A conservative reader recently sent us a transcript of a monologue by liberal comedian Bill Maher, who hosts Real Time on HBO, and much of it rang true, particularly as it pertains to America and China and the race to “win” the 21st century.
As Maher points out, it’s a race between a serious country and a silly country. You can guess which is which.
“In two generations, China has built 500 entire cities from scratch, moved the majority of their huge population from poverty to the middle class, and mostly cornered the market in 5G and pharmaceuticals,” said Maher. “Oh, and they bought Africa,” he added, referencing China’s Silk Road infrastructure initiative which is using global investment to snap up markets and resources around the world. “In China alone, they have 40,000 kilometers of high-speed rail. America has none,” noted Maher. “We’ve been having Infrastructure Week every week since 2009 but we never do anything. Nothing ever moves in this impacted colon of a country. We see a problem and we ignore it, lie about it, fight about it, endlessly litigate it… and then write a bill where a half-assed solution doesn’t kick in for 10 years. China sees a problem and they fix it. They build a dam. We debate what to rename it.”
As for silliness, Maher highlighted the manufactured kerfuffle over a decision by Dr. Seuss Enterprises to cease publication of six relatively obscure book titles that had depictions of Asians and African Americans that hadn’t aged well. Conservative media has played up the decision as their latest front in the culture wars, which seems to be where America fights its political battle these days. It’s all distraction that hides the fact that Washington doesn’t seem able to do anything anymore.
Which is, perhaps, why President Biden’s proposal last week to spend $2 trillion on the most dramatic upgrade in America’s infrastructure in generations was so breathtaking. It was the first serious proposal to move this country forward in decades.
There was a time when America believed in itself and when both Democrats and Republicans were willing to invest in its future. In the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, we built the interstate highway system, we built schools to educate the baby boom, we invested in airports, seaports, and cleaning up our environment. Today, as much of that infrastructure is crumbling, we won’t even invest the funds to maintain it, much less update it for the 21st century.
My conservative friend may not like to hear it, but it’s his party that has been the primary impediment to those investments. Since the Reagan Revolution of the 1980s, investing in the kind of public benefits that the rest of the developed world takes for granted has taken a back seat to tax cuts for the wealthy. That’s left much of America with broken down, 1960s-vintage infrastructure and technology, while the rest of the developed world has continued to advance. After years of decay, many rural areas and the left-behind cities that dot our nation’s heartland experience conditions that border on Third World by today’s standards.
Americans across the spectrum recognize how far we have fallen as a country, which is why there is broad support for more infrastructure investment. Rural America, including northeastern Minnesota, will be among the big winners. This bill, if approved, will mean huge investments in improving and expanding the housing stock in our communities, fixing our busted roads and dilapidated Main Street business districts, and repairing aging water and sewer infrastructure, something communities across our region are struggling with every day. Biden’s proposal includes $100 billion to bring broadband to rural America, an investment that will have major, long-term economic benefits for our region.
Here’s the other thing Biden’s proposal will create: Jobs, and lots of them. For northeastern Minnesota, where too many residents have fallen for the GOP’s silly and divisive culture wars schtick in recent years, this proposal, if signed into law, will create more good-paying jobs than anything this region has seen in a century.
President Trump, with a Republican-led Congress, had years to deliver the infrastructure plan he promised during his 2016 campaign. All he left behind was a half-built wall, that Mexico didn’t pay for. “Sleepy Joe” is ready to deliver the goods and create the jobs in our region that Trump only talked about.
Biden has the support of Democrats, and the American people. The only question is whether Mitch McConnell, Pete Stauber, and their Party of No will finally allow America’s impacted colon to start moving again.