GOP offers inadequate infrastructure plan that lets the rich off free

Their plan makes it clear yet again that, for them, protecting the wealthy trumps fixing infrastructure.

WASHINGTON—Republican senators outlined a $928 billion infrastructure proposal Thursday that drastically slashes what President Joe Biden has proposed and sets things up so that the wealthy, unlike the rest of the country, will pay nothing toward fixing the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. In fact, in what is perhaps the most unacceptable part of their “counter-offer” to Biden’s plan, which the president has already cut from $2 trillion-plus to $1.7 trillion, the Republicans want to pay for their plan by taking away money intended for coronavirus aid.

The parties could not be further apart on the funding issue. Biden wants to raise taxes on the rich, and Republicans want to protect their wealthy benefactors by paying for infrastructure with funds intended to squash the pandemic.

The Republican offer would increase spending from current levels by $91 billion on roads and bridges, $48 billion on water resources, and $25 billion on airports, according to a skimpy one-page summary released by the GOP negotiators. It also would provide for one-time increases in broadband investments, at $65 billion, and, in an attempt to mollify Biden, who loves Amtrak, $22 billion on rail.

Republicans categorically reject Biden’s proposed corporate tax increase to pay for new investments and instead want to shift badly needed COVID-19 relief dollars to cover the costs of their inadequate plan.

“It’s a serious effort to try to reach a bipartisan agreement,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, the lead GOP negotiator, when she unveiled the GOP proposal this morning. Defying reality, the GOP senators said their offer delivers on “core infrastructure investments.” Their plan leaves out all of Biden’s proposals to fix underlying human infrastructure problems, ones that have to be solved if funding for things like roads and bridges is to be effective. There is nothing in the GOP proposals that makes it easier for workers to take care of their families or to rebuild crumbling schools, health facilities, and other institutions.

Biden has made serious concessions to the GOP already. He has reduced his original $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan to $1.7 trillion. Republicans want more than three quarters of a trillion more in cuts, and they want to fund their inadequate plan by taking money intended for working class and poor people rather than from the wealthy and corporations.

Democrats have already gotten signals from the Senate parliamentarian that they would be able to pass most of their infrastructure proposals with the reconciliation process, which would require no support from Republicans.

Biden has been making clear that the choice here for Americans is whether they want to continue the policy of one tax break after another to corporations and the rich or whether, once and for all, they want to overhaul the nation’s infrastructure.

Republicans insist on defining infrastructure as money only for roads, bridges, ports, and water systems, while Biden takes a more expansive view that includes the nation’s schools, hospitals, affordable massive housing programs, and extensive child care systems as part of infrastructure.

Even Biden’s pared-down proposal would fund efforts to deal with climate change, put $174 billion into development of electric vehicles and charging stations, and set aside $50 billion so communities can better deal with floods, hurricanes, wildfires, and other natural disasters. Republicans absurdly claim that none of these things are part of infrastructure.

Ignoring what people everywhere want and need, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said the Republicans’ proposal reflects “what people at home in Wyoming think of as infrastructure—roads with potholes.” Presumably, he is saying that schools, hospitals, and all the other things are of no concern to the people in his state.

The White House has said that using COVID-19 relief money to pay for infrastructure was a “nonstarter,” noting that much of that money has been allocated or spent and that the remainder will be spent as the need arises in the battle against the virus.

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., is falsely claiming there is $700 billion in unspent COVID-19 aid from the American Rescue Plan, which was the administration’s $1.9 trillion response to the coronavirus crisis earlier this year. The administration says that this money is part of a long-range plan to deal with the virus.

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People’s World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union’s campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and ’80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper’s predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.

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