Last week, the Biden administration proposed a mammoth $2 trillion jobs plan of such vast scale and ambition it is difficult to summarize. It covers everything from upgrading the country's public and private transportation systems, housing stock, schools, child care facilities, ports, water pipes, hospitals, manufacturing capabilities, supply chains, and increasing wages for home care workers among many other things. To encompass this wide array of incredibly important aspects of modern human existence and lacking a better term to do so, the Biden administration uses the word "infrastructure."
...Alas, these are not the types of questions we're seeing explored in the week after Biden's announcement. Republicans have successfully driven a counter-narrative focusing on one argument: Biden's proposal isn't really "infrastructure."
Many media outlets, pundits, and politicians have dutifully engaged Republicans on this talking point. To name just a few examples: Democratic congresspeople Katie Porter, Jamaal Bowman, Cindy Axne and Katherine Clark have all argued child care is in fact infrastructure. The New York Times's massively popular podcast The Daily did an episode on this question as well.
No one, not even most Republicans, is attempting to argue that this plan fails to directly address dire needs in the American economy. It is speaking to some of the most basic gaps in living a decent life: affordable and sustainable housing, reliable and convenient transportation, healthy living with social support, and a self-reliant economy that can provide for its people in good times and bad. Who can argue against refurbishing schools that poison children's air through antiquated boiler systems? Who is coming out against funding new hospitals in underserved areas? Who will be the one to bravely take a stand for lead poisoning?
...So, instead, Republicans have successfully changed the terms of the question from "is this good for the country?" to the question of what "infrastructure" means. The only reasonable response to that question is: who cares?
I have lived my entire life in a country that, broadly speaking, considers itself the "greatest country in the world" but cannot build a high speed train, get poisonous substances out of its water pipes, run frequent and reliable bus service in its cities, fix potholes, provide equal access to quality education to all of its children, solve its decades-long health care crisis, allow women to be both mothers and workers thanks to affordable child care, allow all households to pay a reasonable rate for reliable internet access, or make progress on any number of other issues. Meanwhile, we look abroad and see other nations have made significant progress on these issues generations ago and continue to improve. Is it infrastructure? It doesn't matter.
Or, as transportation secretary Pete Butteigeg put it, "If it's a good policy, vote for it and call it what you like."
Original story here.