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Opinion Biden’s infrastructure plan seems to be selling itself

President Biden speaks at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Wednesday. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

President Biden and his team are pushing on an open door when it comes to selling infrastructure. Public polling shows just how popular a bold infrastructure plan is across the country.

A recent Morning Consult-Politico poll found that while 60 percent of voters favor the plan, support for individual items is even higher, such as for refurbishing Veterans Affairs hospitals (80 percent), modernizing highways and roads (77 percent) and improving caregiving (76 percent). Items that Republicans insist are not infrastructure turn out to be quite popular as well, with 65 percent of respondents favoring investment in medical manufacturing and 62 percent favoring extended broadband Internet. In addition, “sixty-five percent of registered voters said they strongly or somewhat support funding Biden’s infrastructure plan through 15 years of higher taxes on corporations, while 21 percent somewhat or strongly oppose it.”

Likewise, a recent Reuters-Ipsos poll shows “71% supported a plan to extend high-speed internet to all Americans [and] 68% supported an initiative to replace every lead pipe in the country.” Large majorities favor tax credits for renewable energy (66 percent), and Reuters also reports that “64% of [U.S.] adults supported a tax hike on corporations and large businesses, and 56% supported ending tax breaks for the fossil fuel industry.”

Nevertheless, Biden and his team seem remarkably open to compromise with congressional Republicans, whose views are at odds with the vast majority of Americans, and with corporations, who love infrastructure but do not want to give up their tax cut windfall from the past administration. At the White House’s daily news briefing, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo flexed her credentials as a former business executive and governor. She said she has yet to have a conversation with business leaders in which they did not strongly endorse infrastructure spending. Moreover, she assured reporters that the administration was open to debating the proposed corporate income tax hike to 28 percent. But, she said, it would be “unacceptable” for business interests to declare their opposition to 28 percent and then start “walking away.”

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Biden, in remarks Wednesday afternoon, refused to back down on his inclusive definition of infrastructure. “The idea of infrastructure has always evolved to meet the aspirations of the American people and their needs. And it is evolving again today,” he said. However, he too left the door open to compromise. “Debate is welcome. Compromise is inevitable,” he said. In response to a shouted question on working with the GOP on investment in semiconductor manufacturing, he reiterated, “I’m prepared to work. I really am.” He nevertheless cautioned: “But to automatically say the only thing that is infrastructure is a highway, a bridge or whatever, that’s just not rational.”

He’s practically daring Republicans to say “no” to VA hospitals or to broadband for rural America. And if they are going to oppose his tax increases to pay for it, then they have come up with a different plan — provided it does not raise taxes on those making less than $400,000 (thereby excluding gas taxes, unless there is a full rebate for those making less than that). These are demands Biden can confidently make, given that he is on the side of a popular measure with plenty of benefits for working- and middle-class Americans. “I’m sick and tired of ordinary people being fleeced,” he declared.

What will Republicans’ response be? It’s hard to imagine them telling Americans that VA hospitals or the electric grid or schools do not need upgrades. Maybe they will try to persuade millions of women forced out of the workforce that an enhanced caregivers’ network is not critical. Or maybe they might insist it is better to tax blue-collar workers by the mile than to ask major corporations to pay more than nothing in taxes.

So far, we have not heard of anything that sounds like a politically tenable, economically populist response. Biden seems content to let them struggle to justify their obstructionism. It sure worked out for him on the American Rescue Plan.

Read more:

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