President Joe Biden came to Howell on Tuesday to promote his administration’s Build Back Better and infrastructure packages, which have had difficulty passing in a federal government run on such tight margins of power.
Biden traveled to Howell’s International Union of Operating Engineers Local 324 to make his case for his agenda’s benefits to Michigan, highlighting the benefits of the two bills that he says will “prepare ourselves to be more competitive and to win the fast-changing, 21st century and the global economy.”
“It’s essential that we regain our momentum that we’ve lost,” he said in his speech.
Representing what he called an “inflection point” in the course of the United States, Biden touted the benefits of these packages.
“We’re going to put hard-working Americans, like the operating engineers here in Howell, on the job to bring back our infrastructure and bring it up to speed,” he said. “This is a blue-collar blueprint for how we restore America’s pride.”
Biden’s measures would put people to work by repairing or replacing large portions of our infrastructure that he says are in desperate need of repair. He cited a figure from the Society of Engineers that states there are 45,000 bridges and 173,000 miles of roads in the nation that are currently in poor condition — 1,200 of these bridges and 7,300 miles of these roads are in Michigan.
“We’re going to put plumbers and pipefitters to work replacing lead pipes in America so families and children can drink clean water,” Biden said. “We’re going to put line workers and electricians to work laying thousands of miles of transmission lines to build a modern infrastructure and energy grid.”
Further discussing the bipartisan infrastructure package, Biden brushed the topic of climate change and extreme weather events, saying, “Here in Michigan, you all know the cost of extreme weather. All you remember the flooding this summer that shut down parts of 1-96 — the power outages and the tornado warnings. They’re costing your state billions of dollars.”
Detroit-area flooding this summer was often cited among Michigan policy experts and politicians saying that we must physically adapt to a growing climate crisis that is already impacting our world.
On the Build Back Better plan, Biden touted the bill’s ability to invest in “human infrastructure.”
He began his rundown by discussing how America’s decision over a hundred years ago to establish 12 years of free schooling across the country set us on track for dominance in the 20th century — but now, he says, “Is there any chance we’d say that we thought 12 years is enough in the 21st century?”
“I don’t think so,” he said.
Biden’s plan includes two years of preschool at the beginning of a child’s education and two years of community college towards the end.
Biden also highlighted the impact that the Build Back Better plan will have on working parents, saying that it will “cut the cost of childcare for most Michigan families by more than half.” He said that these policy changes, in addition to the recently enacted Child Care Tax Credit, will help more working parents enter the workforce with more financial stability.
Biden summarized his remarks by saying, “When we give working families a break, we're not just raising their quality of life; we're putting parents in a position to earn a paycheck. We're also positioning our country to compete in the world. That's what these bills are all about.”
Both of these pieces of legislation, two landmarks of Biden’s agenda, have had a rocky path through Congress as progressive and moderate bases of the Democratic Party can’t seem to agree on the amount to spend.
The two pieces of legislation come with significant price tags — the bipartisan infrastructure package would constitute about $1 trillion over the next decade, while the Build Back Better plan would represent $3.5 trillion. For context, the U.S. Military’s budget will likely make up about $7 trillion over the next decade.
But, Biden claims that these programs will pay for themselves in time.
Biden cited an assessment by Moody’s that said these bills could “help our economy create an additional 2 million jobs per year, every year.”
He continued, “The jobs in my plan are for people who too often felt left behind and were left out.”
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Biden said that 90% of the jobs created by these measures wouldn’t require a four-year college degree.
Biden further stressed his commitment to the working class of the country, taking issue with the amount of taxes wealthy people and corporations pay.
“If you're working here at this facility or your spouse is a teacher or a firefighter, there's no reason why millionaires and billionaires in this country should be paying at a lower tax rate than you do,” he said.
Biden added, “I'm a capitalist. I think you should be able to go out and make a million dollars, or a billion. But just pay your fair share. Join the crowd, man.”
Biden was joined by numerous Michigan politicians, including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and Rep. Elissa Slotkin, who represents Howell in Congress.
Also in attendance were House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski and Congresspeople Debbie Dingell, Dan Kildee and Andy Levin.
In an introduction, Whitmer said that infrastructure is an important topic of discussion.
“It’s great to be in Howell to talk about something that unites all of us — infrastructure,” Whitmer said. “Our roads and our bridges connect us, literally. They bring people, communities and small businesses together.”
“I’m proud to be known as the ‘Fix the Damn Roads’ Governor,” she added, saying that she was proud to be working with an administration that has the same values.
“I know just how critical infrastructure is to every Michigander, and that’s true not just here in our own state but across the country,” Whitmer said.
Whitmer also explicitly expressed her support for Biden’s agenda.
“I urge Congress to work together to pass both the bipartisan infrastructure investment and jobs act, the bold legislation that uplifts working people by cutting middle class taxes, lowering costs for jobs, childcare and housing and create, good-paying clean energy jobs,” Whitmer said.
Before the event, hundreds of anti-Biden protestors gathered for a “Stop the Spending” rally organized by the Livingston County Republican Party. A majority of individuals at the event chose to show support for former President Trump and carried signs and flags showing their support.
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