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Biden touts historic infrastructure plan in blue-collar US

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With his infrastructure drive, Biden is staking his legacy on an issue he feels gets to the root an existential battle for supremacy on the world stage./AFP
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Jun 30, 2021 - 07:30 AM

LA CROSSE — US President Joe Biden stood in an oily, machinery filled warehouse in Wisconsin to tout his multi-trillion dollar infrastructure plans Tuesday, arguing that America needs everything from better bridges to broadband to remain competitive.

Comparing his efforts to the creation more than half a century ago of the Interstate highway system knitting together the world’s biggest economy, Biden said this is the kind of effort that “only the government has the capacity to make.”

“This is a generational investment to modernize,” he said, to “position America to compete with the rest of the world in the 21st century.”

Biden was speaking at a municipal repair and storage facility in the small, blue-collar town of La Crosse in Wisconsin — a state he narrowly managed to flip during the tense 2020 election against Donald Trump.

There was little in the way of slick production for the presidential tour and subsequent speech before a small audience in one of the cavernous sheds.

Instead, Biden took the stage surrounded by heavy equipment including trucks and road signs. Massive road-building machines filled an adjoining room and the smell of motor oil permeated the complex.

Talking to the driver of a hybrid bus — which Biden says should be the model for hybrid and electric US bus fleets — he asked whether crumbling bridges and highways were a problem locally.

“That’s our major hurdle right now,” the driver replied. “We lag on that.”

Biden, a longtime car enthusiast who loves to talk about his family’s working class roots, is clearly hoping his infrastructure push will do more than fix the US economy.

Infrastructure spending is popular with voters and a successful rollout could give a push to his Democratic party’s hopes in Midterm congressional elections next year — and his own reelection in 2024.

Trillions of dollars 

Biden is pushing for two infrastructure bills.

The first, which would focus mostly on traditional areas like roads and bridges, is under negotiation, with Republicans considering a rare moment of bipartisan cooperation in Congress.

The package would also pay for replacing unhealthy lead pipes in homes across the nation, boost broadband internet and set up a network of electric vehicle charging stations.

At around $1 trillion, it’s far from sure that the plan will inspire the two sides to come to an agreement.

However, whether Republican support comes through or not, Biden is also intent on using his ultra-thin Democratic control of Congress to enact an even bigger spending bill that would also include what he’s calling “human infrastructure” — like increased pre-school and higher education. That separate bill could run into several trillion dollars.

Either way, Biden is staking his legacy on an issue he feels gets to the root an existential battle for supremacy on the world stage.

“China is going full bore” on infrastructure spending and has left the United States far behind in dollars spent on research and development, he said in his Wisconsin address.

Writing earlier on Yahoo!, Biden said a giant infrastructure revamp would send “a signal to ourselves, and to the world, that American democracy can work and deliver for the people.”

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