Bob Franken




Economists estimate (they always guess) that as many as 660,000 jobs will be created by the infrastructure bill, and when the signing ceremony is held, almost as many Democrats will be there to crowd the podium.
President Joe Biden said in a Saturday-morning presidential statement that it would be “millions” of jobs: “I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to suggest that we took a monumental step forward as a nation.” This was after the measure’s near-death experience the night before that left a lot of House members with their arms badly twisted.
But for Biden, it was a happy photo op, following a bunch of miserable ones along the way. But still the question remains, what is wrong with this picture?
The relieved Democrats were the same fractious ones who quarreled throughout the summer about the Build Back Better social infrastructure sister measure. That became Build Back Less and Less as centrists in the party shattered the dreams of progressives in Joe Biden’s deal-making.

The White House prefers to call it the $1.2 trillion bill, but that combines the new spending of $550 billion with what would normally be ponied up for public works. And it’s far less than the $2.3 trillion Biden asked for early on. In Washington negotiating terms, that’s the “ask for everything but the kitchen sink” version. What’s left of the Build Back Better phase of the social infrastructure bill would add trillions of dollars more, except it’s caught in the Democratic quicksand.
They have lots of work to do before they pass whatever emaciated BBB liberal package they end up with, to say nothing of the fact that they face disaster if they can’t come up with some way to agree on a spending bill to keep the federal government all the way open.
Add a catastrophe (what’s another word for infinite disaster?) if they somehow can’t resolve passage of the debt ceiling. If they don’t, and they always flirt with not doing it, then the United States will be hugely embarrassed, because it will weasel on its sovereign debt. This could be blamed on an inherent weakness in its political system; a democracy-demagoguery that’s a fatal flaw. It would be a shambles.
To a certain extent, it could be back to the drawing board to mess with the Senate filibuster, for example, and by extension make a wreckage of the U.S. tradition of built-in safeguards against the “tyranny of the majority.”
A frenetic month is what’s ahead in December, but it’s been a miserable autumn and summer with the Afghanistan debacle, the trouble dealing with the pandemic, which everyone believed was under control, and various economic problems like inflation. That contributed to tanking polls and that led partially to a miserable showing for Biden and his fellow Democrats, most notably Glenn Youngkin’s and the GOP’s upset defeat of Terry McAuliffe in Virginia.
The White House chorus has not been singing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” If the Democrats can salvage the social part of the Biden pledge (and the rubber and concrete chunk was politically easier by comparison) there could be whimpers of “Happy Days are Here Again.” If not, it’s going to be a long hot winter. (It used to be a long cold winter, but that was before climate change.)
Joe Biden describes himself as an optimist when it comes to the American people, meaning most of them agree with him. It’s also positive thinking to think that by 2025, the jackhammers will be making their atrocious noise and infrastructure work will be humming along by the midterms and the polls will recover for the Democrats.
I hate to disagree with the president, but the American people are in a dark mood. If enough of them are caught up in humongous traffic jams because of some project associated with infrastructure construction, they’ll bitterly complain about “Biden’s gridlock.”

(c) 2021 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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