President Joe Biden announced his administration’s $2.3 trillion plan for infrastructure investments March 31.
As one might expect, a great many people found fault with it. Those on the political left wanted more spending, and those on the political right wanted less spending.
Some of the loudest complaints came from the business community. The Tax Cuts & Jobs Act of 2017 cut the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, and Biden proposes raising it part of the way back, to 28%, to help pay for a large portion of the infrastructure package.
Randy Zook, the CEO of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, said the plan takes great liberties with the term “infrastructure.” It’s not an uncommon reaction to the plan, which includes, for instance, $400 billion to be spent on caregiving services.
About $621 billion, roughly one-third of the total price tag, is to be spent on what many see as traditional infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges and ports, Zook said.
“I think it is an incredible overreach,” Zook said. “It was packaged as an infrastructure plan, but it goes way beyond the general public’s notion of what infrastructure really is. It is basically a reshaping of the entire U.S. economy under the guise of an investment when most of it doesn’t have anything to do with infrastructure.”
U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., is unsurprisingly against the initial proposal.
“The ‘infrastructure plan’ put forward by President Biden is a massive proposal,” Boozman wrote on social media. “It intends to spend $2 trillion. That’s a lot of money, and tellingly, those even further left than the president are already pushing him to spend more.
“I’m skeptical this money would be spent wisely. This [is] an issue where bipartisan agreement can be reached, but we are once again seeing this administration waste an opportunity to work together for the good of the American people.”
In a later addition to that post, Boozman detailed how little the infrastructure plan dealt with his idea of infrastructure, echoing Zook. Boozman’s criticism included the proposed spending of $213 billion on public housing and $35 billion on climate change research.
“All this is a far cry from what we’ve always considered as ‘infrastructure,’” Boozman wrote.
I’m not going to get into the political weeds on the infrastructure plan, mostly because I have no political acumen. I
lost a race for freshman homeroom representative in high school after giving a speech so poorly received that even I voted for the other candidate.
But it is important to point out that figuring out infrastructure investments has to be a high priority for our leaders. Optimistically, that seems to be understood by many on both sides of the political aisle.
The Biden plan proposes $115 billion for roads and bridges, $174 billion for electric vehicles, $100 billion for broadband expansion and $100 billion for power grid upgrades.
The plan’s goal to spend money to upgrade water and sewer lines met with some ridicule, but Zook said all those traditional infrastructure projects are correct targets.
“We are going to have enormous needs in those areas across the state because some of the municipal utilities are aging,” Zook said. “There is a great need for that type of investment.”
Zook said that if the plan is scaled back to what he sees as traditional infrastructure projects, the price would drop. That would make any tax increase
on businesses to pay for the plan much more acceptable, Zook said, describing the current proposal to raise the corporate tax rate to 28% as a reach too far.
“The only way to pay for it is to burden U.S. business with taxes that will make us less competitive and make those companies less able to grow and expand,” Zook said. “It’s a bad tradeoff, I think.
“I hope it gets dramatically reduced and turns into a true infrastructure package, which we absolutely need. It does not need to go beyond normal definition or understanding of infrastructure.”