CHN: Bipartisan plan on infrastructure should advance – but so should once-in-a-generation investments
Editor’s note: The following statement by Deborah Weinstein, Executive Director, Coalition on Human Needs, was issued on Friday, June 25, 2021:
“President Biden did the nation a vital service in proposing his American Jobs and Families Plans. Taken together these two plans represent a comprehensive approach to setting our nation on a course of sustainable, shared economic progress. A narrow approach that repairs and modernizes our physical infrastructure without strengthening our people’s health and economic security is not sufficient. It will not provide the resources to enable parents to raise their children out of poverty, for young and older adults to be able to secure good jobs, and for retirees and people with disabilities to be able to live in their communities with the care they need. Nor will it sufficiently address pernicious inequities by race, immigrant status, and income.
“The bipartisan framework for physical infrastructure investments has much in it that will serve the country well. Replacing lead water service lines is a long-overdue public health necessity and will disproportionately help low-income communities. We have experienced too many painful reminders that our electric grid and internet capacity are inadequate and vulnerable – failing to expand and modernize them continues to be a dereliction of public responsibility. Allowing our transportation grid to crumble is similarly reckless. The bipartisan agreement will take important steps forward in these areas. We note that it glaringly omits investments in affordable housing. The pandemic exposed and worsened our failure to maintain and expand the supply of affordable housing as well as the inadequacy of rental assistance, but this is left out of the bipartisan framework.
“We strongly agree with the President when he insists that the good provisions in the bipartisan framework must be accompanied by legislation to support our human infrastructure. People cannot work if they are ill or locked down over the threat of illness. Parents cannot work if there is no child care, and family members cannot work if they have no help in caring for aging parents or relatives with disabilities. Children and youth cannot thrive without an adequate education. And no one can be a full participant in our communities and our economy if their income is too meager to cover food and housing.
“Members and allies of the Coalition on Human Needs have strongly supported building on the comprehensive approach of the American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan. In recent weeks we have sent nearly 80,000 letters to Congress calling for a package that will permanently reduce child poverty. We would expand on health care provisions to eliminate the “Medicaid gap” (people now ineligible for Medicaid but unable to afford any other insurance in states refusing to expand their Medicaid programs). We would make permanent the extremely important expansion of the Child Tax Credit. We support a pathway to citizenship for immigrants, including those in DACA and Temporary Protected Status programs and essential workers such as farmworkers. We need federal unemployment insurance reforms and substantial rental assistance. The base provisions in the Biden plans plus recommended expansions are all inter-related. They will improve on the decades-long inadequate approach that enriches business interests without creating the kind of prosperity that reaches all of us.
“We can afford to make these essential investments. Wealthy individuals and corporations are not paying their fair share. Recent reports of multi-billionaires paying little or nothing in taxes attest to that. We welcome the bipartisan agreement that the IRS should have the funding it needs to enforce the tax code. But undoing trillions of dollars in Trump and other tax breaks, as proposed by President Biden, is the minimum that justice and responsible investment requires. We also support the savings that would occur from allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices and from reducing excessive Pentagon spending. The bipartisan framework would actually take us steps backwards by supporting “public-private partnership” schemes likely to enrich private investors while individuals pay higher tolls or parking fees.
“The Coalition on Human Needs wants to see the bipartisan framework’s infrastructure provisions go forward, in tandem with companion comprehensive legislation to make the once-in-a-generation investments our nation badly needs.”