Biden Pitches His Infrastructure Plans as Necessary to Win Race Against China
President Joe Biden promoted his $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan and his proposal to invest $174 billion to grow the U.S. electric vehicle market with a visit Tuesday to the Ford Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn, Michigan.
“My name is Joe Biden, and I’m a car guy,” the president said at the start of his speech. He later got behind the wheel of an all-electric Ford F-150 Lightning pickup truck.
Biden has proposed spending upwards of $2.3 trillion on a wide variety of projects, ranging from standard items like highways and bridges to more wide-ranging issues such as job training, eldercare and green energy. To help pay for those investments, Biden has also proposed a package of tax hikes, including an increase of the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28% and a new minimum tax on foreign earnings, as well as a crackdown on tax cheats by the IRS.
In his speech, Biden said his proposed investments are necessary to catch up to China in the race to lead the electric vehicle sector. Biden’s plan includes funding to expand the network of electric charging stations and would provide rebates and incentives for Americans to buy electric cars. Biden said that the United States used to lead the world in research and development investments, but that the country now ranks eighth, and China is No. 1.
“The future of the auto industry in electric. There’s no turning back,” Biden said. “The real question is whether we’ll lead or we’ll fall behind in the race to the future. Or whether we’ll build these vehicles and the batteries that go in them here in the United States or rely on other countries. Or that the jobs to build these vehicles and batteries are good-paying union jobs with benefits, jobs that will sustain and grow the middle class.”
Biden slams Trump: Biden also knocked former President Donald Trump for not passing an infrastructure bill and for allowing his administration’s series of “infrastructure weeks” to become a joke. “They announced infrastructure week,” Biden said. “And they announced it and announced it and announced it and announced it. Every week for four years, didn’t do a damn thing.”
Touting a bipartisan approach: Biden touted his Oval Office meetings with Republicans and said he believes he can reach a bipartisan deal on an infrastructure package and was waiting for a revised counterproposal from GOP senators, which is expected to be delivered today or tomorrow. “We made on thing clear: We’ll compromise, but doing nothing is not an option,” he said.
Some Republicans have objected to Biden’s proposed funding for electric vehicles and the initial $568 billion counteroffer presented by a group of GOP senators focused more on fixing roads and bridges. Republicans have also rejected Biden’s proposal to pay for infrastructure spending by raising corporate taxes.
Negotiations on an infrastructure package continued even while Biden was in Michigan, as a group of administration officials including Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo were slated to meet with Republicans on Capitol Hill Tuesday afternoon, according to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.
White House Links Infrastructure Plan to Cybersecurity
In the wake of a cyberattack on a key pipeline that caused fuel shortages and soaring gas prices in parts of the U.S. last week, the Biden administration is saying that its infrastructure proposal includes significant funding for cybersecurity.
Although the total figure is undefined, the White House says that Biden’s $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan includes tens of billions for cybersecurity, Bloomberg News reports.
The proposal calls for $20 billion to fund state and local efforts to modernize energy systems and another $2 billion for grid resilience, upgrades that would include cyber defenses. The administration also says its proposal to spend $100 billion on broadband infrastructure is a component of upgrading cybersecurity.
“Cybersecurity is one of the preeminent challenges of our time, which is why President Biden has made strengthening U.S. cybersecurity capabilities a top priority,” a White House document reviewing the issue said.
Nearly 60 House Democrats Warn Against Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal
As Senate Republicans were preparing to deliver their updated proposal to the White House, a group of nearly 60 House Democrats was pushing party leaders to avoid scaling back the size and scope of any infrastructure legislation. In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) obtained by ABC News, the Democrats said that achieving legislative priorities should come before bipartisanship.
“While bipartisan support is welcome, the pursuit of Republican votes cannot come at the expense of limiting the scope of popular investments,” they wrote. The signatories were led by Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA). “On a host of priorities that can be delivered by this Congress, the trade-offs for Republican votes are stark. We ask that you work with the White House to prioritize transformative legislation that our voters were promised, which may require reforming or even eliminating the Senate filibuster as well as wielding the full powers available of the presidency, vice presidency, and relevant federal agencies to achieve these goals.”
The letter urged lawmakers to "pursue a larger up-front investment that truly meets this historic moment," calling for a package even larger than Biden has proposed. The Democrats said they “strongly support” Biden’s campaign proposal for some $7 trillion in investments in health, energy, infrastructure and child-care.
The group also called for passing their legislation in a single package, even as Biden appears to be open to passing a bipartisan package for physical infrastructure such as roads and bridges and then following up with another package that Democrats could look to pass on their own via the budget reconciliation process.
‘An Outbreak of Major Bipartisanship’ on Infrastructure Financing
The challenges Biden faces in reaching a bipartisan infrastructure deal were on display at a Senate Finance Committee hearing Tuesday on financing options for such a package.
“Right now in Washington, D.C, it would be hard to get members of Congress to agree on the proper way to butter toast, but I think everybody understands the importance of upgrading infrastructure,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), the committee chair, said in his opening remarks.
But Wyden also said that, to his mind, the “obvious answer” to the tough question of how to pay for infrastructure in a fair way was to have businesses pick up the tab: “It is long past time for mega-corporations to pay a fair share for building and repairing roads and bridges. They drive trucks across America’s roads and highways. They send products to market through our airports and our waterways. They rely on our power grids and communication systems. And it seems to me to be just basic fairness that they ought to pitch in for the infrastructure that makes our country an economic superpower.”
Wyden said that “mega corporations” have never in modern history contributed less to federal revenues than they do now, and he again cited Congressional Budget Office data indicating that in the wake of the 2017 GOP tax overhaul, corporate income tax revenue is down nearly 40% from the 21st century average. He also rejected the Republican idea of having user fees pay for infrastructure, arguing that those fees suggest that “middle class workers are supposed to pay what mega-corporations will not.”
Moments later, Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), the top Republican on the Finance Committee, called the idea of corporate tax increases “counterproductive and a non-starter on my side of the aisle.” Crapo defended looking to user fees, including those on electric vehicle drivers, to pay for infrastructure.
“There is no silver bullet for how to pay for transportation infrastructure, but historically it has been paid for by user fees, which makes sense,” he said. “To maximize use of taxpayer dollars, we should consider proposals to attract private capital for infrastructure projects, repurpose unused federal funds, and improve and expand upon existing infrastructure loan programs.”
Both senators agreed on one possible funding option: Wyden and Crapo both expressed openness to renewing the Build America Bond program created under the Obama administration.
The Hill’s Naomi Jagoda explains that under that program “state and local governments could issue taxable bonds in 2009 and 2010 and receive a subsidy from the federal government for a portion of their interest costs. The program was popular, with about $180 billion of bonds issued, but was not renewed when it expired.”
"This is an approach that Congress has to return to because it works," Wyden said. Crapo agreed, saying the bonds “can be a significant way of incentivizing private capital into our infrastructure.”
Wyden called that “an outbreak of major bipartisanship.”
Read more about the Build America Bond program and a similar new proposal at The Hill.
Yellen Pitches Corporate Tax Hike to Business Group
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Tuesday attempted to drum up support among business owners for President Biden’s plans for infrastructure investments and tax increases.
Speaking at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event, Yellen argued that the Biden proposals would benefit American companies and make them more competitive internationally. “We are confident that the investments and tax proposals in the jobs plan, taken as a package, will enhance the net profitability of our corporations and improve their global competitiveness,” Yellen said. “We hope that business leaders will see it this way and support the jobs plan.”
In her pitch, Yellen asked businesses to contribute more to government spending than they have in recent years. “With corporate taxes at a historical low of one percent of GDP, we believe the corporate sector can contribute to this effort by bearing its fair share: we propose simply to return the corporate tax toward historical norms,” she said.
Yellen also spoke about the lack of power of workers in the U.S. and the effect that has had on economic inequality. “Workers, particularly lower-wage earners, have seen wage growth stagnate over several decades, despite overall rising productivity and national income,” she said. “There are several contributors to this troubling trend, but one important factor is an erosion in labor’s bargaining power.”
A chilly response: While expressing support for new investment in infrastructure, Suzanne Clark, who leads the chamber, said the organization opposes raising taxes to pay for it. “The data and the evidence are clear: the proposed tax increases would greatly disadvantage U.S. businesses and harm American workers, and now is certainly not the time to erect new barriers to economic recovery,” Clark said in a statement. “The administration is right to champion infrastructure, and we want to be there with them to do that, but there are other ways to finance it.”
3 Signs the US Is Beating Covid-19
The U.S. is winning the war against Covid-19, says Paige Winfield Cunningham of The Washington Post, citing three key indicators showing significant progress:
Average new cases per day dropped nearly 20% in the last week and are now below 35,000, down from a peak of more than 250,000 in January.
Average hospitalizations per day have fallen 12.6%, to 10 per 100,000.
Average deaths per day are down by 16.5% and are now below 580, a level not seen since the pandemic lull early last summer.
In addition, the vaccination effort has been a remarkable success, with about 60% of all U.S. adults receiving at least one dose, and 47% now fully vaccinated.
Still, this is no time to grow complacent, health experts say. The rate of vaccinations is slowing, recently dropping below 2 million per day, and more infectious variants of the virus are continuing to spread.
“We remain in a race between vaccines and the variants so we need to continue to overcome hesitancy and ramp up vaccination rates here and, at least as important, do much better to get vaccines produced and distributed worldwide,” Jesse Goodman, professor of medicine and infectious diseases at Georgetown University, told Winfield Cunningham.
- Infrastructure at a Crossroads – David Dayen, The American Prospect
- There’s a Better Way to Pay for Infrastructure – Bloomberg Editorial Board
- Democrats Think Voters Will Reward Them for Sending Checks. What if They’re Wrong? – Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent, Washington Post
- Democrats Can Claim the ‘Family Values’ Mantle With Paid Leave and Affordable Child Care – Katrina vanden Heuvel, Washington Post
- Biden Claims He Wants a Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal. It’s a Trap. – Marc A. Thiessen, Washington Post
- Should the Fed Be Less Complacent About Inflation Risks? – Vivekanand Jayakumar, The Hill
- Fact-Checking the Paul-Fauci Flap Over Wuhan Lab Funding – Glenn Kessler, Washington Post
- Get a Shot, Win $1 Million (or $100,000) – Peter R. Orszag, Bloomberg
- Why Local Governments Don't Pay for Expensive Disaster Insurance – Leslie Kaufman, Bloomberg