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S2 Episode 1: What infrastructure spending means for you

Listen: There's a desperate need in the US to improve our infrastructure, much of which was built when the population was half the size it is today. After decades of neglect, President Biden's infrastructure plan is poised to pump a trillion dollars into the economy to not just modernize bridges and roads, but also boost manufacturing, R&D, clean energy, climate resilience and more. What could this investment mean for the economy, politics, and your bottom line as an investor?

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US on track for August 31 withdrawal; House passes $3.5T plan

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

Is the US on track for the August 31st withdrawal from Afghanistan?

The US is actually doing a pretty good job, getting its own citizens out of Afghanistan despite the chaos that's been seen at the airport and across the country over the last two weeks. It's estimated on Wednesday afternoon, there were about 1,500 citizens of the United States, still in Afghanistan. And some of them, according to Secretary of State Tony Blinken, may not want to leave. The US has been evacuating enormous numbers in the last several days. Over 21,000 people have gotten out. And even though Biden sent his CIA director, William Burns, to potentially negotiate a longer withdrawal date than August 31st with the Taliban, he says, he's going to stick to this deadline. The people who may not get out are the interpreters and helpers that aided the American military, who are native Afghanis, who are probably going to be left behind when the US leaves at the end of the month.

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Senate's bipartisan $1T infrastructure bill could double US spending

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

The Senate passed a $1 trillion infrastructure bill this week. What do we know about that?

Infrastructure week is finally here, after many years of fits and starts on pressing a bipartisan infrastructure bill. The Senate moved one out of the chamber this week, as well as making progress on President Biden's $3.5 trillion follow-up spending plan. What's in the infrastructure bill? While it's a whole bunch of money for roads, bridges, tunnels, water projects, broadband deployment, airports, ports, all types of physical infrastructure, and it was done on a bipartisan basis.

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Podcast: How human history is shaped by disaster, according to Niall Ferguson

Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Progress on infrastructure bill despite Senate vote against it

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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Democrats need to be united to pass $3.5 trillion budget plan

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

What are the details of the Democrats' proposed $3.5 trillion budget blueprint?

Well, the Democrats this week in the Senate Budget Committee agreed to move forward with the plan to spend $3.5 trillion spread out over about 10 years on a huge portion of President Biden's Build Back Better Plan. This comes on top of a bipartisan agreement, at least in principle, on another $600 billion in physical infrastructure, which is roads, bridges, tunnels, repair, broadband deployment and a whole bunch of other physical infrastructure spending that Republicans and Democrats agree they want to do but aren't clear on how they want to pay for. But on the $3.5 trillion in spending, this is a lot of new social services, it's extending a number of tax subsidies that are going to low-income families and families with kids as part of the American Rescue Plan, which was the Biden stimulus bill that passed earlier in the year. It also includes money for two years of community college, universal preschool, and expands Medicare to cover things like dental benefits and other things that Medicare currently doesn't pay for.

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Can the G7 really build back the world better than China?

Over the weekend, the Biden administration announced a G7-backed plan to build climate-friendly infrastructure projects across the developing world. Against the backdrop of rising US-China competition, the plan is widely perceived as a direct challenge to China's Belt and Road Initiative, which also aims to build roads, ports, and rails across the Global South.

But what is really in the new G7 program — known as "B3W" (Build Back Better for the World) — and what is it meant to achieve? Here are a few questions to ponder.

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Biden's big bet on Big Government

There are many differences between America's two main political parties, but the most fundamental is this: Democrats say government can and should act boldly to improve people's lives and strengthen the nation. Republicans insist that government itself poses the greatest threat to individual liberty and the nation's lasting competitive strength. The past 100 days make crystal-clear which side of that argument President Joe Biden lives on.

Ronald Reagan's presidency in the 1980s seemed to finally settle this question in favor of less government. Bill Clinton, the first post-Reagan Democrat in the White House, famously told Congress in 1996 that "the era of big government is over." A generation later, outside of his ambitious healthcare reform plan, fellow Democrat Barack Obama was notably cautious on this question.

But the pandemic has given Biden an opportunity to show government can go big. Historically big.

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