastructure or not.

What is Infrastructure?

Another area of contention is that Democrats and Republicans disagree on what comprises infrastructure. Republicans generally include traditional infrastructure systems, such as roads and bridges, in their definition of infrastructure but have expanded it to include access to broadband internet — a necessity during the pandemic. Democrats use all of the above in their infrastructure definition but also add green energy. Democrats largely support expanding green energy usage in the United States, and President Biden accounts for this issue in his infrastructure plan. The plan promises a transition to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, increased access to charging stations for electric cars, and spending millions on green energy research. Republicans do not define green energy as infrastructure and emphasize protecting jobs dependent on fossil fuel. Likely they will not support an infrastructure plan that heavily emphasizes green energy, at least not without compromise on this point.

Bipartisanship?

President Biden indicated he is open to bipartisan efforts and has already held discussions about his plan with Democratic and Republican congresspeople. However, the divisiveness between the two parties on both funding and the inclusion of green energy in the proposed legislation means that these bipartisan efforts will probably be unsuccessful. If this plan passes, it will likely go through reconciliation as the American Rescue Plan did. This path to passage is not necessarily a bad thing. Still, it is disheartening that fixing American infrastructure, an issue with bipartisan support, in theory, might not have bipartisan support in practice.

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