Global Pairings, Rethinking America

Keeping China at Bay: Biden’s Trillion Dollar Infrastructure Blueprint

The best way to counter China’s propaganda would be for the Biden infrastructure programs to show that democracy works by providing concrete benefits to Americans.

Takeaways


  • China has been touting the virtues of its authoritarian model, pointing to its sustained and rapid economic growth, rise in standard of living and success in controlling COVID.
  • China has attacked US democracy as a chaotic system that does not improve the lives of ordinary Americans.
  • In 2009, when Senator McConnell first started to block Democratic spending programs, the US economy was almost three times larger than China’s.
  • US-China: The gap between both economies has shrunk to 1.5 times, as China’s economy grows rapidly.
  • The Biden infrastructure programs, if passed, would demonstrate that US democracy can provide concrete benefits to ordinary Americans.
  • Although the US economy still remains larger than the Chinese economy, its relative position is declining.

President Joe Biden has mapped out a strategy to make the United States more competitive and block, or at least slow down, China’s drive to dominate the world economy.

The $6 trillion price tag for Biden’s proposals is steep, and he may not be able to get his program through the U.S. Congress.

Dramatic consequences

Just be prepared that, if Biden fails with his endeavor, you make sure that your children start studying Chinese right now. The U.S. would risk losing its role as the global leader.

The People’s Republic of China is already on track to catch up with the United States of America. Biden realizes that time is running short for the U.S. to defend its position.

McConnell: China’s best ally in the Congress

Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell, the Minority Leader in the U.S. Senate, continues to act as though he is China’s best friend.

He is sabotaging any attempts to repair our physical infrastructure and the tattered U.S. social safety net for less affluent families.

How short-termism kills the U.S.

McConnell is a smart, shrewd man. Unfortunately, he only thinks about the short-term. All that is on his mind is how his party can win the next election.

Servant of the donor class

Sadly, the issue of how to improve the U.S. economy’s long-term prospects isn’t even on his radar. Other than by “virtue” of his standard answer, which is to cut taxes and regulations, of course.

That stance certainly keeps the Republican Party’s big donors happy. But their policy prescriptions are a recipe for national decline and eventual Chinese domination of the world.

Contrary to the oft-cited but false claims by Ronald Reagan, government is not the problem for the United States. A profound lack of investment in infrastructure and its people is what is holding America back.

Biden’s $4 Trillion Solution

Besides the annual budget of $2 trillion, Biden has proposed an additional $4 trillion to fund a set of long-term programs:

  • $1.7 trillion on “infrastructure” (somewhat loosely defined)
  • $2.3 trillion on education and family support programs

These proposals reflect three explicit strategic goals:

  • Combat climate change, after four years of disastrous neglect
  • Put the working-class and lower middle-class on a more secure economic footing
  • Improve America’s competitiveness versus China in key industries such as clean energy, electric vehicles and electric batteries

And a fourth implicit goal:

  • Winning the war of ideas with China by showing that democracy works

Quibbles with some of the details

One can certainly quibble with some of the details of Biden’s proposals. For example, the “infrastructure” program would allocate $400 billion for care for disabled people and older adults.

The goal here is to help family members struggling to care for such people. That’s laudable, but not related to any physical assets. In any case, Biden has indicated to Republican Senators that he is willing to reduce the $1.7 billion amount.

The tax issue, in view of Trump’s plan

The Biden plan contemplates higher taxes, larger deficits and a rise in debt to gross national product, which raise important, long-term concerns.

But overall, the plans are well-thought out. They address long-standing, critical issues in the U.S. economy and society.

Also remember that the Trump tax cuts of 2017 did not spur capital investment or an economic boom, which was the supposed justification for that move.

In reality, Trump’s plan primarily benefited the top 0.1% of Americans. Reversing those tax cuts will not hurt the economy or affect most Americans. The American Republic will survive.

Trying to fend off China

When the President broadly outlined his spending plans to Congress, in his April unofficial “State of the Union” address, he referred frequently to two themes: creating blue-collar jobs and competing with China.

Biden is keenly aware that China is investing large sums in electric batteries and electric cars, mainly by providing cheap loans and subsidies to manufacturers.

The U.S. President is clearly worried that China could dominate those emerging industries, just as it crushed competitors in solar panels and wind turbines.

Really a no-brainer

Biden’s infrastructure program would provide badly needed funds for traditional physical assets such as roads and bridges, airports and public transit.

But the President would also allocate billions in various incentives to encourage and facilitate the production of electric vehicles.

Auto manufacturers in Detroit consider electric vehicles the future for their industry. Under Biden’s plan, the government would assist the transition, partly by building a nationwide network of charging stations.

This initiative could help improve the environment, defend a key U.S. industry and stimulate employment.

The Biden plan would also provide about $150 billion to ease the transition for utilities and other energy users to switch to clean energy. That should help combat climate change while generating a lot of blue-collar jobs.

The War of Ideas with China

Biden and his advisers are also trying to restore democracy’s allure for developing countries – to burnish the brand, if you will.

China has been touting the virtues of its authoritarian model, pointing to its sustained and rapid economic growth, the rise in its standard of living, and its success in controlling the Covid outbreak.

China has attacked U. S. democracy as a chaotic system that does not improve the lives of ordinary Americans.

Unfortunately, China has some good talking points, so it’s crucial that Biden succeeds in implementing much of his program.

While the U.S. continues to under-invest in its infrastructure and is torn apart by cultural wars, China is forging ahead.

McConnell’s long, long shadow

Aside from all the political hoopla and the legislative details, it is worth considering the broader picture to understand fully the perverse and unpatriotic role played by the Republicans in recent decades.

While all the attention was on Donald Trump’s keen interest in serving Putin and Russia, and thereby neglecting to stand up for America’s interests, Senator McConnell has been at his destructive game much longer.

Cause and effect

In 2009, when Senator McConnell first started to block Democratic spending programs in the early going of the Obama administration, the U.S. economy was almost three times larger than China’s.

By 2020, that gap had shrunk to 1.5 times, as China’s economy grew rapidly. Although the U.S. economy remains larger, its relative position is declining.

Conclusion

The Biden infrastructure programs, if passed, would demonstrate that U.S. democracy can provide concrete benefits to ordinary Americans. That’s the right thing to do…and the best way to counter China’s propaganda.

The world is watching.

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About Ryan O'Connell

Ryan O’Connell spent his career on Wall Street as a lawyer, banker and bond analyst.

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