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Biden’s Big History Lesson For Republicans

Embedded in Joe Biden's first speech to Congress was a crucial lesson in our nation's economic history that every American ought to understand.

Explaining why he proposes to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on the construction of new power grids, broadband internet connections and transportation systems, the president reminded us of the public investments that have "transformed America" into a prosperous world power. It is a lesson too often and too easily forgotten amid the incessant propaganda, imbibed by almost all of us from an early age, about the "magic of the free market," the "dead hand of government" and various equally hoary conservative cliches.

Markets are marvelous, but government has been essential in growing and regulating the economy from the republic's very beginning. Biden cited the transcontinental railroad and the interstate highway system, the construction of public schools and colleges that enabled universal education, the medical and scientific advances that sprang from the space program and defense industries - but his speech could well have continued for quite a while in that same vein. Political leaders from Alexander Hamilton and Abraham Lincoln to Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy all have promoted public investment in research, infrastructure and people as the prerequisites of progress, and sometimes even national survival.

What progress requires, however, changes in every generation along with technology and society. Today, we face rapid climate change that jeopardizes the future of human civilization, creating threats that range from flood and fire to pandemic, famine, drought and mass migration. We must swiftly rebuild our basic infrastructure, which is crumbling after decades of neglect. And we have to bring the entire country into the modern digital economy before inequality permanently damages our democracy.

When Republicans say Biden wants to spend too much on a "liberal wish list" and we should do nothing more than repave roads and repair bridges, because that's "real infrastructure," their complaints only expose their ignorance. The expansion of rural broadband is just as necessary as fixing a bridge on a country road, and the replacement of lead pipes in city water systems is just as critical as filling potholes on an urban highway. The long list of projects enumerated in Biden's proposal, from new schools to veterans hospitals, from upgrading water systems to capping old oil and gas wells, and yes, for providing child and elder care — these are harbingers of a future that works.

We ought to have started this transformation years ago, even before the former guy uttered his false promises about infrastructure. But interest rates are still low — and more importantly, the billionaires whose fortunes derive from public investment can certainly pay for its upkeep and expansion. Biden correctly observed that while most Americans suffered from lost jobs and income during the pandemic, the richest families saw their wealth increase by a trillion dollars, after pocketing a Trump tax cut that awarded them trillions more. Are we all in this together? Not unless the super-rich pay their fair share.

It's nice that some Republicans — though not all, apparently — understand that we can't just let everything fall apart because we don't like taxes or we distrust government. Unfortunately, their comprehension of what infrastructure means is quaintly out of date. While the president warmly welcomed Republican proposals because he's interested in achieving a measure of bipartisan agreement, what they have offered so far is absurdly inadequate.

So, he offered a clear warning as well. Doing nothing — like the Republicans and their incompetent leader over the past four years — is not an option.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

In Unusual Move, Progressive Democrat Will Respond To Biden's Address

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - After U.S. President Joe Biden gives his first joint address to Congress on Wednesday, one of the more progressive members of his own Democratic party, Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), plans to deliver a response. It is routine for a member of the opposition party to give a rebuttal to a president's address, and Republicans have chosen Senator Tim Scott to do so this time. But it is very unusual for someone from the president's own party to deliver a reply. Bowman, 45, a Black former middle school principal who ousted a 16-term incumbent in New York City last November, is e...

Poll: Big Majority Favors Biden Plan To Combat Climate Change

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

A new poll shows that President Joe Biden's $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan is popular. When voters are told about its provisions aimed at combating climate change, they like the plan even more.

Senate Republicans are pushing to strip that spending out of the American Jobs Plan entirely.

A Data for Progress poll released Thursday found 68 percent of voters support Biden's plan when told it is a "$2.3 trillion investment to create millions of new good-paying union jobs in clean energy modernizing American roads and bridges, electricity grid, drinking water systems, public transit, home and schools," including 44 percent of Republican voters.

When told specifics of the plan, including its investments in "new energy innovation," "reducing pollution and improving energy efficiency in homes, schools and childcare centers," and "cleaning up abandoned mines and abandoned oil and gas wells," support for the bill rises to 71 percent overall and 48 percent of Republicans.

The poll also found that 76 percent of all voters and 57 percent of Republicans believe it is "very" or "somewhat" important for the plan to fund investments "that will help America combat climate change and create a thriving clean energy economy."

But despite the bill's strong popularity, Republicans in Congress have vowed to unanimously oppose it, objecting to both the corporate tax increases that would fund the new investments and its inclusion of human and climate infrastructure.

For weeks, GOP lawmakers have railed especially hard against the green energy and environmental provisions, calling them "socialism," framing them as not really counting as infrastructure, and falsely claiming that the package is really just the Green New Deal in disguise. John Barrasso of Wyoming, a high-ranking member of the Senate GOP leadership, warned on April 13 that it would even cause a "dangerous" move toward the use of recyclable lunch trays in schools.

On Thursday, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and a group of her GOP colleagues announced a five-year, $568 billion infrastructure alternative. Their plan removes virtually all of the climate-related spending as well as the human infrastructure components like child care. Despite removing about three-quarters of the spending Biden deems necessary, Capito called it a "robust package."

The GOP plan would be funded in part by penalizing with new fees those drivers who use electric or hydrogen-fueled vehicles. A fact sheet released by the Sierra Club notes that a fee would make it more expensive to operate a cleaner vehicle than to drive a gas-powered car, and that at a time when the number of Americans choosing cleaner cars is tiny but growing.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Biden Moves To Strengthen EPA For First Time In Decades

Reprinted with permission from DC Report

The Biden administration is asking Congress for more than $110 million to hire and support scientists and staff at the Environmental Protection Agency, which the previous president decimated.

The EPA lost almost 1,000 scientists and other employees under Donald Trump administrators Andrew Wheeler and Scott Pruitt.

The budget was cut yearly or stagnant for decades. In inflation-adjusted dollars, it was more than 50 percent higher under President Ronald Reagan than it is today.

"The 2022 budget proposal is an excellent first step in rebuilding EPA's funding and strengthening the agency," said Michelle Roos. She is executive director of the Environmental Protection Network of former EPA employees and appointees.

The proposed funding is part of $11.2 billion the Biden administration is asking to fund the EPA. That request represents a 21 percent increase.

The Biden administration is also asking for $75 million to help designate perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl, or PFAS, as hazardous substances and set enforceable limits for the chemicals under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The poisons, made since the 1940s, are sometimes called "forever chemicals" because they don't break down in the environment and can remain in our bodies for years. Designating the chemicals as hazardous substances would give the EPA more power to clean up contaminated sites.

The "announcement recognizes that science is at the core of all we do at the EPA," said current EPA Administrator Michael Regan.

Betsy Southerland, who oversaw science and technology issues in the EPA Office of Water, told the House science committee's investigations and oversight panel that the Biden administration should restore funding to bring EPA to its average over the past four decades. The cost to rebuild the budget over four years would be $11.4 billion in 2019 dollars.

Southerland was one of the EPA employees who left. She resigned in 2017, saying "the administration is seriously weakening EPA's mission."

About $48 million of the $110 million to hire EPA staff would go to the EPA Office of Air and Radiation to implement climate change programs under the Clean Air Act. The office is led by acting assistant administrator Joseph Goffman.

Bill Wehrum, who sued the agency at least 31 times as a corporate lawyer, headed that office for much of the Trump administration. Under Wehrum, who resigned in 2019 during a federal ethics investigation, the office worked to help coal-burning Martin Lake Power Plant in east Texas.

The plant spews out more sulfur dioxide which causes acid rain than any other power plant in America. Wehrum was a partner at a law firm that lobbied for the plant's owner.