Joe Biden takes office Wednesday afternoon. History is repeating itself with a Democratic President succeeding a Republican and a country in chaos (i.e. FDR and Barack Obama). There are some obvious priorities but today I want to suggest Biden quickly move on an “optional” one. Let’s explore.
I strongly feel that Biden, especially considering his personality and the bipartisan manner in which he would prefer to govern (I’m not sure he will be able to), should put forth a huge infrastructure legislative package. Biden is by nature a warm man who would like to get along with everyone. What better way to attempt to achieve bipartisanship than a legislative package that gives every congressional district and state something(s)?
Every member of Congress would like to deliver something to their constituents that can fit into an infrastructure package. It may be a bridge, a highway, an overpass, an off ramp or high speed internet access. This also provides an old fashioned political way to “buy” their vote.
I’m not talking about a bridge to nowhere. There are literally thousands of worthy projects that in too many cases haven’t even reached the drawing board phase yet. The major reason is money. Starting with the Reagan administration our elected officials have ignored needed maintenance in order to made budgets politically acceptable. Dangerous bridges are the most visible cost but far from the only one.
Most Americans have just received or are soon to receive their second stimulus check of the 2020s. One of the first, if not the first, pieces of legislation Biden will send to Congress will include a much needed third one. We are simultaneously increasing unemployment benefits to help Americans caught in the pandemic induced economic downturn. The pandemic has stifled and changed consumer demand. FDR, among the stops and starts of the New Deal, proved that priming the economic pump by putting people to work and building necessary projects can stimulate the economy. Many of the bridges we drive over today and venues we assemble in were built during that period and financed by New Deal projects.
Never lose sight of the fact that the American economy’s demand factor is 70% consumer demand. It is simple: if you want to spur the economy put money in the pockets of the people at the lower end of the earnings scale – they will spend it and quickly. If we can simultaneously get some productivity out of them isn’t that a win on several more levels as opposed to just writing checks? The reality is that we are going to have to write the checks anyway.
Technology moves fast. I’m getting to the age where I’m not as comfortable with advancement as I used to be. With the exception of the Dark Ages there has always been change and in the long run we come to realize that most of it was for the good. I contend that the only thing that has changed about that is that change’s velocity has rapidly increased during my lifetime. Word to the wise: It shows no sign of slowing down. The reality is that because of many of our sins of the past America is behind the technological curve. Internet access is considered a right in many other advanced countries. Especially in many of our rural areas access to high speed internet connections does not exist. It doesn’t matter if you are wealth or poor; you can’t get it. Do you think that puts the children who live in those areas at an academic disadvantage? I do. Would you locate a business venture in an area where your cell phone service was at best spotty and high speed internet access was non-existent? I wouldn’t. Low taxes and beautiful scenery are great but you need tools to get the job done. Guaranteed energy at affordable costs might simultaneously placate Green New Deal people and lure new business ventures to your backyard.
That brings me to the question fiscal conservatives no doubt have: How are we going to pay for this? (There are a lot of progressives who find the concept of fiscal conservatism appealing – at least in theory. I don’t know anyone who has the kneejerk reaction of loving higher taxes.)
This takes me back to my (admittedly chauvinist) least ugly girl at the dance argument. Despite our problems the American economy is still if not than certainly among the most attractive in the world to investors. Economists, who are much more qualified to do the analysis than I am, tell us that we are borrowing at long term rates that are often negative when adjusted for future value. The projects would be financed with a combination of borrowed funds and targeted tax increases. If you think our current federal tax system is equitable I suggest you do some research – I lack the time and space to refute your incorrect assumption in this article.
Something for everybody and a better America; that sounds like a product Joe can sell and the first step toward bipartisan legislation on other issues. There is an old concept in sales that the first thing you have to do is get your customer to say “Yes”. At that point your goal is to keep them saying it. The first “Yes” is the key.
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