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For President Joe Biden, a proposed $2.25 trillion infrastructure spending package is about more than rebuilding bridges and fixing up America's water and sewer systems. It's about more, even, than the overpriced high-speed rail boondoogles that Biden loves so much.
In Biden's telling, the infrastructure bill might very well be the last stand of liberal democracy in the world.
"I truly believe we're in a moment where history is going to look back on this time as a fundamental choice that had to be made between democracies and autocracies," Biden said last month as he rolled out his infrastructure proposal in a speech from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. "There's a lot of autocrats in the world who think the reason why they're going to win is democracies can't reach consensus any longer."
"That's what competition between America and China and the rest of the world is all about," Biden said. "It's a basic question: Can democracies still deliver for their people?"
It may very well be a politically savvy maneuver to turn the infrastructure bill into an epoch-defining moment that could tip the scales between freedom and autocracy. In reality, Biden's proposal is a messy collection of infrastructure-ish items—about $1 trillion of the total would be spent on things like job training programs and expanded home health care services, which can only be defined as infrastructure if you really, really stretch the definition of the word. But you can't worry about details like that when the very existence of democracy is at stake! America must prove it can do Big Things again, and here's a big thing, so America must do it.
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