Monthly Archives: April 2021

The Biden Infrastructure Plan

On March 31st, President Joe Biden introduced his infrastructure plan, “The American Jobs Plan” (https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/03/31/fact-sheet-the-american-jobs-plan/ )  It’s an omnibus $2 trillion plan to repair the major holes in America’s infrastructure, and to create jobs.

It’s useful to recall that, during the 2016 presidential campaign, former-President Trump promised to repair America’s infrastructure.  In February 2018, Trump sent to Congress an $1.7 trillion infrastructure “plan” financed by  $200 billion in new Federal spending and $1.5 trillion “from the private sector.”  Trump didn’t follow through on his proposal and it died in the halls of Congress.

Nonetheless, Trump’s infrastructure “plan” was popular with voters. Similarly, President Biden’s plan polls well.  A recent Reuters/IPSOS poll (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-biden-infrastructure-poll-idUSKBN2BP126 ) found that “79% of Americans supported a government overhaul of American roadways, railroads, bridges, and ports.”  And, “Americans also were largely supportive of ways that Biden has proposed to pay for his massive infrastructure bill. According to the poll, 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.”  However, when filtered through a partisan lens, the findings changed: “Only 45% of Americans said they would support a jobs and infrastructure plan that was ‘recently released by the Biden administration.’ Another 27% said they were opposed and the remaining 28% said they were not sure… only about two in 10 Republicans and three in 10 independents said they supported a Biden infrastructure plan, compared with seven out of 10 Democrats.”

Biden’s Plan: Here’s the first cut of the $2.15 Billion Biden Infrastructure/Jobs plan.  Bear in mind that the entire plan will be modified by the (Democratically controlled) Senate and House.

1.Transportation Infrastructure: ($621 Billion) This allocates $174B for electric vehicles and charging stations.  $115B for road and bridge repair. $85B for “modernizing transit systems. $80B for Amtrak repairs. $50B for “infrastructure resiliency,” funds to deal with climate-related disasters.”  $25B for airport upgrades.  $20B for underserved neighborhoods; “The President’s plan includes $20 billion for a new program that will reconnect neighborhoods cut off by historic investments and ensure new projects increase opportunity, advance racial equity and environmental justice, and promote affordable access.”  $20B to “improve road safety;” $17B for inland waterway and port improvements; and $35B for related projects.

2. “Quality of Life at Home”: ($650 Billion) This allocates $213B to “build, preserved, and retrofit more than 2 million affordable homes and commercial buildings.”  $111B for safe drinking water,  $100B for “constructng or modernizing public schools.” $100B for new high-speed broadband networks. $40B to improve public housing.  $18B for Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics.  $12B for community-college infrastructure improvements.  $16B to “plug oil and gas wells and reclaim abandoned mines.” And $40B for related projects.

3. Caregivers for elderly and disabled. ($400 Billion) Biden’s plan will expand Medicaid to provide affordable, quality care for everyone who needs it.

4. Research, Development, and Manufacturing: ($480 Billion) Around $300B would be devoted to improving domestic m manufacturing capacity– including $50B for semiconductor manufacturing. $180N would be allocated to new research and development of clean energy.

As you can see, the Biden Infrastructure/Jobs plan collects many of the elements of previous plans and  links them together.  There are standard infrastructure improvements, such as roads, bridges, ports, and trains, and non-standard items such as home-improvement, removal of lead water pipes, and provision of a high-speed broadband network.  The Biden plan provides funds to deal with the impact of climate change and funds to retrain workers to take on the jobs of the future,

5. Funding: President Biden estimates the infrastructure plan will be paid for within the next 15 years, if his newly proposed “Made in America” tax plan is also passed:

  • Set the Corporate Tax Rate at 28 percent. “The President’s tax plan will ensure that corporations pay their fair share of taxes by increasing the corporate tax rate to 28 percent. His plan will return corporate tax revenue as a share of the economy to around its 21st century average from before the 2017 tax law and well below where it stood before the 1980s. This will help fund critical investments in infrastructure, clean energy, R&D, and more to maintain the competitiveness of the United States and grow the economy.”
  • Discourage Offshoring by Strengthening the Global Minimum Tax for U.S. Multinational Corporations. “The President’s tax reform proposal will increase the minimum tax on U.S. corporations to 21 percent”.

6. Process: On April 12th, The House and Senate will begin work on the Biden infrastructure/jobs plan.  It appears this will come up for crucial votes around July 4th.  In the House, only a majority is needed to play the plan.  In the Senate, it will also need a simple majority to pass because of a recent ruling by the Senate Parliamentarian (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/infrastrucutre-bill-american-jobs-plan-reconciliation-senate-parliamentarian/ ) “Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough ruled that Section 304 of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 can allow for multiple reconciliation bills per fiscal year. The parliamentarian is an expert on the obscure procedures of the Senate, and determines whether certain actions are permitted under Senate rules.”

BB prediction: something close to what Biden proposes will be approved by Congress.

Waiting for Waits*

One step forward
One step back
One to shoreward
One to slack
Sit on da ground
Turn yo’self around
Do the existential hokey pokey.

Drive on the freeway
Drive on the lane
Drive in traffic
Drive in sane
Drive real fast
Drive very very slow
When you get arrested, say
I didn’t know.”

Look up
Look down
Look all around
Look at the ground
Look in lost and found
Do the existential hokey pokey.

Celebrate the Blues
Celebrate Bop
Dance in the corner
Dance ’til you drop
Run through the jungle
Run on the beach
Don’t let ’em catch you
Stay out of reach.

Skip home room
Skip to ma’lou
Skip getting old
Skip turning blue
Skip watching TV
Skip being you
Do the existential hokey pokey.

(* Waiting for Tom Waits to sing this song.)

Whatever Happened to Personal Responsibility?

It may be hard to imagine but, a couple of decades ago, Republicans described themselves as “the Party of personal responsibility.” The Grand Old Party imagined itself as the Party of rugged individualists, folks who clawed their way to the top with an unstoppable combination of ambition, perseverance, and moral rectitude. Republicans claimed the moral high ground. No more.

In the last year, we’ve seen Donald Trump, and his Republican cohorts, dodge responsibility for the Coronavirus pandemic and for the January 6th insurrection. Each of these actions was shameful and should  be sufficient to tarnish the GOP for decades.

In every regard, Donald Trump mismanaged the pandemic. When he left office, at noon on January 20th, he was responsible for 25 million U.S. Covid-19 cases and 400,000 related deaths. It’s an understatement to say that Trump did a terrible job; it’s more accurate to say that he made a bad situation much, much worse.  The prestigious medical journal Lancet (https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)32545-9/fulltext) recently observed: “Trump’s mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic—compounded by his efforts to dismantle the USA’s already weakened public health infrastructure and the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) coverage expansions—has caused tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths. His elimination of the National Security Council’s global health security team, and a 2017 hiring freeze that left almost 700 positions at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) unfilled, compromised preparedness… The number of people without health insurance had increased by 2·3 million during Trump’s presidency, even before pandemic-driven losses of employment-based coverage increased the number of uninsured people by millions.”

It wasn’t entirely incompetence.  Trump politicized the pandemic.  He had a chance to act responsibly and, instead, chose “the dark side.”  In a recent CNN documentary (https://edition.cnn.com/2021/03/29/politics/coronavirus-deborah-birx-donald-trump-joe-biden/index.html), Deborah Birx, coronavirus response coordinator for the Trump White House, said, “I look at it this way. The first time we have an excuse.  There were about a hundred thousand deaths that came from that original surge. All of the rest of them, in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially.”  (In other words, Trump is responsible for 300,000 of the 400,000 deaths that occurred on his watch.)  In the same CNN documentary, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious diseases specialist, said: “Trump’s demands for a reopening of the country in contravention of the advice of government health experts came as ‘a punch to the chest.'”

(On March 29th, Trump responded to the CNN documentary (https://www.politico.com/news/2021/03/29/trump-fauci-birx-cnn-documentary-478422) calling Birx and Fauci “self-promoters.” “They had bad policy decisions that would have left our country open to China and others, closed to reopening our economy, and years away from an approved vaccine — putting millions of lives at risk.”)

The truth is Trump made a political calculation that it was in his best interests to discount the pandemic.  In the 2020 presidential election exit polls (https://www.cnn.com/election/2020/exit-polls/president/national-results ), Trump voters were much more likely to report that “the recent rise in coronavirus cases” was NOT a factor in their vote.  Only 15 percent said the pandemic was “the most important issue” in their vote  – most Trump voters said the most important issue was “the economy,” because they trusted Trump to reopen the economy.   Most Trump voters saw US efforts to contain the coronavirus as going “very well” or “somewhat well.”  Most Trump voters saw wearing a face mask as a matter of “personal choice” rather than a “public health responsibility.”

Trump set an example for his base: minimize COVID-19, refuse to wear a mask, and disavow social distancing.  After being hospitalized with Coronavirus, Trump tweeted: “Don’t be afraid of Covid,  Don’t let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!”

This reckless attitude has greatly influenced his base: A recent PBS/NPR/Marist Poll (http://maristpoll.marist.edu/npr-pbs-newshour-marist-poll-results-the-biden-administration-covid-19/#sthash.z0TLROd9.dpbs) found that 30 percent of respondents have no intention of being vaccinated for the Coronavirus: 49 percent of Republican men. (And of course, Red states are now rushing to reopen.)

Trump has never taken responsibility for the pandemic.  In an August interview (https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/510393-trump-on-coronavirus-death-toll-it-is-what-it-is) he claimed the Coronavirus was “under control as much as you can control it.”  When asked about the rising Coronavirus death toll, Trump responded: “It is what it is.”

My point is not to belabor Trump’s incompetence or his lying.  I want to emphasize Trump’s absolute failure to take responsibility for the mistakes of his Administration.  Thousands of deaths and millions of illnesses are his fault.

Since the beginning of the 21st century, we’ve seen remarkable evidence of Republican incompetence: the 9/11 attacks, the unnecessary war in Iraq, and the 2008 financial crisis — to mention only a few.  Trump’s failure to handle the Coronavirus pandemic stands alone as a testimony to GOP self-serving greed.

Trump may be gone.  (I hope.)   But, the appalling failure of the Republican Party must not be forgotten. They can no longer claim  the moral high ground.  The GOP is not the party of personal responsibility.  At best they are incompetents; at worst, traitors.

Sappho and Beauty


Some men say an army of horses, and
Some men say an army on foot, and
Some men say an army of ships
Is the most beautiful thing on the black earth.
But I say it is
What you love.

A fragment aged 2700 years
Brings Sappho to our shore
Her words ring in our ears
Commanding us with ancient lore
To ponder our hearts once more.

And lovely laughing
Oh it puts the heart in my chest on wings
For when I look at you,
even a moment,
no speaking is left in me.

Sappho’s love is one of passion
Practiced, I am sure
In her epoch’s fashion
Physical love and something more
Awe floods through the door.

Here to me from Crete in this holy temple
where is our graceful grove
of apple trees and altars smoking
with frankincense.

And in it cold water makes a clear sound through
apple branches and with roses the whole place
is shadowed and down from radiant shaking leaves
sleep comes dropping

In this place you Aphrodite taking up
in gold cups delicately
nectar mingled with festivities:
pour.

Awake Sappho, and pour
Your beauty on this parched land
Let it splash across the floor
Take the virgins by the hand
Restore our hearts with something grand.

Yet I love the finer things . . . this and passion
for the light of life have granted me brilliance and beauty.
[a Fragment from Sappho’s “Old age poem” believed to be written when she was 60]