Episode 80: Infrastructure? I Hardly Know Her!

In the eightieth episode of The Latest, we skim the cover letter for the American Jobs Plan. Spencer Covington, a recipient of a $1,400 stimulus check, joins the program for this week’s O.J. Simpson Twitter Update.

The Latest with Greg Ott
The Latest with Greg Ott
Episode 80: Infrastructure? I Hardly Know Her!


Those voices are discussing the American Jobs Plan, a sprawling nationwide infrastructure project intended to put Americans to work in a nod to the legacies of Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, and the Offspring’s fifth album. 

As President Biden seeks to pass a once-in-a-generation package to rebuild antiquated avenues, breakneck bridges, and crumbling causeways, many deep in the back country are beginning to ask themselves the same question: does this mean that the Democrats are trying to cancel Old Town Road?

Last week, the president laid out the broad strokes of a $2.3 trillion plan that intends to keep holding up the things that are always holding you up.

The proposal seeks to modernize 20,000 miles worth of highways and roads, including ten “economically significant” bridges, like Jeff, and a slew of older, less significant bridges, like Beau.  

It also intends to deliver clean drinking water systems, improved electrical power, high-speed broadband access, and other utility upgrades that your landlord once assured you “just isn’t possible for what you’re paying.”

But the proposed upgrades go far beyond the surface level, redefining infrastructure itself as the institutions and programs that make society possible — our healthcare system’s already a sewer, so why not treat it as such?

Investments are sought in the loosely defined “care economy,” which attends to children and senior citizens because you’ve already made other plans this weekend with your softball team. 

The plan also seeks to rebuild schools. Improve disaster resilience. Boost pandemic preparedness. Modernize public transit. The administration has basically typed “IMACHEAT” into SimCity 2000, giving us unlimited access to cutting-edge construction projects that were sorely needed 21 years ago.

Of course, critics have taken note of the president’s $2.3 trillion proposal, which is more expensive than the cost of the entire American Rescue Plan and WiFi access for the duration of your flight from Boston to Seattle combined.

After all, it’s not going to pay for itself — and if the Pensacola Bay Bridge plummets into the Atlantic, isn’t that one less expense we need to worry about? 

Russel Vought, a man in the past tense who previously served as director of the Office of Management and Budget, claims that only 5 to 7 percent of Biden’s plan amount to “real infrastructure,” presumably because those are the only items that he could identify as being white. 

And South Dakota governor Kristi Noem, the empty head of Mt. Rushmore, believes that pipes don’t even count as infrastructure, with her advisors having assured her that they’re nothing more than a wastefully subsidized mass transit program for the Soros-controlled Mario Brothers.

Now, I don’t pretend that these investments aren’t going to cost a fortune — but when you’ve spent years of neglect letting your garden become overrun with buckthorn, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it’s going to take some extra effort to cultivate your new stash of legal weed.

And I also understand the criticism that, sure, through a narrow definition of the word infrastructure, childcare isn’t the same as a fiber optic line — for one thing, you’re allowed to hide a cable underground so it doesn’t bother you — but come on.

I don’t think this country always lacks a sense of optimism, but it certainly lacks imagination for what’s possible. China just debuted a national digital currency while we can’t even fathom eliminating the penny.

Instant rebates for electric vehicles and a larger network of charging stations isn’t just the kind of thing that will help usher us into a more sustainable future, it’ll help us replace small talk over which vaccine brand you received with small talk over how much you’re paying for a gallon of voltage. 

Funding community colleges and small business incubators will greatly improve access to knowledge and resources for anyone who wants to open a poorly realized painting-and-drinking-wine store that closes in less than six months. 

I even admire Amtrak’s ambition to use the plan to create new service routes that provide more alternatives to cars and planes to move people a fraction of the distance at twice the cost and five times the duration.

What’s abundantly clear is that the vast majority of these improvements really aren’t optional — the American Society of Engineers has awarded this country’s infrastructure a C-, a grade so mediocre that dams and train stations will have to start pretending they’re part of the rowing team in order to bribe their way into a good college.  

The former governor of Michigan continues to face charges over lead poisoned water in Flint from 2014 to 2017, and in the years since, major metros like Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, and Washington D.C. have each had to contend with the choice between still, sparkling, or sideroblastic anemia.

Just a few short months ago, the Texas electrical grid malfunctioned and drug the lone star state’s inhabitants back to the 20th century, rather than allowing them to remain in their preferred century, the 18th.

And even today, crews in Florida are still working to prevent the collapse of a phosphate mine’s large wastewater pond, which, if breached, could engulf Manatee County in 340 million gallons of radioactive mixed saltwater — and the guests of the Margaritaville Hotel specifically requested  neon green beverages with nothing on the rim. 

The Water Works and Electric Company might not make a glamorous monopoly, but I’d rather us own them than the bank.

Because if we don’t follow through on commitments that will make this country look, feel, and act a little healthier, the whole place is going to keep suffering the same fate as our citizens: collapsing under our own weight.