U.S. Infrastructure Is Failing. Can Joe Biden’s Plan Fix It?

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the country’s infrastructure is close to failing in many categories — literally. The organization’s annual Infrastructure Report Card gave D grades in 11 of 17 categories, including roads, stormwater, parks and recreation, and aviation.

The phrase “infrastructure week” has been thrown around so much in Congress that it’s become something of a joke in the media. It’s an issue that has broad bipartisan support among the public but can’t seem to get past polarization and gridlock in the legislature. The Biden administration is hoping to change that by proposing a $2 trillion infrastructure plan that would be funded largely by raising corporate taxes. 

Biden’s plan includes $621 billion for transportation, which roads, bridges, public transportation, and more. A long-time Amtrak rider, the plan also includes funds to expand and upgrade the nation’s rail infrastructure and make train travel a viable way to travel in more parts of the country.

Roads, bridges, and waterways all received low scores on the ASCE infrastructure report card, with the group estimating that motorists spend more than $1,000 each year as a result of repair backlogs and more bridges falling into structural disrepair every day.

Speaking of fuel, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation offers another proposal for funding infrastructure upgrades in these areas — raising the gas tax, which has been the same for 28 years and, when adjusted for inflation, is now worth 45% less than it was the last time it increased in 1993. 

According to the foundation, the gas tax is a tax on regular and diesel fuel that accounts for more than 80% of the Highway Trust Fund, a critical part of paying for road-related infrastructure projects. The U.S. gas tax is much lower than that of countries in Europe, while the Highway Trust Fund is expected to have a $200 billion shortfall by 2031. 

Taken together, the foundation argues that Americans can pay a little more for the services they use every day, especially as more people move out of urban centers and into suburbs as a result of COVID-19. The group also recommends changing the gas tax from a fixed rate to a percentage of fuel prices so it can adjust along with the oil market.

Biden’s infrastructure proposal also includes $400 billion for health services and caregiving for older Americans — another industry thrust into the spotlight by COVID-19. The plan recommends raising wages for home health aides and long-term care facility workers, many of whom currently make close to minimum wage, as well as the opportunity for employees in those sectors to unionize. 

Other components of Biden’s plan include:

  • $300 million for manufacturing, with a focus on clean energy, rural communities, and small businesses
  • $213 billion to build and renovate more than 2 million single-family homes and multi-family housing units
  • $111 billion for drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater systems
  • $100 billion for digital infrastructure and giving every American high-speed Internet access

It’s unclear how the infrastructure plan will fare in Congress, but the country is sorely in need of work in many critical areas. Putting partisan politics aside, these services benefit every American and need attention now to ensure that they’ll be available for future generations.

Grassroots Pulse covers public policy and political issues aimed at engaging highly-active policy makers, donors, and grassroots leaders at the forefront of the political process in America today.

Image Credit: Photo by Abraham Barrera on Unsplash

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