American Jobs Bill: Fantasy, Fiasco

The American Jobs Plan (AJP), AKA The Infrastructure Investment And Jobs Act, is a proposal by U.S. president Joe Biden to spend $2+ trillion on U.S. infrastructure over eight years.  A Fact Sheet outlining the goals of this legislation was published in March of this year, and the 2,700-page law is now working its way through Congress.  In a recent vote, 17 Republicans voted to move along this bill.  It seems to have bipartisan support.  This bipartisan support reveals the mental, moral, fiscal, legal, and logical collapse of the USA.

The bill lacks a conceptual and logical foundation.  It is a hybrid of types of legislation from the Progressive Era of American history, elements of New Deal thinking, and has some ideas taken from the pathetic stimulus package with its nonexistent "shovel ready" jobs during the Obama years.  U.S. government intensification of control of the railroads in this proposed legislation is an updating of the thinking that led to the creation of the ICC in 1887, whereby railroad rates and later wages came under U.S. government oversight.  By the way, in 1995, the ICC was replaced by the Surface Transportation Board, which now has regulatory authority over intercity buses, pipeline carriers, and interstate moving as well as railroads.  This is further evidence that when governmental authority is enhanced, over time, its purview and authority become broader and broader.

The Biden plan envisages even more intense modernization of the railroads as the climate bigots desire greater and greater use of the railroads and less and less use of airplanes.  The climate change obsessionists claim that downsizing airplane dependence will also add to the health of our republic, as there will be less CO2 in the air.  Although the coal stacks of Pittsburgh and elsewhere have long since disappeared, the environmental freaks are still worried about our contracting black lung disease or cancer.

The summary Fact Sheet put out by the White House repeats ad nauseam that the infrastructure plan will be increasing the employment of the "underserved" (a buzzword meaning minority black and brown people) in all sectors covered by the legislation.  Thus, we see elements of the New Deal — the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) — in the AJP.  Just as these agencies were to be mechanisms for addressing unemployment during the Depression, this bill will focus on training and hiring minorities in numerous sectors of our economy, which the legislation intends to upgrade. 

The AJP specifically says the jobs provided to minorities will be higher-paying jobs.  The government, not the marketplace, will determine what skills are needed, provide training for those skills if needed, pay a salary based on what they believe said minority employees should get as a matter of "fairness," and in fact create a marketplace for employment independent of the free marketplace.  The government will create the jobs, place people in those jobs, decide who works where, and calculate what is a proper wage in each and every case.  In short, without saying so, the ideal is building an economy within an economy.  We had already begun to do that during the New Deal, but now that idea will be re-instated on steroids.

For the America Firsters, the legislation will encourage more goods to be Made in the USA.  But how will this be accomplished?  Not by sound trade policy, but, on my reading, by governmental fiat.  The government somehow is going to "make it happen."  The government will dictate what has to be made in the USA and what does not.

This leads us to the subject of the utopian veneer on this so-called infrastructure bill.  We see this generally — in fact, it is not solely about infrastructure.  Everything but the kitchen sink is referred to as infrastructure.  Topics in the legislation to be covered include human-trafficking violations; promoting women in trucking; information reporting for brokers and digital outlets; certain Medicare drug refunds; time for filing a petition in tax court; customs user fees; clean school buses; climate science; changing the tax code to make it harder to evade taxes; creation of safer, healthier workplaces; reduction of the impact of climate change; improvement of our internet transmission; and cleaner water. 

The bill also puts electric charging stations along the highways, which is something I do not support.  Why?  This writer likes using gasoline-powered cars, and while driving, it is sometimes satisfying to leave the highway to get gas and an Arby's roast beef sandwich.  Despite its claims of comprehensiveness, there is no mention of Arby's in the Biden Fact Sheet.

There is nothing in the bill defining how the programs are to be created or how they will be administered.  All it states is that eight different Cabinet-level departments will receive certain appropriations.  This vast influx of cash accompanying a vast new legislative mandate will present tremendous administrative challenges.  But in essence, the legislation is just allocating the funds and giving the agencies or departments administrative free rein in how to practically implement the legislative mandate should the infrastructure bill finally pass Congress and become law.

To put the matter bluntly, incorporating so many non-infrastructure topics inserts a soap opera element into this legislation.  Instead of being focused and accomplished, it is a hodgepodge.  It is a bunch of madmen throwing incomprehensible amounts of money at certain issues or supposed problems and waiting for the paper-pushers to correct a society that is in noticeable material and moral decay.

The White House American Jobs Fact Sheet states, "The plan targets 40 percent of the benefits of climate and clean infrastructure investments to disadvantaged communities."  Does this imply nicer climates in poorer minority neighborhoods?  Do they really expect to have cleaner air on the Southside of Chicago or in East New York?  Will spring arrive earlier in poorer neighborhoods?  Instead of talking about climate in poorer neighborhoods, how about intensive cleaning of the elevated and subway stations with decades of dirt ground into the cement station floors, many of which stations are in "disadvantaged communities"?

The omnibus aspect of this legislation dooms it.  Too many areas of life are covered.  Too much money is allocated.  Instead of beginning with smaller test projects, the bill is attempting to do too many projects at once.  We are seeing a type of legislative derangement...full of sound and fury, yet without conceptual, institutional, or financial unity — disjointed, unconnected.  Assuming it will pass, it is doomed from day one to chaos and failure.

Image via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain.

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