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Half a loaf with Dems ... but starvation with Repubs

Bruce Maples
Bruce Maples

There have been many hot takes about the two Biden infrastructure bills, the “hard infrastructure” one and the “human infrastructure” one. Lots of will-they-pass and what’s-the-number and Manchinema drama and all the rest.

And of course, there’s the disappointment at only getting the smaller one passed (so far), usually expressed as “well, half a loaf is better than none.”

Listening to the so-called pundits and experts mouth the “half a loaf” mantra has finally pissed me off to the point I want to stand on a rooftop and yell:

“Half a loaf? Hell, this is half a banquet! And you may get the other half soon! But let’s be clear – if the Republicans were in charge, you’d get none of it. Instead, all of your food would be given to the already-fat cats bellying up to the table, and you would be left to starve!”

And for those of you who think that is an exaggeration, or over the top, or just bravado, let’s take a look at the facts, shall we?

What’s in the first bill?

Here is what is in the smaller, “half a loaf” bill, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, that just passed the House and is on its way to Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

From this article on Vox:

  • $110 billion for roads and bridges
  • $66 billion for passenger and freight rail
  • $65 billion for expanding broadband access: The bill intends to provide high-speed internet access to millions of Americans who don’t currently have it, and includes funds for broadband deployment in rural areas and on tribal lands. Additionally, it contains funding for vouchers to help low-income families afford internet access.
  • $65 billion to update the electric grid
  • $55 billion for water and wastewater, including $15 billion to replace lead pipes
  • $39 billion for public transit
  • $25 billion for airports
  • $17 billion for ports and waterways: The bill attempts to curb pollution near ports, and address congestion in order to streamline access and traffic at many locations.
  • $7.5 billion for electric vehicle chargers
  • $1 billion for reconnecting communities: In the past, roads, highways, and bridges have been built that divide communities of color from white communities, an issue this bill aims to address by removing existing barriers and building new infrastructure.

That is one impressive list of investments, isn’t it? Every one of those investments is desperately needed, and should have been done years or even decades ago.

Is it enough? Not at all. For example, the bill contains that $15 billion to replace lead pipes in our drinking water, but experts say it will take about $60 billion to get the job done.

The same is true for all the other investments; we have let them go so long that it’s going to take years of make-up investments to get us where we need to be.

But, it’s a start. We are actually investing in America, instead of throwing money at government contractors and billionaires.

A word about the cost

Some Republicans are yowling about the cost, so let’s take a look at that.

The bill is described as the “$1.2 trillion infrastructure bill” – but that's not completely accurate.

First of all, the bill only contains $550 billion of new spending. The rest was actually already approved in other bills, and just re-allocated and re-packaged to make this one bill.

Secondly, it is spread over five years, so it’s not “$1.2 trillion in one year” as some have said.

And finally, for any Republican carrying on about the cost, ask them if they voted for Trump’s tax cut in 2017. Remind them that THAT bill cost the government $1.9 trillion, much more than this bill – AND, it wasn’t an investment in our people, it was a giveaway to the wealthy and big corporations. So, put a sock in it, Repubs.

“Starvation”? Is that appropriate?

Well, let’s see. If you are an everyday working stiff, did you see much benefit from that Trump tax cut? Did it make your life significantly better? Did it help you with the things you struggle with everyday?

The answers are: No. No. And ... No.

But if you live in Kentucky and get your water through lead pipes, have to drive to the closest McDonald’s to use their wifi to do your homework, and drive to work over a bridge that is about to collapse, will the Democrats’ bill make a difference in your daily life? Absolutely – a tangible, noticeable difference.

But wait! If the Dems can get Manchin and Sinema to come to their senses (and ignore their fat-cat donors) long enough to vote for the other Dem bill, here’s what everyday Americans, including us in Kentucky, will see:

  • $400 billion for child care and universal pre-K, and limiting child-care costs to no more than 7% of income for working parents
  • Extending the child tax credit for at least another year
  • Expanding Medicare to cover hearing services
  • $150 billion to build or improve more than 1 million new affordable housing units, and help with rent and down payments
  • Programs to make our supply chains more resilient
  • Investments in maternal health
  • Programs to deal with community violence
  • Help for Native American communities

That’s not half a loaf – that’s a banquet of investments in our people! They are all things we should have been doing all along – but with Democrats they are finally going to get done! (And this bill ALSO costs less than the Republican tax cut under Trump.)

So, why the “starvation” accusation in the headline? Well, just ask yourself this question:

Can you see any of the Republicans currently in Washington voting for any of those things, ever? Can you see Mitch McConnell supporting those investments in everyday people? Can you see Rand Paul praising that spending?

The answer is NO. Republicans have not supported investing in our people like this since Ronald Reagan made them believe that government, and governing, are bad. They’ve been running on “government is the problem” ever since.

So if you show up at their table asking for help with your child care costs, or your hearing aid costs, or the lead in your pipes poisoning your children, they will respond by ignoring you while they pass another tax cut.

Let’s be clear:  Dems aren’t always saints, and Republicans aren’t always sinners. But when it comes to policy that makes a difference in the lives of you and me, Republicans are bankrupt. Hell, their official platform in 2020 was “whatever President Trump wants.”

Democrats are wrestling, and negotiating, and bickering, and negotiating, and snipping, and negotiating. It’s what Dems do. But, they are also PASSING bills that make a difference, that invest in our people, that change the trajectory of the future for everyday Americans.

You may be tired of the “Dem drama” in DC. I certainly am.

But make no mistake – the DC Dems have delivered one BFD bill, and may actually be about to deliver a BFD-squared bill. Your half-a-banquet may grow into a feast not seen in this country in 40 years.

And make no mistake about this, either – if the DC Republicans were in charge, you and me and everyday Americans would get nothing. Not. A. Thing.

I don’t know about you, but that “half a loaf” from the Dems looks pretty damn good next to the empty plate from the other side.

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Bruce Maples

Bruce Maples has been involved in politics and activism since 2004, when he became active in the Kerry Kentucky movement. (Read the rest of his bio on the Bruce Maples Bio page in the bottom nav bar.)


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