If Everything is Infrastructure, Nothing Is

The semantic debate is obscuring the actual public policy issue.

Highway interchange in Bangkok near Bang Na BTS station

from PxHere

A couple weeks back, in my post “What is Infrastructure, Anyway?” I pushed back against critics arguing that most of what is in President Biden’s “infrastructure” bill isn’t really infrastructure on the grounds that child care, affordable housing, and the like were vital support systems that make the economy function. In her Atlantic essay “How Domestic Labor Became Infrastructure,” Moira Donegan, alas, pushes that idea to the point of absurdity.

[T]he inclusion of care work under the infrastructure umbrella is more than just semantic sleight of hand. Rather, it’s the realization of an argument that feminists have been making for decades: that traditionally feminized caretaking or “reproductive” labor—the child care, elder care, cooking, cleaning, shopping, and domestic logistics that usually women do, often for low pay in the homes of others or for no pay at all in their own homes—is just as essential to the functioning of the economy as roads and bridges are. Domestic labor has to get done for any other work to get done.

The lumping together of childcare and eldercare with the other activities is very much sleight of hand. The pandemic-inspired shuttering of our public schools has highlighted the degree to which, in addition to their education function, they’re also our childcare of first resort. And, yes, that means parents have to either hire someone else to take care of their kids during the day or remain at home with them, sacrificing productivity. For those with elderly parents unable to meet their daily needs alone, mutatis mutandis, the same situation applies. It seems perfectly reasonable, then, to think of these activities in the same way we do other soft infrastructure projects.

More to the point—and this is the real question behind the semantic debate—they’re something that government should subsidize in the interests of allowing full participation in the economy and removing inequalities. And, indeed, many if not most developed countries subsidize them to a much greater degree than does the United States. One can’t reasonably take care of kids and the elderly while simultaneously working, at least not on a sustained basis. And, for those in low-wage jobs, whether because they’re just starting out or they lack the skill to earn a lot of money in the current economy, they can’t simply pay someone else to do it.

But cleaning? Cooking? Shopping? Laundry? Lawn care? I’m just not buying it. They’re just ordinary household chores that we do in our spare time or, if we’re sufficiently affluent, outsource.

Donegan’s argument is that most of these activities have traditionally been women’s work and done without compensation. And, while she doesn’t say so explicitly, we know that, in the vast majority of households, women still do an outsized share of this work even if they have a full-time job or, indeed, even if they out-earn their husbands.* That’s unfair but it doesn’t make it infrastructure.

If care work makes the economy possible, and its absence makes the economy impossible, what is it if not infrastructure? Most people, however, remain stubbornly opposed to the idea. As a feminized form of work, care work has been mythologized as something women do “naturally,” or sentimentalized as a labor of love. Indeed, American culture is still committed to the notion that women are inherently skilled at and inclined toward spending their time with children; we still understand the home as a refuge from the economy, not as a site of production.

Last week, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York tweeted, “Paid leave is infrastructure. Child care is infrastructure. Caregiving is infrastructure.” Jarome Bell, a Republican congressional candidate from Virginia, was thrown. “Taking care of your own kids is infrastructure,” he replied. He meant this ironically; to him, it sounded absurd. Brian Riedl, a fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute, summed up the sentimental attachment to child care and other caregiving with his own sardonic assessment: “Cute puppies are infrastructure. The smile on a child’s face is infrastructure. A wave from a pretty girl is infrastructure.” Many take comfort in seeing this type of labor not as effort, but as love; not as work, but as a role.

So, again, the “infrastructure” debate is obscuring the real one. Bell is right that caring for one’s children isn’t infrastructure and Riedl’s reductio ad absurdum is rather amusing. What Gillibrand is really arguing is that society should subsidize the ability to outsource childcare and eldercare just as we do public schools, libraries, parks, and the like. Similarly, whether paid leave constitutes infrastructure really depends on who’s paying for it. If the government mandates it, it’s simply an expense employers must bear (quite likely at the cost of lower future employee wages). If government subsidizes it on the basis that people need to be able to take time off to care for sick kids, then it’s arguably infrastructure.

I would note, though, that Donegan never circles back to defend her argument that “cooking, cleaning, shopping, and domestic logistics” constitute infrastructure. My strong suspicion is that, in these cases, she’s simply arguing that work traditionally done by women should be valued, not that society should pay for them. If so, we’re in agreement.

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*For the record, I do the majority of the cooking and grocery shopping and my wife and I both do so much laundry and dishwashing that it’s honestly hard to say who does more of it; it likely varies from week to week. My wife handles a disproportionate fair share of childcare duties. We’ve got a 5-acre property and pay a lawn company to mow every other week but there’s always plenty of outdoor work for me to do. After several months getting settled into our new house, we now have a housekeeping service come in weekly but, with five kids and three dogs, that work, too, seems endless.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Government
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    Is it a semantic argument or a strategic one? At any rate IMO there should be more focus. In some cases consumption items like childcare and elder care might reasonably be deemed infrastructure but not in all cases. In general public health is infrastructure but healthcare is not. To me it suggests that legislature should be more narrowly tailored to achieve the putative ends.

    Similarly, not every road or bridge is infrastructure, either. A “road to nowhere” is just consumption since it doesn’t enhance productivity.

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  2. MarkedMan says:

    It’s a spending Bill. It has a lot of parts. Some of them are infrastructure, some of them are not. Where is it in the constitution that it says if a bill contains infrastructure spending it can’t contain anything else?

    The Dems should not let the Repubs draw these moronic boundaries around what is acceptable or not.

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  3. MarkedMan says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    To me it suggests that legislature should be more narrowly tailored

    Why?

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  4. Scott says:

    I think the real danger is that the infrastructure debate will dilute real needs which is what the right wing is counting on.

    What you point out is that everything really is interconnected. If you want people in the workforce, certain services like childcare and eldercare have to be taken care of either within the family or without. If taken care of within the family, then income has to be increased to compensate for the decrease in outside income. Especially in the lower socioeconomic groups. But even getting a minimum income increase is fought against also. So what is really the issue at the end of the day. Income inequality. Either level out income directly or level it out by a system of government subsidies.

    If you don’t want a complex system of government subsidies executed directly or indirectly through the tax code, then we are talking Universal Basic Income.

    my wife and I both do so much laundry and dishwashing

    Personally, I have machines that do that. Part of the infrastructure of my house. So I can work.

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  5. Tony W says:

    The president is trying to broaden our thinking and change a paradigm.

    It’s clear to me that the elements of the bill, however you define them, must be very popular if we’re debating only under what broad category they should fall.

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  6. James Joyner says:

    @Scott:

    Personally, I have machines that do that. Part of the infrastructure of my house.

    We have a dishwasher and a washer and dryer for the laundry. But, between seven people in the household and people taking all of their meals at home, we run and empty the dishwasher 3-4 times a day (not to mention hand-washing pans, knives, and other things that don’t go in the dishwasher) and laundry is never done. Just washing, drying, and folding the sheets and duvet covers after the cleaning folks change the beds is several hours’ work.

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  7. Scott says:

    We are all getting sucked into what is, or is not, infrastructure. The original Hamiltonians/Whig/Republicans were all about national infrastructure whether it was canals, roads, post office, national bank, etc. Even during the Civil war times, we had major infrastructure works such as transcontinental railroads, telegraph systems, Homestead Act, land-grant colleges univerities. All thing contributed to the skeleton and muscle of the economy. Later we had the rural electrification, interstate highways, COMSAT, rural electrification, weather service, internet development, public schools. I would guess most would consider this to be infrastructure also. But what about softer things: contract law, environmental laws and regulations, etc., all of which are foundational to making the economy function smoothly and fairly. Should not that be the criteria for infrastructure also?

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  8. Scott says:

    @James Joyner: Me too. Part of the job of working at home. Washing machine is running as we write. About to punch the start button on the Roomba. Just think how more difficult it would be if we didn’t work at home or even have that kind of domestic infrastructure available to us. This discussion is applying the analogies on a national level.

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  9. @Dave Schuler:

    Is it a semantic argument or a strategic one?

    Quite clearly, the Democrats want an expansive deployment of the term, because it is mostly popular. Reps want to tear it down for the same reason.

    There is also philosophical underpinnings depending on the deployment.

    This is basic politics, yes?

    To me it suggests that legislature should be more narrowly tailored to achieve the putative ends.

    Why? Unless that would lead to a higher probability of passage why should legislation be calibrated to match some arbitrary definition of a term?

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  10. KM says:

    You’re right, words do matter. It’s not an infrastructure bill, it’s a maintenance and support of infrastructure bill. It’s money to pay for fixing new bridges and roads, replace piping and pay for repairs to aging necessities. Under that logic, yes it makes sense to pay to support human infrastructure as well as mechanical ones as the focus is maintenance.

    If we could have a stand alone human infrastructure bill, then by all means separate out roads for daycare. However, that’s NEVER going to fly with conservatives who only discover paternal leave is a good idea when they have their own kid. Republicans think everything is useless fluff meant to steal their tax money till they need it wherein it becomes something vital and precious and WTF Dems stop touching it!! (See Gubmint Out of My Medicare for Ur-example) These are real needs that are holding our nation backing economically and socially. Other than “it’s socialism” what’s the argument against paying for children to be supervised by an non-parent adult when the government already pays for that concept in the form of schooling and fostering?

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  11. MarkedMan says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    why should legislation be calibrated to match some arbitrary definition of a term?

    Exactly. The Repubs are trying to shift the debate from “are these things good?” to “Do they fit the dictionary (or actually, current Republican) definition of infrastructure? Dems should not get sucked in on this themselves and they should make it clear to the various talking heads that they are getting made fools of.

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  12. Kathy says:

    Some years ago I came up with a joke slogan: fight sophistry with better sophistry.

    So:

    If we accept that if everything is infrastructure, then nothing is, the opposite must also be true. If nothing is infrastructure, then everything is. Therefore whatever is labelled as “not infrastructure” must be infrastructure.

    🙂

    Ok, now that i got that out of my system, I repeat what I’ve said before in connection with this issue: the important thing is whether the provisions of the bill are worth paying for, not whether or not they constitute infrastructure or should be included in an infrastructure bill.

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  13. dazedandconfused says:

    An opportunity missed. Nothing prevented Biden from labeling it the Make America Great Again bill.

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  14. gVOR08 says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Exactly. The Repubs are trying to shift the debate from “are these things good?” to “Do they fit the dictionary (or actually, current Republican) definition of infrastructure?

    As you say, exactly. The subhead on this post should read,

    The semantic debate is obscuring being used to obscure the actual public policy issue.

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  15. Gustopher says:

    I pushed back against critics arguing that most of what is in President Biden’s “infrastructure” bill isn’t really infrastructure on the grounds that child care, affordable housing, and the like were vital support systems that make the economy function

    Good news, the bill is officially “The America Jobs Act” or something like that. Doesn’t mention infrastructure in the title.

    All of my concerns about the bill went away when I learned that, as all of my concerns were stupid, petty semantic concerns.

    I’m still not convinced elder care is infrastructure — once you invest money in old people, they’re still old after all — but it doesn’t matter. Issue sidestepped.

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  16. Stormy Dragon says:

    The Republicans have long deployed a deliberate strategy of using language (e.g. “death taxes”) to get unpopular policies enacted. Given their success, it’s hardly surprising that the Democrats are adopting similar “marketing” in their bills.

    Perhaps we’d be better off if everyone was more precise in their usage, but it would be foolish for the Democrats to do it unilaterally when there is no similar interest among Republicans. So for the time being, this is a “behold the field where I grow my F___s and see that it is barren” issue for me.

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  17. HarvardLaw92 says:

    It’s not really an infrastructure bill. It’s more of a Christmas tree – everybody hangs ornaments on it to get their pet causes funded.

    Which is somewhat sad because the legitimate infrastructure needs could easily consume the entire package, so every dollar spent on diapers for babies is a dollar not being spent on a crumbling bridge or dam (which IMO is by far the more pressing need.)

    A package this large is a rare opportunity to avoid, for once, kicking the infrastructure can down the road while praying another bridge doesn’t fall down. I fully expect the Dems will squander it on pointless political giveaways instead.

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  18. David S. says:

    @Kathy: On a purely semantic level, I don’t even disagree with that. The hustlers selling albums on the sidewalk or scalpers pushiing tickets for the big football game are part of our infrastructure, too.

    But at that point, when everything is infrastructure, you then turn to an even worse dichotomy: good versus bad infrastructure. As Dave Schuler pointed out, you have “roads to nowhere” that are useless and serve no real purpose, so we can consider them infrastructure without saying they’re worth investing in.

    But at least this kind of framing is more interested in engaging with the substance of the investment than the semantics of what you call it, which is a terribly low bar for a “good/bad” frame.

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  19. Sleeping Dog says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Now come on, HL, you’re sophisticated and cynical enough to know that the Christmas tree approach is how stuff gets passed in Washington. But the point that this much could be spent simply repairing what exists, isn’t wrong.

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  20. @HarvardLaw92:

    Which is somewhat sad because the legitimate infrastructure needs could easily consume the entire package, so every dollar spent on diapers for babies is a dollar not being spent on a crumbling bridge or dam (which IMO is by far the more pressing need.)

    That assumes facts not in evidence.

    It also assumes that a pure “let’s just fix the dams” bill would pass with the same amount of funding as your hypothetical dams + diapers bill.

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  21. I would suggest that a lot of people in this thread are assuming two things that are simply not true:

    1. That there is a concrete and settled definition of “infrastructure.”

    2. That somehow adhering to that definition affects either the quality of the bill or its chances of passage (but there is no reason to assume that at all).

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  22. I would also note that there is no evidence to suggest that there is any version of an infrastructure bill, however defined, that is going to pass with substantial bipartisan support.

    Indeed, the evidence suggests that no bill is likely to pass in that fashion (see, e.g., the recent Covid relief bill).

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  23. Teve says:

    @igorbobic

    Asked [gop senator] Capito why $600B-$800B is a “sweet spot” for an infrastructure bill, as she said yesterday.

    “It’s just a ballpark figure. It doesn’t — it may not even be that much. I don’t know. I just kind of threw that out as a talking point.”

    @stevebenen

    This dovetails with my book about the GOP being a post-policy party: Capito picked a number, not based on analysis, but based on a hunch.

    It’s a vastly smaller price tag than Biden’s plan, ergo, it sounds good. What an unserious approach to governing.

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  24. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Which facts not in evidence? That there are more than enough stagnated, delayed bridge and dam repairs waiting for funding to consume the entire package?

    Does 231,000 bridges in need of repair, with 46,000 of them rated structurally deficient count as evidence? Sorry, Mr. Taylor, this isn’t a poli sci class where everything is a matter of subjective opinion. Engineers are pretty clear about what they consider to be infrastructure, and when they start using words like structurally deficient, you might want to pay attention.

    I’m willing to bet you’ll have an easier time selling it if you focus on actual infrastructure and leave the special interest / pet project crap on the sidelines.

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  25. JohnMcC says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Those two points are the essence of the differences between a temperamental ‘liberal’ and a born-to-be ‘conservative’. The conservative feels that a pound is a pound, a dollar is a dollar, a man is a man and a woman is not, etc. Liberals are willing to talk about it and use their imagination. This drives conservatives nuts.

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  26. Mister Bluster says:

    @Gustopher:..once you invest money in old people, they’re still old after all…
    Yeah well if you invest money in young people all they do is get old.

    In the spring of 1976 when I was 28 I began my employment with the City of Murphysboro IL that was funded by President Nixon’s Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA).

    The intent was to impart a marketable skill that would allow participants to move to an unsubsidized job. It was an extension of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) program from the 1930s.

    For me it went like this. My unemployment ran out. A friend who was active in the local Democratic Party told me to go talk to the Mayor who asked if I lived in Murphysboro. I did. He sent me over to the Supervisor of the Street Department who sent me out on a truck with one of the regular city employees and another CETA worker to clean out the brick bottom ditches between the sidewalks and the city streets that had been built with WPA funds (Government Money) during the depression.
    Other marketable tasks included clearing brush that had grown over sidewalks and chopping weeds.
    We also had to remove the dead dogs from the streets that had been hit by cars
    One day upon returning from lunch, a sandwich and a joint, I started scraping the bottom of another ditch with my shovel. My boss, a big Black fellow whose name was Ed Little, started yelling something at me that I didn’t quite hear. I kept shoveling.
    “Slow Down!” he said. Apparently I was throwing the dirt out of the ditch and missing the bed of the truck. First time anyone ever told me that I was working too fast.
    Since the Union that represented the City Street Department workers did not want us there in the first place they negotiated an agreement that did not require us to join the Local but also prohibited us from operating any machinery so we could not use the lawn mowers.
    The job did have its perks. Whenever we would go in at the end of the day I would ride in the bed of the dump truck atop whatever vegetation was being carried so the wind would not blow it away. I would usually spark up a joint about the time we would drive by the police station and laugh. Since I choked on the butts all day long nobody ever noticed the difference.
    After a few months of the Street Department I was sent out to work at the sewage treatment plant.
    Two of the longest years of my life. I don’t recall how old the facility was in 1976 but I remember the plaque on the main building had the name of the Mayor, the City Engineer and John F. Kennedy President of the United States.
    I did get a State of Illinois Class C Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator’s License so that might count as a marketable skill.
    After the CETA money ran out I was offered a regular city job with the Water Department reading water meters. For less money by the hour than I had been paid under the CETA program! It wasn’t like I had a lot of choices after two years of acquiring the marketable skills of digging ditches and schlepping sludge so I took the job. Walk up and down every street in town. Stop in front of every house, bend down to pop the lid of the meter vault and read the dials. Many of the meters were deeper in the ground than others and covered with mud so I had to get down flat on my belly to read them. I see water meter readers today that have some sort of detector that can read the new fancy meters while they sit in their trucks. Pussies.
    After a few months of this I found another way to ruin my knees. I got a job in the landline telephone industry climbing telephone poles. It was a better gig. Worked outside all the time. Traveled to 14 States and the pay was alot better!

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  27. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @JohnMcC:

    I think it boils down more to what can everybody likely get behind versus what is going to be divisive.

    “our bridges and dams are falling apart and have been for decades, so we’re going to fix them” is arguably an easier sell than a package of what will inevitably be portrayed as yet more liberal giveaway social programs. You’re giving the opposition a rationale for fighting tooth and nail to oppose it on a silver platter. You might consider them worthy programs, and in a perfect world I wouldn’t disagree with you, but I can promise you that a large segment of the electorate won’t. The GOP will use that against you and to their own advantage.

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  28. Jen says:

    Even Senators can’t agree on what infrastructure (Classic (TM)) is, so this is hardly surprising. I was making dinner last night when Judy Woodruff was interviewing some Republican senator, who apparently doesn’t consider upgrading the electric grid part of our infrastructure…I couldn’t believe it. That’s a pretty standardly-accepted part of our nation’s infrastructure…and yet, the senator was fine considering broadband part of infrastructure.

    My guess is that things like childcare and eldercare are in there as bargaining chips. They’ll get trimmed down to pilot projects in the final bill, pleasing exactly no one but better than where we started.

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  29. Gustopher says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    ..once you invest money in old people, they’re still old after all…

    Yeah well if you invest money in young people all they do is get old.

    Not if you cut workplace safety requirements, medicare, medicaid, etc. And, if they are young enough that you are helping them become worker drones, the investment pays off before then!

    I think we should take care of our old people, and I think it’s good for the government to help pay for it.

    I just don’t think it’s infrastructure, since it doesn’t pay for itself down the line. Which is perfectly ok in The American Jobs Plan — it creates jobs. We really should be asking whether the infrastructure parts of the Jobs Plan generate enough jobs…

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  30. Gustopher says:

    @Gustopher: Lost the edit button lottery.

    I just want to add this: We are having the wrong petty semantic argument!

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  31. @HarvardLaw92: No–I 100% agree that dams, bridges, roads, and host of other things need to be fixed. No argument there at all.

    I was referring to this:

    so every dollar spent on diapers for babies is a dollar not being spent on a crumbling bridge or dam

    Because I don’t think that there is a dams (and such) only bill that has a higher chance of passing than dams + diapers and I definitely don’t think that there is any evidence there is one wherein the diaper money is directly taking away from the dam money in a zero-sum fashion.

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  32. @Steven L. Taylor: I definitely don’t think an expansive definition of “infrastructure” affects passage.

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  33. @HarvardLaw92:

    an easier time selling

    To whom? There is no incentive for Reps to cooperate on anything, narrowly defined or not.

    What was their incentive for not voting for a very popular Covid relief bill, for example?

    And if getting their votes meant less spending, why would the Dems want their votes?

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  34. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I was speaking more in the context of Democrats located in deep red states. You’re assuming you’d get all 50 votes, but the likelihood of that drops significantly IMO if this thing gets packaged in a way that exposes them to being characterized as big spending liberals, especially with respect to things their voters will see as giveaways to people they’re not fond of. It’s easy to vote for fixing bridges and dams. Everybody sees the justification for it and it creates construction jobs to boot.

    You might want to look at where those structurally deficient bridges are mainly located as well.

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  35. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I definitely don’t think that there is any evidence there is one wherein the diaper money is directly taking away from the dam money in a zero-sum fashion

    In a spending bill with a finite amount of money to be appropriated, that funds both bridges and social program giveaways, the amount of time it will take the GOP to characterize it that way, and use it to attack vulnerable red state Dems, can be measured in microseconds. They’ll also have the dubious distinction of being right.

    This is why people don’t like liberals. Even when they hold the advantage, they’ll find a way to commit an own-goal and lose.

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  36. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I definitely don’t think that there is any evidence there is one wherein the diaper money is directly taking away from the dam money in a zero-sum fashion.

    Neither does HL92 (I suspect), but if you don’t represent the choice as “diapers (probably for welfare mothers at that!) stealing money from fixing dams” you can’t rile up enough people to get a good opposition going. You need good strong biases in place to keep paralyzing the system. It doesn’t all come from entropy alone.

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  37. Kathy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    What was their incentive for not voting for a very popular Covid relief bill, for example?

    That prospective primary opponents can’t accuse them of working with Biden.

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  38. Teve says:

    @Kathy: A week or so ago I heard a political scientist, I can’t remember her name, say that because every legislator approaches every bill with ‘how can this be used to primary me’, the primary system just has to be removed from the equation if we’re going to get the policies we need to fix problems. Her idea was to have a free-for-all election, then take the top five vote getters and do an instant runoff.

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  39. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Exactly my point. It will get characterized that way, because the GOP will make sure that it gets characterized that way. The Dems will be left with trying to explain why some bridges won’t get fixed, and we created fewer construction jobs in places like WV as a result, because diapers. I can see this coming from a mile away. I’m not sure why the rest of the bunch can’t. Dems mean well, and I admit that I admire the sentiment, but they suck suck suck at retail politics.

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  40. Grewgills says:

    @HarvardLaw92:
    The issue is that the “diapers” bits are also needed right now and the dems can only get one more bill through via reconciliation.
    So, sure the Republicans might have an easier time making attack ads about this bill, but the elections are more than 6 months away and if McConnell has taught us anything it is you can do whatever the hell you want as long as elections are over 6 mos away and it won’t matter. Something else will come up in between that can be spun or outright lied about that will drown out the greatest accomplishment or the worst catastrophe.
    We can’t waste time worrying about how they might spin something that needs doing. It is pointless. All it gets us is less done that needs doing.
    If we want to take your point to an actual political advantage, we shove this bill through, then 6 months to a year down the line we try to pass a pure roads, bridges, and dams bill and make certain that it includes plenty of projects in swing states with vulnerable Dems and Reps. Let that bill simmer while elections are going on and let the Republicans run against it.

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  41. Teve says:

    @Grewgills: Dems could come out in favor of Public Libraries, and the GOP commercials would talk about the Radical Leftist plan to destroy the publishing business, with a deepfake video of a fanged AOC biting the neck of Nicholas Sparks.

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  42. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Grewgills:

    I don’t necessarily disagree, except to say that we have passed trillions in stimulus funding now, so I’m wondering why part of that enormous pile of money isn’t somehow already helping parents buy diapers.

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  43. @HarvardLaw92: Is there some inflection point wherein Manchin and Sinema will balk? That is entirely possible. I would expect that, therefore, there will at some point be a negotiation with Sinema and Manchin (and whomever else) at the time the matter is actually before the Senate.

    Right now you are asking for the Democrats to pre-negotiate with themselves based on media perception of the word “infrastructure.”

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  44. @HarvardLaw92:

    This is why people don’t like liberals. Even when they hold the advantage, they’ll find a way to commit an own-goal and lose.

    I suppose one could counter that your stance is why people don’t like conservatives–as soon as any level of spending is proposed the critics start belly-aching about some amount of money that might be spent to help people.

    But, trading snark aside, it remains to be seen if they will win or lose on this.

    I continue to point to the recent Covid relief package: if Dems had approached this the way you are suggesting, i.e., pre-negotiating with themselves to get the cost down to sound more “reasonable” they would have likely still gotten no GOP votes and would have gotten less in the package.

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  45. @Kathy: Indeed. And so what are the odds they will vote for this bill regardless of its contents?

    So making Republicans feel good about the definition of “infrastructure” is a pointless exercise.

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  46. @HarvardLaw92: I think you are missing his tone, but I could be mistaken.

    Regardless, the GOP will engage in that activity no matter what is in the bill, so trying to counter that attack is pointless.

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  47. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Right now you are asking for the Democrats to pre-negotiate with themselves based on media perception of the word “infrastructure.”

    It means whatever the voters think it means, and I promise you that they largely aren’t going to buy a trying to call diapers infrastructure bait and switch.

    What I’m asking them to do is the one thing they’ve historically seemed incapable of doing – thinking through the retail politics of what they’re trying to do, proactively gaming out a plan ahead of time. and getting their membership onboard with it before they just roll it out (as they always do) thinking that good intentions alone will save them from political consequences. As I have previously said, Dems have some good ideas, but they 1000% suck at retail politics.

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  48. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I continue to point to the recent Covid relief package: if Dems had approached this the way you are suggesting, i.e., pre-negotiating with themselves to get the cost down to sound more “reasonable” they would have likely still gotten no GOP votes and would have gotten less in the package.

    I’m not saying they need to cut the cost. I’m saying they need to have identified the stuff that will potentially be problematic for their own membership and come up with a plan to deal with it BEFORE they find themselves (yet again) in the position of looking blindsided and rudderless in the media. Leadership should NOT be finding out that some of their members have a problem with something via the evening news, and when they do, it makes them look weak. People, for better or worse, generally don’t like weak. They’re their own worst enemies.

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