Biden, Harris, and Senate Democrats just made history passing the American Rescue Plan, spending $1.9 trillion to provide much needed relief amidst the COVID public health and economic crises. But this $1.9 trillion merely keeps the economy afloat and makes sure people can keep food on the table.
Not only are people still acutely suffering even after this stop-gap support, but our economy and infrastructure are reeling from decades of disinvestment and privatization. On top of all this, scientists tell us that we must transform every aspect of our infrastructure and economy over the next 10 years in order to avert the worst impacts of the climate crisis and preserve life on earth as we know it. Economists agree — the risk in this moment is not doing too much, but too little. A new economic analysis shows that investments of this scale towards our economic, infrastructure, and environmental crises is the bare minimum of what’s needed to get on track. And if we neglect investment now, costs and consequences will only be greater and more destructive.
Last week, Biden introduced an infrastructure plan to invest somewhere around $2 trillion. While that’s not an insignificant number, it pales in comparison to the scale of the crises we face, and what science and justice demand. In particular, if we’re serious about tackling the climate crisis, which Joe Biden has said is the top priority of his Presidency, we must rapidly mobilize to transform every aspect of our economy, society, and infrastructure over the next decade. In the last year of World War II, America spent 40% of our GDP in one year on the war — equivalent to nearly $8.5 trillion in 2021 alone. The task of transforming our economy and rescuing our planet from the brink of collapse are just as existential to our country now as the war effort was then. $10 trillion over the next decade, or $1 trillion per year, should be the minimum of what we invest towards that task.
If we’re serious about actually tackling our nation’s crises and “Building Back Better,” like Joe Biden promised, we need to solve problems in their entirety, not just put dents in them. Here are some examples of bills that take an approach of actually transforming our economy at the scale necessary:
- Public Transit: Senators Warren and Markey, and Reps. Andy Levin and Ocasio-Cortez’s BUILD GREEN Infrastructure and Jobs Act invests in a new sustainable and electric public transit infrastructure. ($500 billion)
- Vehicle Electrification: Senator Schumer’s Clean Cars for America plan establishes a vehicle trade-in program for electric vehicles and invests in domestic EV manufacturing and charging infrastructure ($454 billion).
- Public Housing: Senator Sanders and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal for Public Housing Act to modernize and expand America’s public housing stock ($180 billion).
- 21st Century Schools: Rep. Bowman proposes a Green Stimulus to retrofit and upgrade all K-12 Schools ($1.16 trillion).
- Clean Water Infrastructure: Senator Sanders and Reps. Lawrence and Khanna’s WATER Act upgrades our nation’s shameful and diminished clean water infrastructure to ensure universal clean water in America ($350 billion).
- And in his campaign, Biden already committed to a $300 billion investment in technology Research and Development and $775 billion in building the infrastructure of the care economy.
These proposals already add up to over $3.7 trillion investment and are only scratching the surface of what is needed to truly build the 21st century economy we need. For example, this does not factor in upgrading our private housing and building stocks, transitioning our power sector and electrical grid, upgrading roads and bridges, or investing in farmers, public lands and waters, and conservation.
On top of all this, with so much work to be done, it’s time for the government to guarantee good jobs for all. Establishing or enhancing public employment programs to directly put Americans to work in serving the public interest, including the robust funding of a Civilian Climate Corps and a Public Health Jobs Corps will protect people from the risk of unemployment and establishes a labor force to do the critical work of building green infrastructure and caring for one another. It’s the best way for us to marshal the full resources of our government and people to transition our energy grid and transform our society, especially as our country deals with a massive loss of jobs, many of which may never return. This must be factored into the cost of an infrastructure package.
In sum, it is clear that if Biden is serious about transforming our economy and building back better, a much greater scale of investment is needed. Sunrise Movement expects a $10 trillion investment in infrastructure, both material and social, over the next decade to meet this moment and take on the crises we as a nation are facing.