There are two components to the “infrastructure” plan being debated in Congress – a plan to do construction and a plan to distribute money to people. There is bipartisan support for the “hard” infrastructure bill to repair roads and bridges, expand internet access, and do other types of physical work. The “soft” distribution portion is actually a down payment on reparations for slavery. President Biden is committed to paying reparations because his election was totally dependent on the support of the black community, epitomized by his primary victory in South Carolina, which was engineered by black congressman Jim Clyburn, and which made him the Democratic nominee after losing badly in earlier primaries.
Although President Biden has traditionally been a moderate Democrat, his obligations to both the black electorate and the progressive wing of the Democratic party are pushing him strongly to the left. The gigantic portion of his infrastructure plan that is not for physical construction is a sop to the progressives and the blacks. Its goal is a transfer of wealth from the rich to the poor, especially to people of color. It addresses inequality and calls for reparations, although the funding is not explicitly called “reparations.” Biden is paying his debts to those who elected him.
Since it is not called reparations, it will not end the calls for reparations, but it will temporarily appease blacks, who will benefit disproportionately from the soft money for childcare, paid leave, unemployment insurance, and other social safety net provisions.
First, the soft provisions bill must pass. If it does, we will see how much time it buys Biden to deal with the pressure from the people of color on the left. No matter how many trillion dollars it is, it will not be enough.