To call President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan an infrastructure bill requires a very generous definition of the term. Or as Senator Kirsten Gillibrand apparently thinks, anything can be infrastructure. Of the $2.25 trillion allocated in this bill, only 6% goes toward what most Americans consider infrastructure. Instead of filling potholes, Biden’s bill is loaded to the brim with expansions of federal power, erosion of states’ rights, questionable economic policies and failed federal mandates.
There are aspects of this bill that ought to be lauded. The $174 billion allocated toward building out America’s electric vehicle charging stations is praiseworthy, given the rapid development of such vehicles. But there are far more parts of this bill that certainly do not fall into any realistic definition of infrastructure.
For example, Biden’s bill includes the PRO Act, which is designed to destroy Right to Work laws in 27 states, including Arizona, and kill millions of freelance jobs by forcing all freelancers to pay union dues to keep their job. It’s worth noting that unionization was recently rejected by Amazon employees in Alabama. This bill also seeks to force every building in America to meet onerous green standards that would raise the cost of housing around the country, at a time when demand for affordable housing keeps growing.
The Democrats want to spend hundreds of billions for high speed rail that would be significantly slower than a cheap plane flight, one-size-fits-all federal mandates related to the Green New Deal, and billions more for expansions of the government’s role in child and elderly care. The biggest offender is the goal to increase the U.S. corporate tax rate to 28%, a figure that is projected to kill another million jobs. All of these job killing actions are being proposed at a time where employers are struggling to fill 7.4 million open positions, and the U.S. recovery from the Covid pandemic is slowing.
And how are we going to pay for all this? Short answer: we won’t. The Biden team hopes to raise taxes by a whopping $2.1 trillion, along with increasing our debt by hundreds of billions more.
This bill isn’t just an “infrastructure” plan, it’s a federal power grab that would fundamentally change the relationship between states and the federal government in America. By creating giant slush funds controlled by the White House, it would practically destroy the vital role that state, county and local governments play in funding and deploying infrastructure projects.
Lost among all this spending is the real reason why new infrastructure ends up coming in horribly over budget, or isn’t built at all: America’s obtuse regulations around construction and federal hiring requirements. Required environmental studies are used to stop construction, especially projects such as affordable housing, dead in its tracks rather than actually protecting the environment. In addition, federal requirements that certain fields utilize only union labor greatly increase the price of projects. These government regulations inhibit the free market’s ability to cheaply update and modernize America’s infrastructure, and make every change, or new project, a big political fight. The free market is ready to get to work, but, as is usually the case in America, the government is the thing that stands in the way.
Real infrastructure doesn’t take years to build. As many European governments (and more recently China, much to our detriment) have demonstrated, infrastructure can be built in months, weeks or even days. In America, new infrastructure must navigate through a maze of government agencies, jump through a labyrinth of permitting and red tape, and spend millions on costly, bureaucracy satisfying environmental studies. Going forward, we must focus on consolidating the permitting process and cutting red tape.
Rather than trying to change the definition of infrastructure, Biden should just get the government out of the way.
Alexander Diaz grew up in Tucson and is a sophomore at the Catholic University of America, where he is president of the university’s branch of the American Conservation Coalition.