Infrastructure Spending In The US: The Gap Between Necessity And Feasibility


In the effort to ease passage of an infrastructure bill, President Joe Biden has been meeting with a bipartisan group of legislators.  A deal paring down spending as demanded by Republicans has been sent to the House.  But, as they say, there’s many a slip betwixt cup and lip. 

Unlike a parliamentary system, a bill will have to be introduced by a representative for the House to consider it.  Thus the president’s bill can be considered advisory but with the proviso that Republicans have agreed to it.  Democrats in congress want more spending on infrastructure.  Thus there is a reconciliation bill and many will not vote for the Biden bill if it is introduced without being in tandem with the higher spending reconciliation bill.

Much short of the $2.25 trillion plan the president unveiled in March, the plan proposes $1.2 trillion in spending over eight years of which $579 billion will be new.  The hard infrastructure part of the plan includes $109 billion for roads and bridges, $66 billion for rail, $49 billion for public transit, $25 billion for airports, and $16 billion for waterways and ports; another $55 billion goes towards water infrastructure, $73 billion for power structure, and $65 billion towards the broad based system with the intention of making high-speed internet available eventually to every American.

That the $1.2 trillion drill is substantially lower than the expectations of Democrats is clearly evident by Senator Bernie Sanders’ $6 trillion plan.  At the same time, the senate is evenly divided 50-50 and 60 votes are needed to make the passage of a bill filibuster proof, making such a plan infeasible. 

As noted earlier, the president’s plan allocates $109 billion over eight years for roads and bridges.  In contrast, the American Society of Civil Engineers in a March 2021 report advocated expenditures of $22.7 billion annually for bridges alone.  Over eight years that figure totals $181.6 billion, substantially greater than the $109 billion for the president’s plan for bridges and roads. 

The ASCE report also carries a warning:  At the current rate of investment in bridge repair, it will take 50 years or until 2071 to finish currently necessary repairs.  In the meantime, there will have been additional deterioration, which “will become overwhelming.” 

Biden’s original plan labeled the American Jobs Plan also called for $400 billion in spending for elderly and disabled care.  It expanded access to long term care under Medicaid and increased the wages of caregivers.  As  Republicans are unlikely to accept elderly care as a stand alone bill, the connection with hard infrastructure is only political.  

They say the measure of a society is how it treats the weakest  — the children and the elderly.  On those grounds Biden deserves an accolade.  But then where are the families of the elderly?  Or are the demands of our modern society such that people cannot look after their own flesh and blood when they need them most?

Dr. Arshad M. Khan
Dr. Arshad M. Khan
Dr. Arshad M. Khan is a former Professor based in the US. Educated at King's College London, OSU and The University of Chicago, he has a multidisciplinary background that has frequently informed his research. Thus he headed the analysis of an innovation survey of Norway, and his work on SMEs published in major journals has been widely cited. He has for several decades also written for the press: These articles and occasional comments have appeared in print media such as The Dallas Morning News, Dawn (Pakistan), The Fort Worth Star Telegram, The Monitor, The Wall Street Journal and others. On the internet, he has written for, Asia Times, Common Dreams, Counterpunch, Countercurrents, Dissident Voice, Eurasia Review and Modern Diplomacy among many. His work has been quoted in the U.S. Congress and published in its Congressional Record.


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