The American Jobs Plan Is the Plan We’ve Been Waiting For
This is the moment we’ve been working for.
Today, President Biden announced the American Jobs Plan, a far-reaching plan to reimagine and rebuild the US economy with about $2 trillion in strategic investments over eight years.
We’ll cut to the chase here: This is a really big deal.
Yes, it could go farther on climate action. But what’s in the plan is a really strong foundation for Congress to build on – and hopefully improve – when members start developing actual legislation.
In the meantime, what’s important to recognize here is that the American Jobs Plan would fundamentally transform both the US economy and how we understand the very idea of infrastructure. Because what you see in the plan isn’t just a commitment to confronting the economic devastation of COVID all around us right now by investing in America and creating millions of jobs (it’s there in the name, after all).
It’s also a commitment to creating jobs and making investments in ways that finally confront not only the pervasive inequality and systemic racism that have plagued us for generations, but also the climate crisis that threatens our future. By putting millions to work rebuilding our roads and water pipes and power sector, we can start on making a nation that lives up to its ideals of equity and justice for all. What the administration calls its “Build Back Better” program.
It doesn’t get much bigger than that.
We’re all used to hearing tired platitudes about belief in the American people from stump speeches and rallies. But the American Jobs Plan might be the greatest actual expression of that belief we’ve seen in decades. No surprise, a broad majority of Americans across the political spectrum – Republicans, independents, and Democrats – all support the plan.
The plan in full stretches to some 25 pages and there are still some key details to be filled in. But three elements stand out.
Putting Millions to Work Rebuilding America
The American Jobs Plan proposes a lot of big investments, including:
- $213 billion to build, preserve, and retrofit more than 2 million homes and commercial buildings to address the lack of affordable, sustainable housing in America.
- $115 billion to repair critical bridges, highways, and roads.
- $85 billion to modernize public transit and help agencies meet public demand.
- $80 billion to repair and update America’s rail network.
Other areas include replacing all the lead pipes in the nation, improving our ports and waterways, and making our power infrastructure ready and resilient in a future of more climate-related storms, floods, and freezes.
These investments need workers in a wide range of fields and the plan repeatedly calls for prevailing wages and union membership as an option to see them through. The bottom line here is that if enacted, the plan would help put Americans to work on a scale we haven’t seen in decades.
Pushing Practical Climate Solutions
Climate may not appear in the title, but Biden’s jobs plan is also perhaps the most ambitious and downright practical plan for climate action the nation has ever seen.
The plan lays out investments in a wide range of efforts aimed to help slash emissions, put the US on the path to achieving a carbon-free power sector by 2035, and prepare our power and other infrastructure for the challenges of more extreme weather coming our way.
Among other features, the plan pledges that “every dollar spent on rebuilding our infrastructure during the Biden administration will be used to prevent, reduce, and withstand the impacts of the climate crisis.”
As part of this effort, the plan would invest heavily in cleaning up the transportation and power sectors responsible for the majority of climate pollution, including initiatives to:
- Create an energy efficiency and clean energy standard to cut carbon pollution and energy bills.
- $27 billion to create a Clean Energy Jobs Accelerator (aka climate bank) to invest in fenceline communities, lower energy bills, cut pollution, and attract billions more in private investment.
- Invest $16 billion to plug orphan gas and oil wells leaking greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and clean up abandoned mines.
- Invest $174 billion to win the electric vehicle and bus markets, with American workers manufacturing vehicles and batteries and building an extensive network of chargers.
- Invest $35 billion to make the US a leader in climate research and solutions research- and-development.
Making Justice Central
Perhaps the most remarkable component of the American Jobs Plan is the relentless focus on using government investment to undo the nuts and bolts of systemic racism at every level.
Just some of the critical components of the plan include:
- Pledges to ensure 40% of the benefits of climate and infrastructure investments go to disadvantaged communities.
- $111 billion to replace 100% of the nation’s lead pipes and service lines to ensure the tragedy we saw in Flint, Michigan never happens again and provide clean, safe water to all Americans. (Yes, this is huge.)
- Bring workforce development and training programs to communities of color and others.
- $10 billion to invest in innovative research and development programs at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and minority serving institutions (MSIs) across the country.
If enacted, these and the many other related provisions in the plan will help begin to finally address the systemic racism that has poisoned the nation since its founding. The plan, of course, is just one step of many, but it signals a recognition to confronting racial injustice head-on and at the highest level in ways we have to hope will open the door to changes across society.
If you’re concerned about the climate crisis and angry about the racial injustice poisoning this country, the American Jobs Plan is exactly how you’d hope the government would respond. It’s smart. It’s clear-sighted on the challenges we face and pragmatic about what it will take to solve them. And it’ll put millions to work.
One way to think of the plan is as the president’s bet that investing big in American workers and families is how we’ll solve the existential threats of COVID recovery, racial injustice, and climate change together as one nation. Big bet, big step forward.
It’s a bet we’re willing to take.
This is exactly the opportunity the climate movement has worked for, marched for, and fought for now for years, even decades. It might be the last great opportunity we get to turn the economy around in time to halt warming and avert the worst of climate change. To use a sporting metaphor, it’s game time. And it’s all on the line.
What happens next now depends on the Congress. And what happens there depends on the American people.
So if ever there was a moment to jump in and fight for climate solutions and the future we want, it’s now.
If you’re ready to help, join the Our Climate Moment campaign and activists in Climate Reality chapters across the country working to pressure Congress to seize this historic opportunity. Chances are, there’s a chapter in your community and it’s great way to start making a difference when it matters.
We don’t say it much, but this is a moment where your country needs you. The future needs you. So let’s get to work.