Opinion: Biden’s infrastructure plan must look to the future, not wrap itself in a nostalgic view of past American greatness

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (Project Syndicate)—President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan is likely to be a watershed moment for the American economy, clearly signaling that the neoliberal era, with its belief that markets work best and are best left alone, is behind us. But while neoliberalism may be dead, it is less clear what will replace it.

The challenges that the United States and other advanced economies face today are fundamentally different from those they faced in the early decades of the 20th century. Those earlier challenges gave rise to the New Deal and the welfare state. Today’s problems—climate change, the disruption of labor markets due to new technologies, and hyper-globalization—require new solutions.

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We need a new economic vision, not nostalgia for a mythicized age of widely shared prosperity at home and global supremacy abroad.

On climate change, Biden’s plan falls short of the Green New Deal advocated by progressive Democrats such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. But it contains significant investments in a green economy, such as supporting markets for electric vehicles and other programs to cut carbon-dioxide emissions, making it the largest federal effort ever to curb greenhouse-gases.

Economics is different from an arms race. A strong U.S. economy should not be a threat to China, just as Chinese economic growth need not threaten America.

On jobs, the plan aims to expand employment offering good pay and benefits, focusing, in addition to infrastructure, on manufacturing and the growing and essential care economy.

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The role of government

New ways of thinking about the role of government are as important as new priorities. Many commentators have framed Biden’s infrastructure plan as a return to big government. But the package is spread over eight years, will raise public spending by only 1 percentage point of gross domestic product, and is projected to pay for itself eventually.

A boost in public investment in infrastructure, the green transition, and job creation is long overdue. Even if the plan were nothing more than a big public investment push financed by taxes on large corporations, it would do a lot of good for the U.S. economy.

We need a new economic vision, not nostalgia for a mythicized age of widely shared prosperity at home and global supremacy abroad.

But Biden’s plan can be much more. It could fundamentally reshape the government’s role in the economy and how that role is perceived.

Traditional skepticism about government’s economic role is rooted in the belief that private markets, driven by the profit motive, are efficient, while governments are wasteful. But the excesses of private markets in recent decades—the rise of monopolies, the follies of private finance, extreme concentration of income, and rising economic insecurity—have taken the shine off the private sector.

At the same time, it is better understood today that in a complex economy characterized by so much uncertainty, top-down regulation is unlikely to work. Regardless of the specific domain—promoting green technologies, developing new institutional arrangements for home-care workers, deepening domestic supply chains for high-tech manufacturing, or building on successful workforce development programs—government collaboration with nongovernmental actors will be essential.

If it succeeds, the example it sets of markets and governments acting as complements, not substitutes—demonstrating that each works better when the other pulls its weight—could be its most important and enduring legacy.

In all these areas, the government will have to work with markets and private businesses, as well as other stakeholders such as unions and community groups. New models of governance will be required to ensure public objectives are pursued with the full participation of those actors who have the knowledge and capacity to achieve them. The government will have to become a trusted partner; and it will have to trust other social actors in turn.

In the past, each excessive swing in the state-market balance has eventually prompted an excessive swing in the opposite direction. The Biden plan can break this cycle. If it succeeds, the example it sets of markets and governments acting as complements, not substitutes—demonstrating that each works better when the other pulls its weight—could be its most important and enduring legacy.

Biden’s unhelpful framing

In this regard, it is unhelpful to view the Biden plan as a way to restore America’s competitive position in the world, especially vis-à-vis China. Unfortunately, Biden himself is guilty of this framing. The package will “put us in a position to win the global competition with China in the coming years,” he recently argued.

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It may be politically tempting to market the infrastructure plan in this fashion. In an earlier era, the prevailing fear that the U.S. was losing its edge to the Soviet Union in ballistic missiles and in the space race helped catalyze a national technological mobilization.

But there is much less reason for fearmongering today. It is unlikely to buy much Republican support for the plan, given the intensity of partisan polarization. And it diverts attention from the real action: if the plan increases incomes and opportunities for ordinary Americans, as it should, it will have been worth doing, regardless of the effects on America’s geopolitical status.

Moreover, economics is different from an arms race. A strong U.S. economy should not be a threat to China, just as Chinese economic growth need not threaten America. Biden’s framing is damaging insofar as it turns good economics at home into an instrument of aggressive, zero-sum policies abroad. Can we blame China if it tightens restrictions on U.S. corporations as a defensive measure against the Biden plan?

The plan could transform the U.S. and set an important example for other developed countries to follow. But to achieve its potential, it must avoid misleading state-versus-market dichotomies and outdated Cold War tropes. Only by leaving behind the models of the past can it chart a new vision for the future.

This commentary was published with permission of Project SyndicateBiden Must Fix the Future, Not the Past.

Dani Rodrik, professor of international political economy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, is the author of “Straight Talk on Trade: Ideas for a Sane World Economy.”

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Opinion: Proposed bill is a threat to the future health and safety of our community. | Columnists

This has served Tulsa County well for many years with marked improvements in the county health rankings compared to other counties in Oklahoma. Embedded in our local community, we are better able to engage with local partners in support of a community health improvement plan that includes a focus on social determinants of health that impact our local population.

In 2011, Tulsa County was ranked No. 27 in Oklahoma out of 77 counties. By 2019, Tulsa County improved to No. 13, and through targeted initiatives in our county, our community’s health will continue to improve.

A recent argument in favor of the bill that has surfaced is that the Oklahoma State Department of Health needs control of the Oklahoma and Tulsa public health departments to secure more funding for the state.

State funding requests do not carve out Tulsa and Oklahoma counties, just as they do not carve out populations from tribal nation health departments.

In fact, Oklahoma is the 28th most populous state yet ranks 25th in estimated two-year federal funding directed to states per person by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Health Resources and Services Administration. Yet, the state of Oklahoma ranks 43rd or worse in every domain of America’s Health Rankings report.

Metro health departments, tribal health departments and the Veterans Administration have made great improvements in health outcomes because they are able to target the specific needs of their populations. This is an established principle of population health.

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Community Partners Campus finds future home

WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) – The proposal for the Community Partners Campus in Wausau is one step closer to becoming a reality.

The Community Development Citizens Advisory Committee approved a request of $150,000 from Community Partners Thursday, Jan. 14 to help pay for their new proposed campus just blocks away from downtown Wausau.

After a long wait to move forward with the Community Partners Campus, the non-profit group finally found a home for their one-stop-shop non-profit supercenter.

“The need is great,” Community Partners Campus Board Vice President Kevin Noel said. “We’re excited about the partners that have agreed to join us at community partners campus and we feel that we will be able to serve many clients with many needs.”

To fully acquire the property on 364 Grand Avenue, the group needs a total of about $5.5 million to help pay for the property, remodeling, and other needed amenities by the end of February.

“[It has been] a very aggressive process of which we have to undertake to make this a reality, but the urgency from our partners and the community needs really are our pressing mat,” Community Partners Campus Board President Brian Gumness said.

They’re asking the city for $150,000 which now has two more hoops to jump through including the City Finance Committee and ultimately City Council.

“The City of Wausau and Mayor Rosenburg, as well as the city council, have been very supportive of our efforts to develop Community Partners Campus and so we’re very excited that they’re taking a look at our proposal,” Noel said.

Community Partners Campus will ultimately bring together eight of Wausau’s non-profit groups to help all the needs of the underprivileged. They hope to be open by November 2021.

Copyright 2021 WSAW. All rights reserved.

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