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Former Washington Journalist
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As Congress begins to consider President Biden’s $2.2 trillion infrastructure plan, count Sen Bernie Sanders among those pleased with the plan’s wide definition of “infrastructure.”
Called his American Jobs Plan, Biden rolled out his infrastructure plan to the American people — but the president’s plan goes far beyond repairing the nation’s network of roads and bridges.
“So moving away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency, sustainable energies, that can create millions of jobs. When I talk about infrastructure, it means if a worker, mom and dad are going to work, they have the right to know that their kids are in decent child care. That’s infrastructure,” said Sanders, the progressive Vermont independent who chairs the Senate Budget Committee. “Infrastructure is having the best educated work force in the world. That means all of our kids should have the ability to get a higher education, not leave school deeply in debt.
“It means that we need a healthy society. Our life expectancy is 40th in the world because we are the only major country not to guarantee health care to all people. I think as a nation we’ve got to take a very broad look at what we mean by infrastructure, its physical infrastructure. Obviously bricks and mortar. It is human infrastructure,” Sanders added. “Now is the time to create millions of jobs addressing all of the needs impacting the middle class and working families of this country.”
It’s a point, not surprisingly, shared by someone who Sanders once counted as a rival in the 2020 run for president, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
“I very much believe that all of these things are infrastructure, because infrastructure is the foundation that allows us to go about our lives. But you know, if there are Senate Republicans who don’t agree, we can agree to disagree on what to call it. I will still ask you to vote for it,” said Buttigieg. “To me it makes no sense to say I would have been for broadband, I’m against it because it’s a bridge. I would have been against elder care, I’m against it, because this is not a highway. These are things the elder people need and the president is putting forward a vision to get done and these are things remarkably the command, the support of the majority of the American people, Democrats and Republicans, so at the end of the day, they can call it whatever they like. We are asking them to support it because it’s good policy.”
There must also be a fundamental reevaluation of the role of the American worker in society, according to Sanders, who twice ran for the Democratic presidential nomination.
“Here is the bottom line: In the 21st century we have got to rethink the role of workers, and workers are not just simply cogs in the machine. These are humans who should have some say of what happens to them eight hours a day or in the case of Amazon 10 hours a day. Whether it’s working on boards or making it easier to form unions, that is what we’ve got to do,” Sanders said. ” … The truth of the matter is we would not have a middle class in this country today without the trade union movement. What’s happened over many years as a result of terrible trade policies, as a result of not raising the minimum wage, as a result of anti-union activity making it so hard for workers to form unions, wages today are stagnant over the last many, many decades. Workers are not making any more today than they made in real dollars than they made 45 years ago.”
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