By MARSHA MERCER
When President Joe Biden
unveiled Wednesday his roughly $2 trillion infrastructure plan, both the political
right and the left came out swinging.
“It’s like a Trojan
horse,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said, complaining
of “more borrowing and massive tax increases on all the productive parts of our
“This is not nearly
enough,” tweeted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, adding Biden’s
plan “needs to be way bigger.” She and other
progressives floated the need for an infrastructure plan five times larger than
Biden finally found the
sweet spot of bipartisanship – and it is against his sweeping American
That’s not all bad. Infrastructure
should and perhaps still can be a bipartisan issue.
Nearly everyone agrees the
nation’s roads, bridges, railways, airports and waterways need updating and
expanding, but how to pay for improvements is the perennial sticking point.
Biden says his bigger,
bolder plan pays for itself with – here’s the stick -- higher corporate taxes
over 15 years.
The carrot is an array of
proposals offering something for nearly every American.
“It’s not a plan that
tinkers around the edges. It’s a once in a generation investment in America”
that, Biden said, will create millions of jobs and put the United States on a
secure environmental and competitive footing for the future.
The plan would remake the
economy, revamp transportation and fight climate change and racial inequity. It
would redo sewer systems, install a nationwide network of electrical charging
stations, give tax incentives for purchases of electric cars, expand broadband
access and at-home healthcare, and empower more workers with collective
And that’s just part of
what’s in part one.
Part two – the American
Families Plan – is expected shortly. It likely will include paid family leave
and other popular benefits.
But nothing happens unless
Congress approves. Biden is betting he can capture the imagination of people beyond
the Beltway and turn his vision into legislation in even the fiercely partisan
“We just have to imagine
again,” he said.
“Imagine what we can do,
what’s within our reach if we modernize those highways. Your family could
travel coast to coast without a single tank of gas, on board a high-speed
train. We can connect high-speed, affordable, reliable internet wherever you
“Imagine knowing that you
are handing your children and grandchildren a country that will lead the world
in producing clean energy technology . . . That’s what we’ll do.”
It’s an appealing,
hopeful vision at a time when Americans need something to believe in and look
forward to. But Biden needs to do more than paint pretty pictures.
He needs convince people government
can work again and enough members of both parties to come together for the
A tall order. Biden
proposes to raise the top corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%. That’s still less
than the 35% it was before the last administration and Republicans in Congress
lowered the corporate rate to 21% in 2017. He also would raise other corporate
taxes to keep companies from moving overseas.
To pay for the coming American
Families Plan, he said he would raise taxes only on individuals making more
than $400,000 a year, not the middle class.
Big business favors traditional infrastructure
improvements but solidly opposes corporate tax increases. Some congressional Democrats
insist they won’t support a package unless it eliminates the $10,000 cap imposed
during the last administration on individual tax deductions for state and local
Biden says he will consider and should other ways of
paying. The pricetag for his two infrastructure
plans is likely to total an eye-popping $4 trillion.
The Capitol is already suffering from “spending
fatigue” after the $1.9 trillion stimulus plan, paid for wholly through
borrowing, that Democrats passed and Biden signed in February.
In Biden’s favor are
widespread public support for his policies, polls show, and his optimistic vision.
“We have to move now,
because I’m convinced that if we act now, in 50 years, people are going to look
back and say this was the moment that America won the future,” he said.
Biden’s legacy hinges on his
negotiating skills. He needs to compromise on aspects of the plan and persuade
congressional Republicans and Democrats it’s worthwhile to go along.
If he succeeds, this
president will lead the country in a cleaner, greener direction. If he fails,
his ambitious plan becomes a marker for 2022 and 2024, and it’s more politics
©2021 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.