The Joseph Biden Democratic Party administration says it plans to follow up its coronavirus relief package of $1,400 one-time checks with a swath of proposals it says will transform the country’s crumbling infrastructure. This includes building millions of electric car charging stations, increasing reliance on 5G and the internet, and steps to increase your “micro mobility” — workers using electric bikes and scooters.
But workers confront mass unemployment right now and the central question we face is jobs, to be working alongside co-workers, making an income and being in a position to fight the bosses’ ceaseless attacks on our wages and working conditions.
While most of Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan is still vague, it’s clear that it’s built on a view of the economy that sees a big shift to a tech-driven world. It sees mining, steel mills, auto plants and similar industries, and the jobs they produced, being consigned to the dustbin of history. Instead, it views big tech and service industries as the future. Workers will need to be “refitted” to fit in. So part of their plan is college and retraining subsidies.
Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg highlighted the social engineering the government’s “green” program will be built on in a March 18 speech. While the infrastructure package will include some road repairs, he said, “there are some things that need to be reduced … sometimes roads need to go on a diet.”
The liberals and the meritocratic “social planners” they rely on aim to strengthen the capitalist state to push workers to “do the right thing.” They view working people as objects to be administered, rather than people who are not only capable of fighting to change the conditions the bosses and their government impose on us, but to transform ourselves and take political power into our own hands.
As for the character of their thinking on “infrastructure,” Buttigieg said, “I think the pothole has become a symbol of the bigger needs we have.”
Whatever efforts the administration includes to actually improve roads and bridges, it will primarily be aimed at advancing the competitive position of U.S. capitalists against their rivals, a point Biden made to senators last month. Without repairing infrastructure, the Chinese government will “eat our lunch,” he said.
Like every president before him, Biden’s goal is to defend U.S. bosses’ ability to compete against their rivals and to maximize their profits. The administration is maintaining Washington’s threats against Beijing, including deploying a guided missile destroyer to the South China Sea last month.
Biden has yet to offer proposals for funding his plan, though administration figures say tax hikes are inevitable. Some Democrats favor an onerous vehicle-miles tax, currently being piloted in Utah and Oregon. As vehicles today burn fuel more efficiently, and with their dreams of a new era of electric cars, government revenue from gasoline taxes is dropping. The Vehicle Mile Traveled plan would require installing a monitoring device in every vehicle to track every trip drivers make, then inform the government of the mileage to suck more taxes out of working people.
Key question is jobs
None of the proposals under discussion start from the key question facing the working class — jobs. Despite an easing of some lockdowns, the government reported March 18 that 770,000 workers filed new unemployment claims last week, an increase of 45,000 from the week before. At least 9.5 million more workers remain out of a job than a year ago.
With rising competition among workers for jobs, bosses are stepping up efforts to boost profits at workers’ expense. Some 1,300 Steelworkers at Allegheny Technologies Inc. voted to authorize a strike earlier this month when bosses there demanded they sign a new contract that would deepen divisions among workers, weaken their union and freeze wages.
“Socialist Workers Party candidates are building support for union struggles,” Malcolm Jarrett, the party’s candidate for Pittsburgh mayor, told the Militant. Jarrett just returned from Alabama, where he delivered solidarity messages from Pittsburgh area unionists to workers fighting for a union at Amazon’s Bessemer fulfillment center.
In contrast to Biden’s schemes, “the SWP campaign urges workers and our unions to fight for a federally funded public works program to put millions back to work at union-scale pay now, building the hospitals, homes, child care and infrastructure we need,” Jarrett said.
“And on the job we need to fight to take control of production out of the bosses’ hands,” Jarrett said. “Only then can workers and our unions begin to enforce safety on the job and establish much-needed protection of the environment from the bosses’ contamination of the earth, air and waters.”