I have always believed that there is nothing our nation can’t do when we decide to do it together. Last week, we began to write a new chapter in that story.
After weeks of negotiations, a bipartisan group of United States senators forged an agreement to move forward on key portions of my American Jobs Plan — a once-in-a-generation investment to modernize our infrastructure that will create millions of good-paying jobs and position America to compete with the world and win the 21st century.
The Infrastructure Deal is part of my economic strategy that, taken as a whole, will help create millions of jobs for years to come and add trillions of dollars in economic growth. According to one study of my Jobs Plan, nearly 90 percent of the jobs it will create won’t require a college degree, and 75 percent won’t require an associate’s degree. It’s a blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America.
Forty percent of the bridges in our country are more than 50 years old. I believe we should put Americans to work repairing those bridges — to help our economy and make our communities safer. The agreement we reached contains the largest investment in repairing our bridges since the creation of the interstate highway system. It will rebuild 10 of the most economically significant bridges in the country, as well as 10,000 smaller ones that workers, families and businesses across the country rely on every day.
It will put Americans to work replacing our nation’s lead water pipes — so that every single American child, at home or in school, can turn on the faucet and drink clean water. This would be the largest investment in clean drinking water in American history. Right here in the U.S., up to 10 million homes and 400,000 schools and childcare centers get their water from lead pipes and service lines. This agreement will end the threat of lead-contaminated water once and for all, especially in communities of color and in rural America.
While the bill is missing some critical initiatives on climate change that I proposed — initiatives I intend to pass in the reconciliation bill — the infrastructure deal nonetheless represents a crucial step forward in building our clean energy future. It would make the largest investment in clean energy transmission in American history, modernizing our power grid to accelerate the build-out of zero-carbon, renewable energy. It would replace thousands of gas-guzzling buses with clean, electric ones — including 35,000 electric school buses. It would cap abandoned wells leaking methane gas.
And more: The deal would deploy a nationwide network of charging stations for electric vehicles — 500,000 stations in total. It makes historic investments in rail and transit that will get passenger vehicles off the road and reduce fossil fuel consumption. There’s much more work to do to reach our ambitious climate goals, but the investments in this deal are critical in facilitating our transition to a clean energy economy.
Across the country, we will also strengthen and revitalize our natural infrastructure — our coastlines and levees — while preparing our physical infrastructure for wildfires, floods and other extreme weather events.
We’ll put people to work delivering high-speed internet to every American home, including the 35 percent of rural families who currently go without it. No child should have to sit in a fast food parking lot to do online school or homework, and it is a national disgrace that Black families are 9 percent less likely to have high-speed internet than their white peers, and Latino Americans are 15 percent less likely. In the 21st century, high-speed internet is a necessity for all, like water and electricity.
This deal will also make it easier for all Americans to get to work each day, including communities of color who in some cities are twice as likely to take public transit but often have fewer good transit options. In fact, it contains the largest federal investment in public transit in American history — making the public transportation that millions of working people rely on safer, quicker, cleaner, more frequent and more reliable.
The deal also makes the largest investment in American rail since the creation of Amtrak, and put billions toward modernizing our airports and ports. Our business leaders often tell me we are falling behind other countries when it comes to our rail and our airports. China has more than 22,000 miles of high-speed rail. Not a single U.S. airport ranks in the world’s top 25. This deal positions the United States to lead on modern 21st century transportation.
Critically, we are going to get all of this done without raising taxes one single cent on Americans who earn less than $400,000 a year. That means no gas tax increase — working families have already paid enough. Instead, we’ll pay for these investments in part by giving the IRS the resources it needs to collect taxes that the wealthiest Americans owe but are currently not paying. It cracks down on tax cheats, not on hardworking middle-class Americans.
This deal is the largest long-term investment in our infrastructure in nearly a century. Economists of all stripes agree that it would create good jobs and dramatically strengthen our economy in the long run.
But the deal also represents much more. It is a signal to ourselves, and to the world, that American democracy can work and deliver for the people.
Neither Democrats nor Republicans got everything they wanted in this agreement. But that’s what it means to compromise and reach consensus — the very heart of democracy. When we negotiate in good faith, and come together to get big things done, we begin to break the ice that too often has kept us frozen in place and prevented us from solving the real problems Americans face.
I will continue working with Congress to pass the remainder of my economic and clean energy agenda. We have an urgent need to invest in housing, clean energy deployment and the care economy. And we need to make equally critical investments in our human infrastructure: in childcare and paid leave, universal pre-K and free community college, and tax cuts for working families with children. They are inextricably intertwined with physical infrastructure.
There is plenty of work ahead to finish the job. There will be disagreements to resolve and more compromise to be forged. But this is a deal the American people can be proud of.
Joseph R. Biden Jr. is the 46th president of the United States.