Opinion: Beware of our GOP politicians' about-face on Tennessee, Georgia infrastructure gains

New York Times photo by Kenny Holston / President Joe Biden takes questions Saturday at the White House from reporters during a news conference about the House infrastructure vote on Friday.
New York Times photo by Kenny Holston / President Joe Biden takes questions Saturday at the White House from reporters during a news conference about the House infrastructure vote on Friday.

As President Joe Biden says: "Finally! Infrastructure Week!"

Despite all the Republican nay-saying, the more than $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed the House in a 228-206 vote (and the Senate in early August by a vote of 69-30), now awaits just one more signature - President Biden's - before it will bring slightly less than $8 billion to Tennessee and an expected $12.33 billion to Georgia over the next five years.

This is money for sorely needed highway and bridge replacement, public transportation repairs, clean drinking water and airports, among other things.

But it's not just concrete and pipes. It's also an infrastructure investment in jobs, and one that adds not one penny to the deficit. It is to be paid for by higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans and large corporations, as well as by reapportioned funds - including money not used from the Coronavirus Relief Act.

As Biden termed it: "It's a once-in-a-generation investment that's going to create millions of jobs, modernize our infrastructure, our roads, our bridges, our broadband, and a whole range of things to turn the climate crisis into an opportunity and put us on a path to win the economic competition of the 21st century that we face with China and other large countries."

In Tennessee alone, it means:

- $5.8 billion for federal aid highway programs

- $302 million for bridge replacements and repairs

- $88 million for electric vehicle charging (and perhaps more in grants)

- $100 million for broadband statewide

- $17 million to protect against wildfires

- $21 million to protect against cyber attacks

- $697 million to improve water infrastructure

- $300 million for airports

- $630 million for improving public transport

In Georgia, it includes:

- $8.9 billion under the federal-aid highway apportioned programs

- $225 million for bridge repairs or replacements (An estimated 80% of the Peach State's bridges are considered in poor conditions, including the I-75 bridge over Swamp Creek in Whitfield County, built in 1961)

- $1.4 billion for public transportation

- $913 million for clean drinking water improvements

- $135 million for a Georgia electric-vehicle charging network (plus grants)

- $100 million to grow high-speed internet accessibility

- $22 million to combat wildfires

- $24 million to counter cyber attacks

When these improvements and jobs begin rolling out in our states, you voters and taxpayers can count on our federal Republican politicians to forget that they voted against all of these things.

Instead, you can expect to see some of them donning their ceremonial hardhats, shovels and best photo op smiles as they take credit for bringing you a new bridge or improved internet or better cyber security for TVA and Georgia power plants - or new locks or other facilities on local rivers.

We've seen it before. And we'll see it again.

Tennessee Republican Sens. Bill Hagerty and Marsha Blackburn will forget they claimed the infrastructure package was "the gateway to big-government socialism."

Our 3rd District congressman, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, will pretend he never said the bill would lead to higher inflation (economists say it won't in the long term) and result in "robbing East Tennesseans of their wages."

And U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais will ignore reminders that he claimed the bill was "masquerading itself as an infrastructure plan when in reality it is a shell to fund Critical Race Theory projects and elements of the Green New Deal."

North Georgia's U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome, will deny she called it "monstrous" and claimed it "will force America to be completely dependent on Communist China for the government-mandated, battery-operated electric vehicles you will be forced to drive."

Perhaps Ford with its three planned battery plants in Tennessee and Kentucky will set her straight. Aside from that, isn't this the very point of the infrastructure and Build Back Better plans - to purchase and implement key clean energy infrastructure building blocks for things like batteries with the goal of positioning the U.S as the world's clean energy leader?

The U.S. House has not yet voted on Biden's $2 trillion Build Back Better plan, which many Democrats had hoped to tie to the infrastructure bill. That vote is expected by Nov. 15.

But now or later, don't let the GOP's political jealousy - and mislabeling - of these important and country-rebuilding policies mislead you.

Already, steady Biden administration efforts have led to the U.S. economy creating 5.6 million jobs just since Jan. 20. We also are seeing a national unemployment rate that has fallen to 4.6% - two full years earlier than most economists projected.

We're back. And we'd better fight Fleischmann, Blackburn, Hagerty, Greene and every other laggard Republican in Tennessee and Georgia to keep this economy and country coming back.

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