What America can build with trillions of dollars
Possibly the largest bill of the generation is being discussed, one of trillion-dollar proportions.
The Biden administration on March 31 proposed the Infrastructure Act, a bill that would spend more than $2 trillion on roads, bridges, ports, airports, drinking water, transit systems and internet access across the nation.
The $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, which Biden calls “the American Jobs Plan,” is actually one of three large spending plans worth a total of about $6 trillion.
A $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill called “the American Rescue Plan” passed the Senate in March. Last year, the Trump administration passed a $2.2 trillion pandemic relief package.
Biden’s third proposal, called “the American Families Plan,” would cost $1.8 trillion and would target education and child care and extend tax cuts to families with children.
The infrastructure and families plans would need to pass the House and Senate, where Republicans will make their own proposals in response.
After adjusting for inflation, the New Deal of the 1930s cost only $806 billion, and the 2009 recovery act a little over $1 trillion. With $2 trillion the nation could build approximately 594 Hoover Dams. The average American family could live on $2 trillion for approximately 326,666,928 years.
It is a near unfathomable amount of money. It is a little over four times what the United States spent collectively on infrastructure in 2017.
Now what will it do for Minnesota? Will this historic action affect the average student of Minnehaha at all?
As it turns out, the bill could be a remedy to a long ignored problem in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Minnesota’s infrastructure is aging and in some cases built with ulterior motives. Both of these problems require that those pieces of infrastructure be replaced.
However, doing so is expensive, and it’s money the state doesn’t have. If Minnesota is to not only survive, but be able to push forward into a changing world, Biden’s proposed infrastructure bill might be sorely needed.
As it is, Minnesota is pushing its luck. According to a 2014 report from the Minnesota Department of Transportation, about 14,8 00 miles of state highways are over 50 years old, the time that they generally should be reconstructed.
There are also about 1,030 bridges of the state highway system that are over that same deadline of 50 years. Furthermore, since the construction of these bridges, regulations and technology regarding construction have advanced. Many of these constructs are not up to modern standards.
The reason Minnesota has procrastinated on such projects is because improving infrastructure is expensive. To replace the Blatnik Bridge, the bridge between Duluth and Superior, Wisconsin, is estimated to cost over $1 billion dollars.
More than bridges, there are many areas of infrastructure that could be updated, pipes for example, making the total bill expensive. This infrastructure isn’t getting younger and the expense of updating it will only increase.
Racism in past policies
Minnesota has another bill to pay. As explained in Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, the segregation of American neighborhoods into two colors, black and white, was far from accidental. Many United States suburbs were originally built with rules that purposely excluded minorities.
African Americans living in the worse neighborhoods is not the result of many individual racists, nor the fault of their race, but the actions of very organized racists. (This history is also told in the documentary Jim Crow of the North and in the Mapping Prejudice project hosted online by the University of Minnesota Libraries.)
During and after the New Deal, housing loans were made easily accessible to families to bounce back from the Great Depression. However, the powers that were did not want money to be funneled into populations that would “waste” it, so they started sectioning of “good” neighborhoods from the “bad” neighborhoods.
Whether or not this was done with racism in heart, and mind, or was just a wild coincidence, the large majority of these neighborhoods labeled as unworthy happened to be those of African Americans.
This created a cumulative effect of wealth disparity. White people could improve their homes, or buy up, later selling them for more money. They could use that money to buy better homes, or to improve their communities. This allowed white people to get better educations from their nicer schools, and further increase wealth disparity between two different skin colors. This only snowballed.
Even after discriminatory housing was outlawed in the fair housing act of 1968, it was far too late. The wealth gap was already too large.
Later, when the government built its highway system it needed to compensate the owners of now bulldozed homes. As a result many of the highways built in America cut through the communities of African Americans; the government’s bill was kept down by buying lower-value homes. These highways built walls between friend and family. Today, it is somewhat difficult to take a friendly stroll across Interstate 94 in what used to be St. Paul’s unified Rondo neighborhood.
The Infrastructure Act plan tries to fix this. In addition to other ways of combating redlining, the bill also includes plans to build pedestrian pathways over highways, reconnecting communities split decades ago.
Pay now or pay later
Just solving problems from long ago isn’t the only concern. The state of Minnesota is trying to adapt to a changing world with new infrastructure projects, such as an improved busing system in the Twin Cities.
But the Minnesota Department of Transportation says it would need $18 billion in additional revenue in the next 20 years to maintain the current state transportation network at acceptable levels, never mind new projects. The money simply isn’t there.
The red-lining that excluded the neighborhoods of African Americans dates back more than 80 years. The bridges and highways that used to bring Minnesotans to their destinations are expiring, built four generations ago. Minnesota also wishes to propel itself into the future.
Many students of Minnehaha procrastinate on their homework. What happens when the government does? What will happen, or continue to happen, if these problems aren’t fixed now? What happens if this bill isn’t passed?