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Let’s Build Back Better, but slowly

Most of us think of infrastructure as something physical: Bridges, roads, pipelines, power lines and the like. President Joe Biden says he wants to expand that dictionary definition to include workers, families and people — and therefore to include schools and housing, for example.

That twisting of the dictionary definition of infrastructure is making the Build Back Better package massive and expensive — and, when coupled with how Biden wants to pay for it, by rolling back the Trump tax cuts on businesses, likely will mean it meets strong resistance in Congress. It could cost as much as $4 trillion. It is, as The Associated Press pointed out, on par with the New Deal or Great Society programs — though much, much more expensive and expansive.

Expanding the definition of traditional infrastructure makes sense if we’re talking about including broadband Internet. But child care, pre-kindergarten education or free community college? That kind of spending requires its own discussion as those items don’t belong in the bill.

There are efforts in this plan to make generational investments in infrastructure, revive domestic manufacturing, combat climate change and keep the United States competitive with China … it is an enormous set of ideas. At the very least, Biden seems to understand he cannot simply ram this one through. Rather than calling it an emergency, he is hoping for passage by the end of summer. But needed improvements to our roads, bridges and broadband Internet access must not hang on bipartisan approval of free pre-kindergarten education, to choose just one sticking point. This one carries too much danger of being an all-or-nothing monster that dies without doing any good at all.

The Biden administration is aiming for “Not just modernizing our roads, our railways and our bridges, but building an infrastructure of the future,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

Increases in spending that ambitious don’t happen without tax increases to match. Given the damage that might do to the very people the Biden Administration says it is trying to help, it would be wise to Build Back Better one step at a time, rather than forcing the plan into existence all at once.

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