Editorial: Pass comprehensive infrastructure bill now


The ISD Editorial Board argues in favor of Biden’s infrastructure bill, citing the declining conditions in most of the nation’s current infrastructure. 

Editorial Board

Infrastructure. While we rarely give it much consideration, it makes our modern society possible. Instant access to clean water, a reliable route to work and power to cool our homes are all possible thanks to this incredibly complex but often overlooked machine sprawling across our country. It was the pride of the nation decades ago, but what does it look like today? 

The American Society of Civil Engineers, in its report card it publishes every four years, gave the United States only a C- in infrastructure. 

C’s may get degrees, but they do not support the world’s most advanced economy. Ranging from an abysmal D- in mass transit, to an acceptable B in rail, the report shows large gaps in America’s system across the board.

Once known for our impressive highway system, the country’s roads are now sitting at a D grade, with 40 percent of roads in a mediocre or poor rating. And as the country looks to build a new electric lifestyle, it will be doing so on a grid that has long passed its 50-year lifespan, earning itself a C-.

The effects of these shortcomings hurt more than just your commute time — they hurt your wallet. Inefficient transportation networks including highways, airports and inland waterways increase the costs of moving resources and finished goods.

This causes a price spike through the entire supply chain that ends in residents’ bank accounts. In fact, this seemingly small bottleneck in the chain of goods is estimated to cut business sales by up to $7 trillion and cost 3 million jobs by 2025. 

Infrastructure now seems to be the Biden administration’s next big idea to push. Two weeks ago, Joe Biden held a bipartisan meeting to begin talks about a future bill. Just this Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she directed Democratic lawmakers to begin working across the aisle to craft a “bold” infrastructure bill. 

Democratic plans are expected to include the standard roads and bridges, as well as changes to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2035. Creating a “green energy economy” and deploying more mass transit systems around the country are pillars of this plan. Biden also pledges that the plan will encourage the formation and strengthening of unions in addition to expanding the middle class. Its expected price tag is around $2 trillion.

Paying for this bill will be an enormous undertaking. Details have not yet been announced and this will undoubtedly be the least popular part of the plan. Ideas have been floated, however, such as raising the gas tax. The gas tax was created specifically to fund the highway system but has not been changed since 1993. In that time, it has lost 64 percent of its buying power to inflation.

Most people expect the Biden team to follow through with its large infrastructure promises. The new president proposed a comprehensive plan that would prepare the country for the modern challenges we face. Republicans were quick to say they would only support renovations for roads and bridges and would resist any attempts to pass legislation they feel is too similar to the Green New Deal.

This unwillingness to move America forward is not a reason to hold our country back from modernization in a constantly advancing world. Similar to what they did with the recent American Rescue Plan (ARP), Democrats may be able to pass the majority of their infrastructure desires through a budget reconciliation.

This idea has already been accidentally leaked to the public. While this is debatably bad politics, meaningful change should not be sidelined any longer out of courtesy and Democrats should not be afraid to use this tactic again. 

Some feel that this deal is just an attempt by the Biden administration to make up for some early rounds of criticism it faced in its first 50 days. One issue brought against the administration was the death of the $15 hourly minimum wage in the COVID-19 relief bill.

Forced to use budget reconciliation to pass the ARP, the minimum wage increase was ruled outside the bounds of that procedure. Democrats chose to drop it from the bill instead of trying to push the entire bill through a filibuster. 

Additionally, the White House faced questions over an airstrike conducted in Syria. The U.S. carried out a series of strikes against facilities used by militias who had been launching attacks against American forces. Biden authorized these strikes and has been criticized for bypassing Congress and continuing a never-ending war. 

Biden is also beginning to feel the heat from an emerging crisis at the Southern border, with the situation evolving daily. 

However, infrastructure has always been a part of the Biden plan and many agree that an infrastructure bill is well overdue. All efforts to pass a bill, whether it is popular with the Conservative portion of Congress or not, are necessary. Bipartisan cooperation is always welcome, but if Republicans refuse to make a large investment in our own backyard, Democrats should race past them. Now is not the time for political theater or cutting our own people short.