by Matthew Volfson
April 25, 2021
If we compare the United States’ infrastructure to Switzerland’s, we see that America has difficulty even keeping their infrastructure standing, let alone improving their services. The United States has a creaky Amtrak mostly built in the 1970s. Public transportation systems in San Francisco, New York, and Boston and bus systems throughout the U.S. are more fit for the age of the fax machine and video cassette recorders than for the modern day. In contrast, Swiss transport systems and many other European systems belong in the current day and are innovative, easy to access, speedy, and on time. It is a consensus, among both Democrats and Republicans, that the United States has an infrastructure problem. Even so, for many years, we have heard only rhetoric from Washington.
President Joe Biden has finally managed to forge legislation to deal with America’s infrastructure that has a decent chance of passing Congress. His legislation is necessary for improving our economy and the ways in which we get from place to place. It promises better public transportation and roads for neighborhoods of color, a development which would ameliorate a long-time problem caused by the income inequality between minority and white neighborhoods. Communities where people of color are predominant in Boston, such as Hyde Park, are less well-off than areas where fewer people of color live, such as Newton. People in Hyde Park tend to rely more on public transport than people in Newton because many can’t afford a car, and public transport is one of the only ways to get around without a car.
Biden’s infrastructure plan is a complex batch of items that attempts to address America’s infrastructure and its inequalities. Biden hopes to improve roads, invest in transportation, and especially encourage the use of environmental energy. This makes sense: the Texas power grid crisis in February of this year attests to the fact that fixing the U.S. energy grid should remain a top priority for any presidential administration. The blackout in Texas and multiple blackouts in New York in 2003 and 2019 show that even the largest cities in America sorely need improvements in energy. And in New England and the Massachusetts area specifically, there was a more recent blackout in the Boston area in 2021 where it took a few days to get back to power. I, unfortunately, was a part of the blackout, and my house lacked power for days. To prevent such blackouts from happening again, Biden’s administration will invest in making infrastructure much more resilient to storms.
Biden has acknowledged that storms and other natural disasters will become more frequent as over time, more and more of the effects of climate change are felt throughout America. He has not only added provisions in his legislation that would make current electrical grids and systems more resilient to climate change but has also pledged to invest in environmental energy. He would do so by encouraging Americans to buy electric cars and use more environmentally friendly energy, such as solar energy, hydropower, wind energy, or nuclear energy, over fossil fuels.
Investing in energy for the future is a must for a country that seeks to lead the globe in combating climate change. Biden is going in the right direction. He wants to make sure that the United States can come up to par with manufacturing giants such as the new challenger on the block, China. He wants the U.S. to further push its weight around abroad and make sure the world holds a concrete goal of eliminating climate change. He would do that by investing more in clean energies, a point made again and again in his March 2021 White House briefing on his infrastructure plan.
Yet inflation may be a problem for Biden’s two-trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. As more money, on a magnitude of trillions, is spent, the money becomes less valuable because there is an extended surplus of the cash. Some economists believe that the plan could cause inflation because of the increased amount of money flushed out and printed out from Washington. The possibility of inflation, combined with increased interest rates on loans, another result of more money on the market, would drag down the American economy.
Even so, BUA students have confidence in Biden’s plan. Biden’s infrastructure plan is relevant to BUA because the MBTA serves a substantial number of BUA students. Anne Jackson ‘22 believes the U.S. “needs to invest a lot more in American infrastructure, since a lot of it is aging. A lot of infrastructure spending is not going into American pockets; [therefore it] won’t drastically devalue American spending.” She acknowledges Biden’s efforts to “invest in renewable energy” and praises them as beneficial for the United States, saying it would help “reduce global warming.” To Anne’s comments, I would add that investing in renewable energy would boost America’s place on the global clean energy stage. With its global reputation tarnished by former President Trump, the U.S. most certainly needs to tackle climate change better, and Biden’s infrastructure plan seems like the best opportunity to do so. Although Biden’s proposal comes with its share of problems, it nevertheless is doing something, which is better than doing nothing.
Cook, Lauren. “A brief history of blackouts in New York City.” AMNY, July 15, 2019.
“FACT SHEET: The American Jobs Plan.” The White House, March 31, 2021.
Gavin, Christopher. “Power outages, a scaffolding collapse, and downed trees mark wild windstorm.” Boston.com, March 2, 2021.
Kapur, Sahil and Tsirkin, Julie. “GOP unites against Biden’s $2 trillion jobs plan. It’s the counteroffer they can’t agree on.” NBC, April 16, 2021.
Pramuk, Jakob. “President Biden unveils his $2 trillion infrastructure plan — here are the details.” CNBC, March 31, 2021.