Joe Biden’s plan to remake America

Joe Biden’s plan to remake america

Well, after years of endless "infrastructure weeks" to nowhere, Joe Biden is now aiming for the moon.

On Wednesday, the US president unveiled a $2 trillion dollar plan that would rebuild tens of thousands of miles of dilapidated roads and rails, modernize ports and airports, boost employment and housing, expand broadband access, and accelerate the transition to a more climate-friendly economy. By the time it's all over, the total spending could rise to $4 trillion over a decade.

This is the most ambitious US infrastructure agenda in many decades. It vastly exceeds anything that Biden's two predecessors attempted. In fact, nothing of this scale has been tried at least since the construction of the interstate highway system in the 1950s. In some ways it invites comparison with the public works programs of FDR's New Deal or with the social aims of Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society programs.

That's because Biden's proposal is about more than just building rails, bridges, electric cars, and the like. It's a bold attempt to revive a once-powerful idea in America: that the government can and should act expansively to reshape and improve society at large. Critics of that idea either object on philosophical grounds (arguing that more government means less liberty) or financial ones (running up the national debt is bad.)

Getting Biden's plan through Congress would upend a nearly 40-year trend of governments under both parties largely rolling back the federal government's presence in American life. Barack Obama's expansion of healthcare was the only major exception to that and it was, as a result, hugely contentious.

In principle, Biden's plan is a political winner. Three-quarters of Americans support a makeover for the country's crumbling infrastructure. Despite being the world's wealthiest country, the US ranks just 13th in overall infrastructure quality.

But as always, there are stark partisan differences here too. A majority of Democrats and independents support hiking taxes on the wealthy to pay for infrastructure, while a majority of Republicans either oppose new infrastructure spending altogether or think it should be paid for without tax increases. For the record, Biden's plan at the moment claims it would pay for itself over the course of 15 years via tax hikes on the wealthy and corporations.

In Congress, Republican leaders won't get on board with a plan of this size, not least because it envisions a sizable increase in the corporate tax rate, and because it contains more green initiatives than the current GOP is comfortable with.

But Democrats are at least as much of an obstacle here as the GOP. There's already a battle brewing within the Democratic caucus about the spending plans. Progressives, led informally by New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are already up in arms because they think the proposal is too small. Rather than spending $2 trillion over a decade, they want to spend five times as much over the same period. But moderate Dems — including the crucial Democratic swing voters of the Senate, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — are already balking at the cost and potential tax hikes.

And whereas the urgency of averting mass death smoothed party divisions when it came to the $1.9 trillion COVID stimulus bill, this one will spark a much fiercer battle for the soul of the Democratic party.

So, how are they going to pass this thing? There's virtually no chance of getting 10 Republican votes, which means that either Dems have to take the plunge and scrap the filibuster (which in effect forces lawmakers to get 60 Senate votes to pass most major pieces of legislation), or try to pass the measure through a simple-majority process called "budget reconciliation", which applies for bills that affect taxation and spending. Another question is whether the Biden administration decides to break up elements of the plan into smaller bills, or go for one massive history-making shot on goal.

Whatever Dems are gonna do, they have to do it fast. As the 2022 elections loom, Democrats know they have to use the moment or (potentially) lose it — midterms are historically unkind to the party in power, and the Democrats are working with a razor thin majority to begin with.

Building on more than 15 years of sustainability leadership, Walmart is doubling down on addressing the growing climate crisis by targeting zero emissions across the company's global operations by 2040. Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are also committing to help protect, manage or restore at least 50 million acres of land and one million square miles of ocean by 2030 to help combat the cascading loss of nature threatening the planet.

One of the world's most famous political dissidents may die in a Russian prison this week.

Alexei Navalny has been on a hunger strike for almost three weeks over the authorities' refusal to let his own medical team examine him after he developed signs of tuberculosis. Now, one of his aides says Navalny is "close to death."

The fate of Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic — who was poisoned last summer, allegedly by state officials, treated in Germany, and then jailed upon his return to Russia — is being closely watched both inside and outside the country.

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Ian Bremmer and Bill Maher discussed the global leadership of the United States compared to that of China on a recent episode of Real Time. "The level of corruption in China, the level of corruption in China, even the buildings and the rails you talk about - the average building the Chinese build lasts for 20, 25 years. In the United States, it lasts for 40 to 50. There's a reason why we are still the world's most powerful country," Ian argued. "I'm just saying China's not eating our lunch - that's all."

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As the price of Bitcoin has skyrocketed in recent months, so has the amount of energy that procuring it hogs. Research shows that Bitcoin "mining" now uses 80 percent more energy than at the start of 2020. Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates recently sounded the alarm on crypto, saying that he would not invest in Bitcoin because mining for the digital currency requires huge amounts of energy, much of which is powered by fossil fuels that harm the environment. So where does Bitcoin rank in electricity consumption compared to nations?

Even if the US, Europe, China, and India reduce carbon emissions at the rate they've promised, much climate damage has already been done. That shouldn't stop these and other countries from doing all they can to meet their net-zero emissions targets, but they also better start preparing for a world of people on the move.

Climate change will displace an unprecedented number of people in coming years, creating not just a series of humanitarian crises in many parts of the world, but lasting political, economic, and social upheaval as those of us who live on higher ground try to find a sustainable place for these climate refugees to live.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody, Ian Bremmer here, kicking off your beautiful spring week from New York City. A little Quick Take. I thought I'd talk today about Russia, going to be in the news this week. Putin doesn't like it when they're out of the news for too long, certainly plenty going on between the US and Russia right now.

I'd say, first of all, to start off, the relationship is in the toilet. We know this. It is the worst it's been since the early '80s. That was true even under Trump. Trump and Putin personally had a pretty good relationship, but Trump wasn't able to get anything really done for the Russians, because both the Republicans in Congress, key members of cabinet under Trump, massive amount of constraints on what Trump could actually do, whether it's trying to bring Russia back into the G7 or recognize Crimea as a part of Russia, or remove or reduce sanctions. None of that actually got done. In fact, the relationship deteriorated over the four years.

But now we've got Biden and the focus is of course, more on human rights. The focus is more on climate change, which means that Russia as a massive energy exporter and particularly in terms of their influence on Eastern Europe and Western Europe on the downstream for gas delivery, for example, something that Biden is much more focused on. So a lot more pressure on the Russians, and the Russians don't care. Their willingness to hit back and show that the Americans are not willing to take any significant risks to constrain the Russians is also fairly significant. And this is playing out in a number of ways.

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Pakistani radicals vs French cartoons: It's been a tumultuous week in Lahore, Pakistan's second largest city. After widespread protests broke out across the Muslim world late last year after Paris defended French publications' rights to publish satirical images of the Prophet Mohamed, the radical Pakistani Islamist group Tehrik-i-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), gave Pakistan's government until April 20 to expel the French ambassador, when it had planned nationwide demonstrations. When Prime Minister Imran Khan refused to meet their demands, more violence erupted across the country and authorities arrested the TLP leader — prompting TLP supporters to hit back by kidnapping six state security personnel in Lahore this past weekend. Authorities have now banned the TLP outright and are bracing for more violence in the coming days. France, meanwhile, has urged all of its citizens to leave Pakistan.

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1,544: South African authorities say that at least 1,544 square miles of land has already been destroyed by wildfires in Cape Town. Landmarks including an African antiquities library at Cape Town university were gutted by the flames, while communities around the historic Table Mountain were evacuated as fire engulfed the area.

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