Public Infrastructure for the Public Interest
July 29, 2021
By Sonya Gurwitt
What’s in the bipartisan infrastructure framework
The Roosevelt Rundown features our top stories of the week.
Why Infrastructure Should Be Public
Yesterday, the Senate voted to move forward with the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure framework, which includes $550 billion in new federal spending.
The bill still faces several hurdles, but if it passes it will make huge investments in our nation’s roads, bridges, transit, and other physical infrastructure, as well as investments to help cities and states prepare for the worsening impacts of climate change (like droughts, wildfires, and flooding).
It also includes far less infrastructure privatization than congressional negotiators had discussed in recent weeks, a win for people and the planet.
As Roosevelt Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz warned this week, public-private partnerships and asset recycling as “proposed financing sources for new investment” would be a big step backward.
These measures use public funds for projects controlled by private firms, which ultimately prioritize profit maximization over the good of society and the environment.
“These kinds of proposals represent a misguided reversion to a neoliberal framework that has, for decades, widened economic inequality, prioritized extractive corporate power over people, and hollowed out our public capacity,” he wrote.
Government, on the other hand, can prioritize the public good in ways that the private sector is not designed to.
As Roosevelt’s Suzanne Kahn told Vox’s Emily Stewart, “Of course we want businesses to be responsible . . . [But] private companies don’t, can’t, or won’t plan with the same values that we demand and expect the government to.”
Policymakers should keep that in mind as they finalize this legislation and continue working on a much-needed $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill.
Cancel Student Debt
“According to a recent Roosevelt Institute report, canceling student debt ‘would provide more benefits to those with fewer economic resources’ and is key to ‘building the Black middle class,’” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Natalia Abrams write in a USA Today opinion piece, which calls for President Biden to cancel $50,000 of student loan debt and extend the pause on student loan payments—currently set to expire on September 30.
Read more in our recent issue brief, “Student Debt Cancellation IS Progressive: Correcting Empirical and Conceptual Errors” by Charlie Eaton, Adam Goldstein, Laura Hamilton, and Frederick Wherry.
What We’re Reading
What It Looks Like to Reconnect Black Communities Torn Apart by Highways – Bloomberg CityLab