September 20, 2021

Fix our roads and bridges

Is there finally a possibility of Congress passing an infrastructure bill – a $1.2 trillion bill to fix roads and bridges, airports, waterways and electric grids neglected for more than 50 years? Is bipartisanship really possible in this day and age? On July 28, the Senate voted to advance an infrastructure bill for debate. Seventeen Republicans voted along with Democrats to allow discussion of what the bill should do, and where they might get the money to pay for it. And on Aug, 10, the Senate passed the bipartisanship bill with 19 Republicans joining 50 Democrats.

The legislation is now in the House of Representatives for consideration. Hopefully, the moderate Democrats in the House can work with the far-left members of their party and pass a bill similar to the Senate’s bill. Granted, there is a tremendous need for all the other things being proposed for a complimentary reconciliation bill, but it would be foolish for progressive Democrats to cause the stand-alone infrastructure bill to be defeated when there is finally bipartisan support to get something done.

It was amazing to see Senate members willing to discuss legislation for a change. We’ve had too many bills blocked by partisan politicians – for way too long. It was encouraging to see Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell finally support a bipartisan bill - as did Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley. It was disappointing to learn Iowa Senator Joni Ernst voted no, but not surprising.

Ernst is like a broken record. She consistently complains about taxes, and votes against funding anything that might actually help people, including the Covid Rescue Bill. She also complains about the national debt but never admits the $1.9 trillion in tax cuts she voted for in 2017 added considerably to the deficit and, according to the Congressional Budget Office, will never pay for itself. Now, she loudly and regularly blames Democrats for the rising cost of goods and services. It’s amazing how she ignores the horrible damage done to the economy by the pandemic that raged out of control for a year under the previous administration’s neglect. That neglect allowed Covid to spread like wildfire, resulting in wide-spread shortages and unemployment that led to inflation today.

Ernst’s extreme partisan politics is a real disservice to her constituents at a time when bipartisanship is so badly needed. This big infrastructure bill could do a lot of exciting things. Sponsors insist there are ways to pay for much of the infrastructure bill, including unspent Covid Rescue funds. Republicans want to find additional dollars in unemployment insurance fraud and, at one time, proposed a new tax on gasoline. Democrats think the IRS needs to go after tax fraud, and rich people and corporations need to pay more taxes.

There’s a lot of work to be done on infrastructure. Think of all the construction jobs that will be created around the country. Think of all the construction materials that will need to be produced and sold. Think of all the wages that will be infused into the economy and all the income taxes that will be paid into state and federal coffers. It’s shortsighted to look at infrastructure legislation as just a “tax and spend” bill, as Ernst seems to think.

Similar ways of thinking are evident in some local communities, and it is obvious how leaders think when we look at the differences among towns and cities. Some are very progressive with residents willing to invest in the future, and some are not. Dynamic cities pass bond issues and find other resources for improving and renovating their infrastructure. Residents in forward-thinking towns care about leaving a thriving community to their children and grandchildren and are willing to pay more taxes to help their communities advance. They understand it takes money to progress and to attract new people to the community.

I hate to think of America not progressing in today’s modern world. It’s disturbing to compare our infrastructure to that of other industrialized nations. Our highways and bridges, broadband internet capabilities and many other parts of our infrastructure are pitifully outdated and in poor repair. Because of neglect, we are less competitive today than we’ve ever been in the history of our country.

We really need Congress to get this bill done.