President Biden, While Unveiling His American Jobs Plan, Says This Will Be the “Moment When America Won the Future”

By Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch
Mar 31 2021

There’s a whole lot of funding for infrastructure, clean energy, and even manufacturing in the new proposal.

President Biden officially released his $2 trillion “American Jobs Plan” in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, describing it as a “once-in-a-generation investment in America” that he likened to the construction of the interstate highway system and the space race, calling it “the largest American jobs investment since World War II.”

“It is not a plan that tinkers around the edges,” he added.

The American Jobs Plan is actually only the first part of Biden’s “Build Back Better” proposal. In a few weeks, the president also plans to unveil the “American Families Plan,” which will include funding for priorities like child care.

But Biden’s ideas for rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure is up first, and the proposal introduced on Wednesday is quite robust. It includes significant funding for an eclectic mix of infrastructure projects, from roads and bridges and airports to water systems, the electric grid, broadband access, and even school construction. But it also allocates money for priorities like clean energy projects (think: electric vehicle charging stations) along with funding to strengthen critical manufacturing and supply chains, like semiconductors.

And Biden pledged in his speech Wednesday that all of it will be Made in America.

“When we make all of these investments, we’re going to make sure as the executive order that I signed early on, that we buy American,” Biden said. “That means investing in American-based companies and American workers.”

Contracts will go to companies with “American products all the way down the line and American workers,” Biden added, noting that the government will buy goods from “all of America,” including communities that have historically been left out of past opportunities.

Biden spent a lot of his speech focusing on the historic importance of the moment, noting that infrastructure investments among the highest value investments that can be made. But he also pointed out that the United States is falling behind its global competitors – “China is eating our lunch,” he said, a statement he’s made before – and added that the country will pay a big cost if we don’t get to work.

“We have to move now, because I’m convinced if we act now, in 50 years people are going to look back and say, ‘This is the moment when America won the future,'” Biden said.

There’s little doubt that U.S. infrastructure is falling apart, and there’s widespread, bipartisan agreement among Americans that it needs to be rebuilt. Traditionally, such investment has been done in a bipartisan fashion, but Republicans in Congress already have begun to criticize Biden’s approach.

Biden said on Wednesday that he hopes Republicans will ultimately decide to work with Democrats on the issue. But the White House has indicated that, as it did with the COVID-19 stimulus, it is willing to move ahead with the plan via a partisan vote.

In any case, if a final infrastructure investment package makes it through Congress and becomes law, it is almost certainly going to look a little different than what Biden put forth on Wednesday. But the president’s proposal does provide the starting point, and Biden lays out his priorities pretty clearly. Some highlights include:

Roads and Bridges: Biden’s plan would allocate $115 billion to “modernize the bridges, highways, roads, and main streets that are in most critical need of repair.” That figure includes $20 billion specifically for road safety, including for bicyclists and pedestrians. Money also would go to fix 20,000 miles of roads and 10,000 of the “worst smaller bridges.”

Drinking Water: Access to clean drinking water is essential, but America’s water systems are old, outdated, and in some cases, unsafe. Biden is aiming to invest $111 billion to modernize these systems, including replacing 100% of the country’s lead pipes and service lines and upgrading water infrastructure nationwide.

Electric Grid: At least 111 people died in Texas when the electric grid failed during winter storms earlier this year (70% of Texans lost power). But the Lone Star State isn’t the only place where the electric grid needs work – outages across the national grid cost $70 billion each year. Biden wants to invest $100 billion to upgrade these systems, and create new jobs in clean energy.

Public Transit: Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, America’s rail and bus transit faced a massive backlog of needed repairs, making these systems less reliable. Biden wants to allocate $85 billion to modernize transit systems and address that backlog while also expanding service to new and underserved communities.

Amtrak and Freight Rail: It’s probably no surprise that Joe Biden, who regularly rode the train from Washington, D.C. to his home in Delaware, wants to ensure a future for passenger rail. But rail lacks a multi-year funding stream to address maintenance, and there are ready-to-go projects just waiting to be funded. Biden’s plan would invest $80 billion to tackle Amtrak’s repair backlog and modernize the popular Northeast Corridor, among other maintenance efforts.

Electric Vehicles: The president is calling for $174 billion investment “to win the EV market,” which will include the construction of 500,000 EV charging stations. Biden also is aiming to strengthen the EV supply chain, which will be critical to ensuring America’s auto industry can compete against China, which is currently very much ahead in the EV race. Biden also wants to electrify at least 20% of the yellow school bus fleet and switch all government vehicles to electric, including U.S. Postal Service vehicles.

Ports, Waterways and Airports: Under Biden’s plan, airports would receive $25 billion to improve America’s airports and ensure safe air travel. He also wants to invest $17 billion in inland waterways, coastal ports, land ports of entry, and ferries.

Schools: Many of America’s school buildings are falling apart, and students in low-income communities are most in need. Biden proposes investing $100 billion to rebuild and repair public schools, and he also wants to spend an additional $25 billion to upgrade child care facilities.

That’s not all that is in the plan. Biden also puts forth his ideas to repair and modernize hospitals and VA centers; build and retrofit homes and commercial buildings; strengthen digital infrastructure like broadband access; invest in research and development; address transportation infrastructure inequities; make infrastructure more resilient; and more.

Notably, part of Biden’s proposal includes $300 billion in funding that is designed to strengthen domestic manufacturing, including via an investment of $50 billion for a new office at the Commerce Department to monitor domestic industrial capacity needs (and fund investments to support production of critical goods).

The president also wants Congress to invest $50 billion in semiconductor manufacturing and research; jumpstart clean energy production by directing the government to purchase American-made products; invest $20 billion in regional innovation hubs and a Community Revitalization Fund, particularly in rural areas; provide support for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership and NIST; provide $52 billion in funding for capital for domestic manufacturers; and invest in workforce development.

You can check out the entire proposal on the White House website.