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As it turns out, a huge chunk of President Joe Biden's infrastructure plan doesn't have much to do with infrastructure.
This is not much of a surprise, given that Biden's pandemic recovery bill had almost nothing to do with the pandemic. But in some ways, it also misses the larger point. Even many of the parts of the bill that are nominally about actual physical infrastructure aren't really about infrastructure. They're about shoveling money in the direction of Democratic political allies—mostly unions. And that explains a lot of the rest of the bill, too.
Republicans have been circulating a talking point about how only 7 percent of the $2.25 trillion proposal is actually related to infrastructure. This is somewhat ungenerous, as it only counts a narrow category of spending on roads, bridges, waterways, ports, and airports.
But even a quite generous accounting still suggests that only a little more than half of the bill is targeted at anything that meets the definition of infrastructure, and that includes projects like $111 billion for drinking water and $328 billion for upgrading military health facilities and other federal buildings. As Politico notes, those sorts of projects involve some amount of physical building and construction but have never been previously categorized as infrastructure.
The plan also includes a lot of spending on stuff that doesn't even remotely count as infrastructure. For example, the proposal includes about $590 billion for vaguely defined job training, research and development, and industrial policy, as well as another $400 billion for expanding and supporting home health care. That's about $1 trillion in non-infrastructure spending in a supposed infrastructure bill.
Paid leave is infrastructure.
Child care is infrastructure.
Caregiving is infrastructure.
— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) April 7, 2021
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