The United States invests less in infrastructure than its peers and substantially less than it used to. As result, the nation’s physical infrastructure is in a state of disrepair—and also “dangerously overstretched”—with a funding gap of $2 trillion. This hurts American workers and businesses, and the United States’ ability to compete globally—a reality that the pandemic made even more clear.
Today, ahead of President Biden’s meetings this week with Democrats and Republicans on infrastructure, the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC)—led by Chairman Don Beyer (D-VA)—released a report that explores why big, bold investments in the United States’ physical and human infrastructure are important for future economic growth.
As the report finds, without such investments—like those included in President Biden’s American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan—the United States will continue to fall behind other competing nations, especially if racial, economic and climate equity are not at the center of such investments.
Currently, the United States ranks 55th in health infrastructure, 9th in education infrastructure, 17th in quality of road infrastructure, 23rd in electricity supply quality and 30th in reliability of water supply. In 2019, the World Economic Forum downgraded the United States’ economic competitiveness due to the nation’s deteriorating infrastructure.
“Our nation is falling behind because our infrastructure is falling apart. When Americans are waiting hours in traffic to get to work, schools have to close because their water fountains are connected to lead pipes, students have to go to McDonald’s to use Wi-Fi and parents have to leave the workforce because they cannot afford child care, then our nation is not as strong as it could be, or as strong as other competing nations.
“We must meet the demands of the moment by making once-in-a-century investments in our nation’s physical and human infrastructure, the type of investments included in President Biden’s American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan. These plans will allow even more Americans to thrive in their communities, especially those in communities that were last in line for infrastructure projects of the past—or, even worse—intentionally impaired by them.
“At the center of these investments must be racial, economic and climate equity so we can address the historical harms caused by past infrastructure investments. This means not making the mistakes we have made in the not so distant past—bulldozing blocks and businesses to build highways in certain communities, and building infrastructure without any care or concern for how it will affect the environment.”
There couldn’t be a better time to invest in infrastructure, the report finds. Low interest rates and low employment levels mean that infrastructure investment is at its most cost-effective now. There are also a number of revenue-generating options. In addition, the high-quality care, construction and engineering jobs created by infrastructure investments will improve employment opportunities for some of those most impacted by pandemic job losses.
The JEC infrastructure report can be read here. In the weeks and months to come, the JEC will release fact sheets on specific types of infrastructure discussed in the report.