President Biden and Congress are in the process of negotiating a national infrastructure plan, both its scope and how to pay for it. But is such a plan even a good idea in the first place?
“Joe Biden’s Imaginary America” presents a good discussion of this topic. Consider:
- The Biden plan is oddly detached from how the overwhelming majority of the middle-class lives, which is in lower-density, automobile-dependent neighborhoods. The Biden plan is mostly about serving the relatively small sliver of transit-riding apartment dwellers living in denser neighborhoods, at most 10% of the nation’s population.
- Biden proposes allocating $165 billion for public transit against only $115 billion for roads and bridges. This means that transit, accounting for 1% of overall urban and rural ground transportation, would receive 60% of the money.
- Transit thrives in only a few municipalities such as New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Swan Francisco, Boston and Washington. These cities, with the nation’s largest downtowns, accommodate nearly 60% of transit work-trip destinations but only 6% of the nation’s jobs.
- If deprioritizing roads for transit reflects a coastal-urban worldview, attempts to make suburban development difficult and single family housing a thing of the past are even more out-of-synch with public preferences and market trends. In not one year since 2000 have more people moved into the urban-core counties than moved into suburban and exurban counties.
- Meanwhile, the suburbs have become increasingly integrated. 83% of Hispanics and 76% of African-Americans, the two most economically disadvantaged groups, already live in the suburbs.
- During the pandemic, the nation’s heartland – from the Appalachians to the Plains, the intermountain West and the South – has been home to 9 of the 53 metropolitan areas with the highest job retention. But the Biden agenda, with its passenger-rail and carbon obsessions, is not heartland friendly.
- The rise in U.S. oil and gas production is “perhaps the single largest opportunity to improve the trajectory of the U.S. economy.” But the impact of “decarbonization” would cost more jobs than those lost in the Great Recession. According to Terry O’Sullivan, general president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, replacing traditional energy jobs with middle-class “green jobs” is “pie-in-the-sky bullsh**.”
Conclusion. Instead of imposing on the nation one set of policies for every major issue, decision-making should be dispersed wherever possible. “The country may need infrastructure improvements, but which investments make sense can be best determined by those impacted by them, at the state and local level, not by those who, in the federal stratosphere, know best from on high.”