What’s At Stake in $3.5 Trillion Infrastructure Bill? EVERYTHING. Take Action!

I’m taking a shot at this important post heavily relying on Heather Cox Richardson and The New York Times — a call to action and an update on my stroke progress.

Stroke Recovery Progress Report

Just to give you an idea about what my rehab is about: my stroke impacted the right side of my brain, which controls my left-side functioning, creating what is called “left side neglect.” I barely notice what I am doing with my left side. This has resulted in some humorous, if humiliating moments, like when Roxanne and I were getting ready to go out last week, I filled my water bottle but as we were about to walk out, I couldn’t find the bottle. I didn’t want to admit to Roxanne that I couldn’t find the bottle I’d just filled up, but she couldn’t help but notice my eyes searching for something. ”What are you looking for?” she asked. I replied, “My water bottle. I just filled it. It must be here.” Roxanne replied with a smile, “Look,” she said, pointing to my left hand, where I held my water bottle unwittingly. “Left side neglect” jokes are becoming a regular thing in our household. And so it goes.

How does this neglect translate into doing blogs or answering emails? I can’t control what my left hand is doing very well, so I intend to type an “a” but instead miss the key altogether or worse hit caps lock and so ‘”answer” winds up being “NWER” cuz in addition to missingI also miss the ”a,” o also the “s” half the time. Needless to say this slows the process significantly.

And so one of the things I need to do in recovery is to rebuild the neuro pathways governing my left side: left leg, left hand, etc. How? Through my sessions with my occupational, physical and speech therapists. From the occupational therapist, I now have a series of drills I can do at home.

  • Stacking pennies and dimes with my left hand;
  • Using my left hand to pick up paper clips and place them in a line or in circle;
  • Use the different shaped and colored children’s blocks we bought at Target so I can stack them into towers or find different shapes without looking. So, when I get done with this post I will revert to being a toddler and play with my new blocks…

That may sound kinda fun, but when you are challenged daily by tying your shoes, buttoning your shirt, or typing a damned ”A” without triggering a slew of caps, fun is not how it feels. I am used to being a reasonably competent, independent person. And in addition to the above, I can’t drive, so Roxanne must take me to each of my appointments and I must tag along with her for any of her errands as we’ve been told I should not be left alone at home for at least a few months.

All of this can just chew up days toddling around Santa Fe, going from appointment to appointment, only to return home to play with blocks, dimes, and pennies or do physical therapy or cognitive exercises. With more than 20 rehab appointments this month, you can see the need for a hiatus from producing radio shows, blog posts, and huddles. Nonetheless, to feel good about being me, I need to find a way to do a blog occasionally, as every day I read articles and think to myself: “I need to write about this.” And, to be clear, I am very grateful that my deficits are relatively minor considering what they might have been if I hadn’t gotten quick and competent care!

So today, in addition to this update on my progress, I’m gonna lean on Heather Cox Richardson and the New York Times to comment on the current national infrastructure impasse. Heather Cox Richardson’s excellent September 6 piece focuses on the infrastructure bill and its importance to the future of America and how passage of the bill could represent a return to the role government played in our lives from 1933-1981 — an active role in supporting people, rather than acquiescing to the corporate sector and the rich. We then turn to the NY Times for excellent analysis of the political realities that impede decisive action by Congress. Read on from HCR:

“True to that ideology, opponents of the $3.5 trillion infrastructure package are already calling it, as Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) said, a “freight train to socialism.” But more than 60% of Americans want to invest our money in our people, as lawmakers of both parties did from 1933 to 1981.

Grover Norquist, a former spokesman for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce who rose to power by pushing the opposite idea, that economic development depended on consistent and complete tax cuts, told Michael Scherer of the Washington Post, “We are really on this precipice, this knife’s edge, and each party goes, ‘If I just push a little bit harder I can control politics for the next 20 years.’” The conservative activist added, “And it’s true.”

Heather Cox Richardson: “Letters from an American,” Sept. 6

I recommend reading the full HCR piece, by clicking here. As usual, she does a great job of putting the bill and the political process in historical context. Brilliant. Don’t neglect her piece, as it perfectly frames what follows.

Why the timidity to get this infrastructure package done? From the NYT’s Sept. 8, The Morning ( a daily NYTs online feature, I highly recommend for a morning feast of news, commentary, recipes and puzzles — aka cognitive drills). The NYT offers this on the $3.5T infraxtructure bill.

“Early in Bill Clinton’s presidency, House Democrats voted to pass an energy tax, known as the B.T.U. tax, only to watch the Senate prevent the bill from becoming law. In the next midterm elections, more than 25 of the House Democrats who had voted for the bill lost re-election

Early in Barack Obama’s presidency, history repeated itself. House Democrats voted for a cap-and-trade plan to address climate change, and the Senate blocked the bill. In the next midterms, many House Democrats struggled to defend their votes.

That history helps explain the approach that congressional Democrats are taking on the biggest piece of President Biden’s agenda — a $3.5 trillion plan to slow climate change, expand health care and education, cut poverty and increase taxes on the wealthy.

Many House Democrats are worried about “getting B.T.U.’d” again, as some have put it. They do not want to take a tough vote that ends up having no policy impact. “Some of us were here in 2010, when we took certain votes,” Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat, has said, “and the Senate didn’t take certain votes.”

In response, House Democrats are insisting that the two chambers negotiate up front over what bill they can each pass. Only after they have reached a deal will the House vote on it, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has suggested.”

New York Times: The Morning, Sept. 8″

And so this is how sausage gets made in D.C. This particular NYT’s The Morning, is an excellent, brief primer on the political machinations in play, as Dems work to pass this hugely important legislation. I highly recommend reviewing it AFTER reading HC Richardson’s piece that so brilliantly lays out what is at stake and puts it in historic context.

My question: Why is it so hard for Dems to pass legislation that proposes to “to slow climate change, expand health care and education, cut poverty and increase taxes on the wealthy” when all of these policies are so popular? Who opposes that?

It seems to me that part of the problem was identified by HCR in noting how skewed our Congressional representation is:

Scherer laid out what this skewing looks like. Since 1988—the year George H. W. Bush was elected—Democrats have won the popular vote in seven of nine presidential elections. And yet, Republicans have taken the White House through the Electoral College and have appointed 6 of the 9 justices now on the Supreme Court.

The concentration of Republicans in rural states with smaller populations means that the Senate is also skewed toward the Republican Party. Public policy scholars Michael Ettlinger and Jordan Hensley crunched the numbers to show that today’s 50 Democratic senators represent 26% more people than Republican senators: 202 million compared to 160 million. They go on to say: “A Black American is 16% less represented in the Senate than an American on average; [a] Latinx American 32% less.”

Ettlingaer and Hensley note that, as the Senate has become less representative, Republican senators have relied on arcane rules to let a minority stop popular legislation. “In the current Senate,” they report, “41 Republican senators representing as few as 75 million people can block most legislation from even coming to a vote—thwarting the will of a group of Democratic and Republican senators representing as many as 270 million Americans.”

New York Times: The Morning, Sept. 8″

And so, whatever sausage gets made though this most undemocratic process, falls far short of meeting the needs of Americans, who then are susceptible to Trump-like messaging that only he cares about common folk and Congress is hopelessly broken. The Dems are in a position to skewer that message if they can garner the political will to pass this bill and the John Lewis voting rights bill soon thereafter. Failure to do so, could result in big GOP campaign messaging about the Dems inability to get anything done and then the GOP securing big gains in the Senate and House in the mid-terms. And if Dems find Manchin hard to deal with, they should consider the prospects of having McConnell restored to power to serve as the obstacle to progress.

But there is yet another challenge faced by the Dems. It is one thing to pass progressive legislation, but once passed, government must actually implement what was passed. We have all too abundant evidence of government neglect recently, “neglect” being the theme for the day. Governmental neglect is manifest everyhere from the government’s inability to deliver relief to those slammed by Ida or to the unemployed during the pandemic.

Rather than making it easier to access benefits, government creates bureaucratic hurdles, making it nearly impossible to receive them.

As CNBC describes, eligibility for the first round of benefits could be SELF-affirmed, by an applicant merely signing a statement under oath that they met one of several eligibility criteria. Now however, applicants must provide documentation within 21 days to receive benefits, a requirement that can be difficult to meet in many instances. For example, how does a worker prove a company closed due to COVID? It closed and owners may be hard to locate. What’s more, over-extended, under-staffed state agencies must review and approve documentation, which causes long delays. But for conservatives these delays serve two purposes. Failure to get aid to those in need: 1) demonstrates that that the funding wasn’t really needed, and 2) demonstrates that government is not the answer, as Reagan famously first opined.

It is not exactly surprising that big business and their legislative pawns would suspect fraud everywhere; they look for every loophole to avoid paying taxes or to avoid adhering to regulations, so naturally they’d feel others would abuse the system. Plus if they place enough barriers, desperate workers will accept any job, at any salary to feed their families. So corporate lobbyists draft regulations (aka hurdles) to make accessing benefits more difficult.

So, in closing, I return to HCR. Who closes her post by describing what is at stake:

” At stake is whether our government will work for ordinary Americans who make up the majority of our population—including in 2021 women and minorities as well as white men—or whether it will serve an entrenched minority.”

From Heather Cox Richardson: “Notes From an American, September 6,.”

Call and/or email your elected representatives in DC. You are not just asking them to vote for the infrastructure bill, you are also asking them to talk with their more moderate colleagues and press them to not be part of the GOP cabal to oppose the infrastructure bill and the John Lewis voting rights bill. Contact info below.

NM Congressional Representatives Contact Info.

Ben Ray Lujan, US Senate

Martin Heinrich, US Senate

Melanie Stansbury, Congressional District 1

Yvette Herrell, Congressional District 2.

Teresa Leger Fernandez, Congressional District 3

Washington, D.C. Office

  • 1432 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC  20515 Phone: (202) 225-6190 Fax: (202) 226-1528

Santa Fe Office

  • 1611 Calle Lorca, STE A, Santa Fe, NM  87505 Phone: (505) 984-8950  Fax: (505) 986-5047
  • Link to email form: Click here to get to his form.

In solidarity, hope, and gratitude,

Paul & Roxanne

Categories: Economic justice, Uncategorized

Tags: , , ,

4 replies

  1. Glad you are doing so well.
    It’s a waste of time contacting Yvette Herrell.
    Every time I do, I get a response full of right wings talking points.

  2. Thank you Paul! I’ve really been missing your blogs, so this was great to see! I wish you rapid healing with the help of all your many new toys and literal (re-)building blocks !! Not to mention the awesome Roxanne!! Onward & upward!

  3. You are both doing the absolute right thing. I believe in the power of positive visualization. Continue to visualize yourself doing more and more better and better. One day you will be there.

  4. You’re perfectly correct about conservatives suspecting fraud because that’s how THEY operate. It’s projecting one’s own bad behavior and intentions on others.

    Trump believes in voter fraud because it’s something *he* would do if he could. And I see this among the world-domination people in our foreign policy circles; they think that China, or Russia, or whoever is up to wicked stuff because this is what *they* have been up to.

    Thanks for writing this.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: