UPDATE, 1:53 p.m.: U.S. President Joe Biden called for the creation of 16 million new jobs in rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure as part of his proposed $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan in a speech from the Calcasieu River Bridge in Lake Charles today.
Using the failing bridge as a backdrop metaphor for his speech, Biden said the structure was the “perfect example” of how the nation has neglected to “invest in the future of our economy.” The bridge is one of the 45,000 listed as “structurally deficient” across the nation, he said. A White House fact sheet examining the need for infrastructure improvements in Louisiana estimates there are 1,634 bridges and more than 3,400 miles of highway in the state that are in “poor condition.”
Such infrastructure deficiencies amount to a “hidden tax” of around $1,000 annually for the typical American, spent in wasted time and fuel in congestion, said Biden. In total, he said the deficiencies cost the U.S. $160 billion a year, placing the nation eighth in the world in infrastructure when it used to be first.
“You know, when the bridge was built in 1952 there was nothing there. It was built to make sure that … it was going to last for 50 years. That was 20 years ago,” he said. The bridge, built for 37,000 crossings daily, currently sees 80,000 vehicles each day without modern safety features. The interstate also narrows to four lanes from six when crossing the bridge, a situation Biden called “a recipe for disaster.”
However, the president said that rebuilding is not enough. He called for increased standards so that structures can withstand stronger storms and severe weather events, directly referencing climate change.
Biden said his American Jobs Plan aims to create 16 million “prevailing wage jobs” that people “can raise a family on.” He said 98% of those jobs would not require a college degree, and 75% would not require an associate’s degree.
“And these are jobs that can’t be outsourced,” he said. Biden also pledged to use American businesses and supply chains.
To pay for the American Jobs Plan, Biden called on the very wealthy and the business community to “pay their fair share.”
“‘Trickle down’ ain’t working very well, man,” he said, referencing the conservative economic theory that if businesses and the wealthy pay less in taxes, it will stimulate the economy and benefit those in the lower classes.
From his speech in Lake Charles, Biden was scheduled to travel to New Orleans to tour the Carrolton Water Plant.
ORIGINAL POST: LAKE CHARLES, La. (KLFY) — U.S. President Joe Biden will be in Louisiana today as part of his Getting America Back on Track Tour, to promote his $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan.
Biden will be speaking live from Lake Charles at around 1:25 p.m. and then moving to New Orleans.
The president is scheduled to arrive in Lake Charles at around 12:15 p.m. at Chennault International Airport before making remarks on the American Jobs Plan near the Calcasieu River Bridge at around 1:25 p.m.
At around 2:30 p.m., the president will depart Lake Charles for New Orleans, where he is scheduled to tour the Carrolton Water Plant at around 4:20 p.m.
Biden is leaning into the stagecraft of the presidency on Thursday by choosing to speak in the city of Lake Charles in front of a 70-year-old bridge that is 20 years past its designed lifespan.
The I-10 Calcasieu River Bridge opened in 1952 and currently carries over 80,000 daily crossings. As of its last inspection, the bridge is in “poor” condition. After decades of unmet promises, the state is moving forward with a bridge replacement project using a combination of state and federal funding and a public-private partnership financed through bridge tolls. Additional federal investment would help the state reduce tolls or advance unfunded project elements. A White House official said this bridge is an illustrative example of how existing funding programs are insufficient to meet our Nation’s infrastructure needs, and why we need the American Jobs Plan (AJP) to reverse this decline.
Even as Biden engages with Republicans in Washington, he is trying to sell their voters on the idea that higher corporate taxes can provide $115 billion for roads and bridges and hundreds of billions of dollars more to upgrade the electrical grid, make the water system safer, rebuild homes and jump-start the manufacturing of electric vehicles.
He’s proposing to pay for his plan by undoing the 2017 tax cuts signed into law by President Donald Trump and raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%. Biden contends his programs would bolster the middle class and make the country stronger than tax cuts for big companies and CEOs.
Biden hinted at the theme when answering questions from reporters after a Wednesday speech at the White House that also emphasized his separate $1.8 trillion plan for education and children to be funded by higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans.
“What’s going to grow America more?” Biden said. “What’s going to help you and your security more? The super wealthy having to pay 3.9% less tax or having an entire generation of Americans having associate degrees?”
“Guess what,” he added. “It grows the economy. Benefits everybody. Hurts nobody.”
Republican lawmakers have doubled down on low taxes as a core pillar of their ideology and partisan identity. Several GOP senators favor spending $568 billion on infrastructure over five years, a small fraction of what the Democratic president has proposed — a sign of how difficult a deal might be.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said that Republicans would rather finance infrastructure through user fees such as tolls and gasoline taxes, though he declined to specify which fees he would back.
“We’re open to doing a roughly $600 billion package, which deals with what all of us agree is infrastructure and to talk about how to pay for that in any way other than reopening the 2017 tax reform bill,” McConnell said this week at the University of Louisville.
The Biden administration is banking that its message could play in Louisiana, which last backed a Democratic presidential candidate in 1996. Louisiana has been barraged by 30 extreme weather events over the past decade that caused $50 billion worth of damage. Biden is seeking $50 billion to make infrastructure better able to withstand storms, winds and flooding.
Hurricanes battered Lake Charles, a city of 78,000 residents, twice last year over the course of six weeks. Biden also plans to tour a water plant in New Orleans.
His infrastructure package received support in a newspaper editorial last week by Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter, a Republican, and Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins, a Democrat.
“The unfortunate truth is that our aging infrastructure and local government budgets cannot withstand the strain of increasingly frequent storms,” they wrote. “As mayors of great American cities in the South, we lie awake at night dreading each forecasted storm.”
There is general agreement among Democrats and Republicans in Washington about the need for infrastructure spending. But there are significant hurdles for Biden’s proposal to garner Republican backing.
Republicans want to define infrastructure more narrowly, concentrating on roads, bridges, airports, transit and broadband rather than renewable energy and access to caregivers. They object to undoing the 2017 tax cuts and imposing higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy.