Congress

Op-Ed: Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Will Help Working Class Catch Up to Zoom Economy

Katherine Frey | The Washington Post | Getty Images
  • Making critical investments in roads, bridges, highways, broadband, coastal resiliency, ports, and waterways creates jobs, opportunities and improves the lives of all Americans.
  • Each aspect of this bill will provide a job opportunity to those Americans who have felt left behind for far too long.
  • This bill is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the American worker.
A crew works on a cell tower in Lake Havasu City, Ariz.
Bill Clark | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images
A crew works on a cell tower in Lake Havasu City, Ariz.

If good policy is good politics, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is both. It's good for the country, which barely has a passing grade on our infrastructure, C-, and good for the American worker.

The COVID-19 pandemic and its lockdowns brought our economy to a temporary standstill. How someone fared, depended on their circumstances.

If someone could make a living through online video calls with access to high-speed internet in the comfort of their home, they often did quite well.

If someone worked with their hands, things were often quite different. Employment levels and opportunities have not returned to those in the lower quintiles of our economy to the levels achieved before the pandemic. This is where the bipartisan infrastructure bill would come into play.

 Non-college educated Americans often work in construction, manufacturing, service, and the oil and gas industry. Any economic program which predominantly stimulates these sectors, disproportionately benefits these working families.

This is precisely what the bipartisan infrastructure bill does. Making critical investments in roads, bridges, highways, broadband, coastal resiliency, ports, and waterways creates jobs, opportunities and improves the lives of all Americans.

For families and small businesses who do not have access to high-speed internet, the bipartisan infrastructure bill allocates billions to ensure that all Americans gain such access. For communities experiencing severe flooding, it gives FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers billions for efforts to decrease the risk of flooding.

 For towns and cities plagued by power outage following storms like we are seeing in southeast Louisiana, the bipartisan infrastructure bill allocates billions to harden the electrical grid and make it more reliable. Doing these things creates jobs and provides real solutions to real problems Americans are facing every day.

Now is our opportunity to show working Americans that Washington is ready to invest in them. Each aspect of this bill will provide a job opportunity to those Americans who have felt left behind for far too long. This bill is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the American worker.

There's a lot of lip service and platitudes given to American workers. But this is more than a talking point. This is a commitment to invest in their futures and the future of this country. This is reflected in our policy decisions and the text of the bipartisan infrastructure bill. It overwhelmingly passed the U.S. Senate by a vote of 69-30 in last month and now awaits a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives next week.

The bipartisan infrastructure bill provides $550 billion in new spending. This breaks down into $110 billion for roads and bridges, $66 billion for passenger and freight rail, $65 billion for broadband, $65 billion for strengthening American energy and the electric grid, $54 billion for water infrastructure, $46 billion for resiliency, $25 billion for airport improvements, $21 billion for cleaning up contaminated sites, $47 billion for public transportation, and $17.4 billion for ports and waterways. 

Analysis of the bill finds that the long-term spending on capital assets will improve economic efficiency, productivity, GDP and revenue without increasing inflation.

Studies have even found that the bipartisan infrastructure bill would create roughly half a million new manufacturing jobs by 2024.

In addition, Penn Wharton highlights this federal investment will spur additional private capital, which coupled with increased productivity raises wages for American workers.

 Now is the time to make sure those who were locked out of the Zoom economy have an opportunity to catch up to everyone else. Now is the time to pass the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Dr. Bill Cassidy is the United States Senator for Louisiana.

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