I mentioned yesterday that public investment in infrastructure is making Pierre a better place. President Joe Biden took up that same theme last night, telling Congress and the world that America has thrived thanks to government infrastructure projects:
Throughout our history, if you think about it, public investment — about our history, if you think about it, public investment in infrastructure has transformed America. The Transcontinental Railroad, the interstate highways, united two oceans and brought a new age of progress to the United States of America. Universal public schools and college aid opened wide the doors of opportunity. Scientific growth took us to the moon and now we are on Mars, discovering vaccines, gave us the internet and so much more.
These are investments we made together as one country. Investments that only the government was in a position to make. Time and again they propel us into the future [President Joe Biden, address to Congress, as transcribed by Politico, 2021.04.28].
Again, while Governor Kristi Noem whines to her campaign base about “just more government,” President Biden reminds us that only government can do the big things that make America’s prosperity possible. The free market didn’t build the Transcontinental Railroad or I-90. No private businesses and certainly not all the parents who work at those businesses can provide universal K-12 schooling. Dueling billionaires may help get people to the Moon again, but collective government commitment showed us how to get there and will provide the bucks and brains to send us back.
President Biden wants to shoot the moon in more ways than one. As he said last night, his infrastructure plan seeks to make sure not one American has to drink water from poisonous lead pipes:
That is why I proposed the American Jobs Plan — The largest jobs plan since World War II. Jobs, roads, bridges, highways, railcars, transit lines. It is clean water. And today, up to 10 million homes in America, more than 400,000 schools and childcare centers — have pipes with lead in them, including for drinking water. A clear and present danger to our children’s health. The American Jobs Plan creates jobs replacing 100% of the nation’s lead pipes and service lines so every American can drink clean water [President Biden, 2021.04.28].
The Invisible Hand isn’t tearing out those lead pipes. Why keep waiting for a free market that doesn’t respond to brain damage in children? Isn’t it more costly to leave millions of Americans drinking from poison pipes and suffering lifelong health impacts?
And what’s nonsensical or partisan about putting thousands of Americans to work building public goods that will support America’s economic growth throughout the 21st century?
And it will create thousands of good paying jobs. Creating jobs connecting every American with high-speed internet, this is going to help our kids and businesses succeed in the 21st century economy. I am asking the vice president to lead this effort if she would because I know it will get done. Great jobs building a modern power grid. Our grids are vulnerable to storms, hacks, catastrophic failures,with tragic results. As we saw in Texas and elsewhere during the winter storms, the American Jobs Plan to create jobs to lay thousands of miles of transmission lines needed to build a resilient and fully clean grid. We can do that.
…The American Jobs Plan will put engineers and construction workers to work building more energy efficient buildings and homes. Electrical workers, workers installing charging stations along our highways so — So we can own the electric car market. Farmers planting cover crops so they can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the air and get paid for doing it. Think about it. There is no reason why the blades for wind turbines can’t be built in Pittsburgh instead of Beijing. No reason [President Biden, 2021.04.28].
President Biden is reminding us that one of government’s proper roles is to do the big things the community needs that no private sector force can or will do. Schools, roads, Internet, water, power—all the things we need to go about our private affairs and make a million bucks come about because we all agree we need them, we all recognize that we can’t build them alone, and we work together to build and maintain that infrastructure so that every American may use it.
Senator John Thune dismissed President Biden’s speech as mere words and “a lot of nonsense.” But President Biden is talking about real action that makes perfect sense: continuing the kind of big, bold public investment that has made America great. Drop the partisan obstructionism, John, and heed the President’s call to action. Heck, you don’t even have to do the hard work. You just have to take your thumbs off Twitter and stick them up in the air for the roll call vote. Millions of Americans will take over from there, eagerly building the roads and schools and pipes and power grids that will make a better America for all of us and our kids and our grandkids.