‘We can’t delay’: Biden proposes $2 trillion infrastructure, jobs plan funded by corporate tax hike

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden unveiled a $2 trillion plan Wednesday to rebuild the nation’s aging infrastructure, support electric vehicles and clean energy, and boost access to caregivers and their pay in a massive undertaking that would be the centerpiece of his economic agenda.

Biden billed the sweeping jobs proposal, dubbed the American Jobs Plan, as a domestic investment not seen in the U.S. since the construction of the interstate highways in the 1950s and the Space Race a decade later.

The plan seeks to reshape an American economy still struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic, while positioning the U.S. to fight climate change and out-compete China in manufacturing. It would pump billions into rebuilding roads, bridges and rail with a dual goal of creating millions of “good-paying union jobs.”

Biden wants to raise taxes on corporations to pay for the eight-year spending package. He proposed increasing the corporate tax rate to 28% – resetting to the level before passage of President Donald Trump’s tax cuts in 2017 – and overhauling how the U.S. taxes multinational corporations by increasing the minimum tax on U.S. corporations to 21%.

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Biden detailed the plan Wednesday afternoon in a speech at a carpenters training center in Pittsburgh, calling it a “once-in a generation investment” that rewards “work, not just wealth.” He said the plan would be the country’s largest jobs program since World War II and make the country more competitive globally.

“It’s big – yes. It’s bold – yes. And we can get it done,” he said.

It’s the first piece of Biden’s larger “Build Back Better” agenda, with a separate proposal addressing health care, education and child care expected in April. The package continues a shift in U.S. policy under the Biden administration to expand the role of the federal government to meet the nation’s challenges.

“Put simply, these are investments we have to make,” he said. “Put another way, we can’t afford not to.”

Yet Biden faces a giant test politically to find Republican support in Congress for his legislative package, even as infrastructure generally has widespread bipartisan support. Republicans have balked at the suggestion of tax hikes and warned they would oppose a package that strays from core transportation infrastructure and tackles climate change and social justice.

“This apparently is not going to be an infrastructure package,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who spoke to Biden Tuesday, said shortly after its release. The Republican called it a “Trojan horse” for borrowed money, debt and tax increases on “the most productive parts of our economy.”

$621 billion for roads, bridges, rail, Amtrak and electric vehicles

The American Jobs Plan would allocate $621 billion to transportation infrastructure and resilience, including the repair and construction of roads, bridges, transit and rail service.

That includes $115 billion to modernize 20,000 miles of roads, fixing the 10 most “economically significant” bridges in the U.S. and repairing 10,000 smaller bridges in poor condition.

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Federal funds for transit projects – improvements to existing systems and expansion –would double under the plan to $85 billion. The plan would provide $80 billion to Amtrak to cover the rail service’s backlog of repairs. Another $25 billion would go toward updating airports and $17 billion for sea ports.

“We can’t delay,” Biden said. “We can’t delay another minute. It’s long past due.”

Racial equity and rural infrastructure are major themes throughout the package, with $20 billion set aside to reconnect neighborhoods historically cut off by investments. The plan also proposes $50 billion to create “resilient infrastructure” that can withstand future weather-related events.

Biden also wants to direct $174 billion to electric vehicles: the construction of a national network of 500,000 electric vehicle stations, replacing diesel vehicles, electrifying bus fleets and offering tax incentives and rebates to make electric cars more affordable.

Retrofitted homes, lead pipe replacement, universal broadband

An additional $213 billion in the plan would go toward retrofitting and building more than 2 million affordable homes and commercial properties, while $111 billion would replace all the nation’s lead pipes and service lines and upgrade drinking water wastewater and stormwater systems.

“So that every American, every child can turn on a faucet or fountain and drink clean water,” Biden said.

The plan would provide $100 billion to upgrade and construct new public schools; $100 billion to build universal high-speed broadband infrastructure to reach all Americans; and $100 billion to upgrade the nation’s electric grid and investment in clean electricity.

The plan sets aside $10 billion to modernize federal buildings, $12 billion for community college infrastructure, $18 billion to modernize Veterans Affairs hospitals and facilities, and $25 billion to upgrade child care facilities.

Biden is proposing a new national “energy efficiency and clean electricity standard” aimed at cutting the cost of electricity bills and electricity pollution. The plan would earmark $16 billion to plug orphan oil and gas wells, $10 billion to build a new conservation workforce and $5 billion for the remediation of dormant industrial sites.

The ‘caregiving economy,’ climate research and manufacturing

Nursing home residents line up to get COVID-19 vaccines at Harlem Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in New York on Jan. 15.

In one of the plan’s most expensive programs, Biden has proposed $400 billion to expand access to affordable care for the elderly and disabled. This would involve aid to Americans to obtain services they need but lack, and expand the care workforce, including a pay boost for care workers. The majority are women of color and earn around $12 an hour.

Biden has proposed expanding access to long-term care services under Medicaid and increasing pay through the same federal program.

“For too long, caregivers, who are disproportionately women, women of color and immigrants, have been unseen, underpaid and undervalued,” Biden said.

With a goal of making the U.S. more competitive against China and other nations, the plan would also pump $180 billion into the nation’s research and development in technology and climate science. This includes $50 billion for the National Science Foundation to invest in new technology, $40 billion to upgrade outdated research labs, $35 billion to build technology to address the climate crisis and $10 billion for research centers at historically Black colleges and universities.

“We’ve fallen back,” Biden said of U.S. investment in research and science. “The rest of the world is closing in and closing in fast. We can’t allow this to continue.

“Critics say we shouldn’t spend this money. They ask, ‘What do we get out of this?’ Well, they said the same thing when we flew into space for the first time.”

The plan also calls for $300 billion in manufacturing spending. It’s headlined by $50 billion for a new federal office to monitor domestic industrial capacity and the production of critical goods on the supply chain such as semiconductors, batteries and clean-energy technologies.

Other manufacturing proposals include: $46 billion in federal purchasing power for clean energy manufacturing so electric cars, electric charging ports, electric heat pumps and other clean materials are built in the U.S.; $30 billion for new jobs focused on the nation’s preparedness for future pandemics; and $20 billion to create 10 “regional innovation hubs” to spur technology development.

“I’m convinced that if we act now, that in 50 years, people will look back and say this was when America won the future,” Biden said.

Fully paid for in 15 years, White House says

The tax overhaul, which the White House has labeled the Made in America Tax Plan, seeks to incentivize job creation and investment in the U.S., end profit-shifting to tax havens and ensure large corporations pay “their fair share.”

The plan would eliminate a rule that allows U.S. companies to pay no taxes on the first 10% of returns when they locate investments in other countries.

Under the tax hikes and other reforms – eliminating tax loopholes for intellectual property and denying companies deductions for offshoring jobs, for example – the White House projects the spending would be fully paid in 15 years and reduce deficits in the years after.

Biden said no Americans who earn less than $400,000 would pay more taxes under his proposal. He said it’s not about targeting “those who made it,” but opening up “opportunities for everybody else.”

Business groups immediately criticized the tax hikes. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce applauded Biden for “making infrastructure a top priority” but said the tax increases “will slow the economic recovery and make the U.S. less competitive globally – the exact opposite of the goals of the infrastructure plan.”

A large-scale infrastructure plan has been talked about by both parties for years but never executed. Trump promised an infrastructure package but did not deliver one.

“Everybody is for doing something on infrastructure. But why haven’t we done it?” Biden said. “Nobody wants to pay or it.”

White House says they’re open to negotiations with Republicans

To build their case for trillions in spending, the White House said the U.S. ranks 13th globally in infrastructure quality, down from fifth in 2002, and significantly lags rival superpower China in infrastructure spending. More than one-third of America’s bridges need repairs, and one in every five highways are in poor condition.

The Americans Jobs Plan is Biden’s second major policy proposal of his young presidency after he won approval for his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill earlier this month. Not a single Republican voted for that bill, known as the American Rescue Plan.

Early public polling shows broad support for infrastructure spending, like it did for Biden’s COVID-19 relief package. A Morning Consult/Politico poll this week found Americans, by a 2 to 1 margin (54%-27%), support raising corporate taxes to support improvements to infrastructure.

Democrats could choose to seek passage of the infrastructure legislation in the Senate through budget reconciliation – just like they did Biden’s COVID-19 relief bill – which would require just a simple majority in the evenly split chamber and therefore no Republican votes.

The White House did not say how they plan to move the package through Congress, and did not give a timeline on when they want it passed.

“We’ll have a good-faith negotiation with any Republican who wants to get this done,” Biden said. “But we have to get it done.”

Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.

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