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Why America Must Go Big on Infrastructure

Although the US economy has enjoyed a strong recovery from the pandemic-induced recession, its prospects for more robust, sustainable, and equitable long-term growth remain tenuous. Much will depend on whether Congress can muster the will to invest massively in physical and social infrastructure.

BERKELEY – Economists across the political spectrum have long advocated an increase in infrastructure investment in the United States. Now, Congress is debating infrastructure spending packages that would secure the current economic recovery and boost potential growth over the next decade.

Despite deep partisan divisions on most other issues, the Senate recently passed the $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) by a large majority. The bill now must pass the House of Representatives, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi has secured an agreement for a vote by the end of September. Approval looks likely but is by no means certain, given complete lack of support from House Republicans and ongoing divisions among House Democrats.

The IIJA focuses on traditional physical infrastructure, where much of the need is for long-overdue maintenance, committing about $550 billion for investment in items like roads and bridges, water infrastructure, and broadband. The bill also contains climate-related investments in clean-energy transmission and electric-vehicle infrastructure, including electrification of school and transit buses.