Infrastructure is a topic with which most people are familiar. It’s something that impacts them; they regularly travel on a road which could use fixing or see a need for a new road to make their travels easier.
The need for action is apparent, but the specifics of that action are less so. This fact will be important to remember as President Biden and congressional Democrats tout recently passed infrastructure legislation.
The $1.2 trillion bill is not all that it appears to be. In fact, it is both less and more than meets the eye.
How can that be? Let’s take a look at the details of the bill, as well as the expressed statements of high-ranking Democrats.
It is less than meets the eye because much of the spending is not new, and most won’t be spent anytime soon. Out of the existing spending, Virginia will receive the same as the last fiscal year.
In fact, less than half of the bill’s spending – $625 billion – is new; the rest reauthorizes existing spending.
Of this new spending, only $110 billion goes toward roads, bridges, and similar projects generally considered to be infrastructure, divided among the 50 states. Virginia’s share would be apportioned by Richmond. Accordingly, Virginia’s Ninth Congressional District would be unlikely to enjoy a substantial share of that new funding.
Even if we broaden our look to other components of the bill, we find little that will benefit our part of the country.
Take broadband. Considering its centrality to modern society in areas from the economy to education to entertainment, broadband deserves a place in an infrastructure bill. Yet this particular infrastructure bill fails to sufficiently target its broadband efforts in communities that are truly unserved.
Outdated maps pose a challenge to ensuring that the communities that most need help with broadband receive it, but the bill does not require federal agencies administering the funds to use the most recent maps. Urban areas that enjoy sufficient service to do classwork online or watch Netflix will be allowed to draw from the funding as well as unserved rural areas.
As someone who has supported federal efforts to improve broadband in the Ninth District, I am skeptical that this bill will be as transformative as advertised in rural areas. This is true when you consider how many dollars are involved and the fact that many already-served urban areas will be able to access the funds as well.
The infrastructure bill spends more borrowed money but fails to reform policies that diminish the impact of that spending. The Trump Administration had put forward improved regulations that would speed approvals and cut down on red tape for public projects, but the Biden Administration has reversed those reforms, and the infrastructure bill does nothing to help in this regard. Without reforms, it will take years to get anything built or accomplished.
This $1.2 trillion bill, as high as its price tag is, misses an opportunity to really fix the infrastructure problems in our country.
But how is it also more than meets the eye? Because passage of the infrastructure bill helped pave the way for the larger, so-called “Build Back Better” reconciliation bill packed with Democrat priorities like the Green New Deal.
This $1.2 trillion in spending could unlock trillions more in a bill promoting an agenda that would diminish our economy and disrupt our way of life.
From the beginning, the Biden Administration has linked physical infrastructure with “social infrastructure,” and congressional Democrats have followed its lead.
President Biden said in June of the infrastructure and reconciliation bill, “If only one comes to me, I’m not signing it. It’s in tandem.”
“There ain’t gonna be no bipartisan [infrastructure] bill unless we’re going to have a reconciliation bill,” agreed Speaker Pelosi.
The reconciliation bill’s price tag was recently estimated by the Penn Wharton Budget Model to be nearly $4 trillion. Included in the bill are proposals that would make energy more expensive, raise taxes, including on the family farm, limit the possibility of innovative cures and treatments, and reduce incentives to work.
Not to mention, part of it is unconstitutional.
I am disappointed in the unfulfilled potential of the infrastructure bill. I could not support a bill that was touted as a landmark yet would have so little impact on the people I serve.
But even with that, passage of the reconciliation bill would be truly catastrophic for the country. Voting for $1.2 trillion meant advancing the $4 trillion big government reconciliation bill. I could not do that.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, call my Abingdon office at (276) 525-1405, my Christiansburg office at (540) 381-5671, or to reach my office via email, visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.