President Joe Biden unveiled a $2 trillion infrastructure program in Pittsburgh on Thursday that aims to address urban planning that displaced Black people from their communities and other economic disparities, according to the New York Times.
The nuts and bolts of the plan are to repair dilapidated roads, bridges, rail lines and other aspects of the economy with the mindset to reframe how the government builds communities. Basically, Biden is saying that the way we built communities back in the day was really racist and to make up for that, we’re pouring billions of dollars into people of color neighborhoods.
One example used to illustrate how infrastructure was built with racist intentions is that of an elevated freeway that was built through the center of Claiborne Avenue in New Orleans in the late 1960s. It ended dozens of Black-owned businesses and razed tree-lined streets full of Black folks who tried in vain to stop the project.
More than 60 years later, Biden’s plan is working to reverse this by replacing lead pipes in cities that have suffered through water poisoning and the cleanup of environmental hazards in Latinx communities and tribal communities. It would also fund worker training programs for underserved communities and money for homecare workers who are usually women of color and highly underpaid. That is in the first phase of the plan.
The second phase will address racial opportunity gaps in universal pre-K and affordable higher education. Since this is a new initiative, the details are likely to change as it makes the round through Congress.
The plan calls for raising corporate taxes, something Republicans have expressed concerns about. But liberal economists praise the plan, per the Times:
“This is a promising start,” said Trevon Logan, an economist at Ohio State University whose work includes studies of how government spending projects, like the one that built the interstate highway system, have excluded or hurt Americans who are not white.
The biggest single piece of the plan’s racial equity efforts is not a transportation or environmental project, but a $400 billion investment in in-home care for older and disabled Americans. It would lift the wages of care workers, who are predominantly low-paid, female and not white.
Another supporter of the plan agrees:
“It’s the first jobs program that is focused primarily on work done by women of color,” said Mary Kay Henry, the president of the Service Employees International Union. “It’s going to transform Black, brown and Asian lives, and entire communities.”
Compared to its European and Asian counterparts, America’s infrastructure is in horrible shape. While countries like France, England, China and Japan provide access to bullet trains, Americans are stuck with Amtrak railways that break down like hoopties. Our airports lag behind those in other developed nations and our over dependence on cars and a lack of public transportation are causing health issues in the U.S.
If this bill is to see the light of day, Biden will have to act fast. Democrats have slim majorities in Congress and midterms are next year. If they do not play their cards right and fast, Democrats could lose both chambers and this very promising infrastructure bill won’t be signed into law.