If there is an area that should garner bipartisan support, it's infrastructure.
Improving roads and bridges, waterways and levees, schools and parks, and a number of other categories that fall under the infrastructure umbrella, are expenditures that—in theory—should benefit everyone.
Infrastructure investments must be popular, because no matter which party is in power, big, bold plans often are put forth. There is little doubt that infrastructure spending would benefit of wide variety of industries, including rubber, and that jobs would be created.
But invariably the plans either fail to go anywhere, or what ultimately get passed is so watered down that it provides no more relief than a bandage. And the buck gets passed again and again.
Which brings us to President Biden's wide-ranging infrastructure plan, dubbed the American Jobs Plan, that carries a price tag of $2 trillion.
As usual, there is little debate that infrastructure should be a top priority. The American Society of Civil Engineers gives the U.S. infrastructure an overall grade of C-. Even worse, 11 of the 17 categories assessed by the ASCE received D ratings.
And the Biden proposal promises provisions to help in all of these areas and more. There are pledges to boost traditionally prioritized areas such as bridges, highways and roadways.
A good chunk of spending also would be aimed at quickening the pace of the transition to electric vehicles with a promise to build 500,000 charging stations nationwide, along with $100 billion to upgrade the electric grid to support this new charging infrastructure. Biden also earmarked $174 billion to help auto makers retool factories and ensure there is ample domestic supply of products and materials needed for battery-powered vehicles.
From a tire and rubber industry perspective, there is much to like. The U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association expressed its support on several fronts, starting with the number of tires that must travel on the nation's roads. The association also hopes that used tires can play a role, particularly with the potential for increased use of rubberized asphalt.
USTMA CEO Anne Forristall Luke said the association is "very excited that the Biden administration is taking a bold approach and is passionately committed to infrastructure investment as a driver of economic growth."
NAHAD, which represents distributors and manufacturers in the hose and accessories business, believes significant investment in infrastructure "creates optimism and excitement that manufacturing and related businesses will see a boost," according to Molly Mullins, the group's executive vice president.
And the National Association of Manufacturers said Biden's infrastructure investment is similar to the priorities of its own "Building to Win" plan, adding that the president's focus on strengthening manufacturing shows his commitment to building a post-pandemic world that is "stronger and more resilient than in pre-pandemic times."
It's clear that opposition to the infrastructure initiative will focus on two areas: the sheer cost of the proposal and, probably more importantly, the proposal to fund it by raising corporate taxes to 28 percent.
NAHAD said many of its members would feel the brunt of this increase, and that now is not the time to raise taxes as the nation's businesses are still rebuilding during the pandemic. NAM added that raising taxes on manufacturers would undermine their ability to lead the recovery, and that its members kept their promise following the 2017 tax cuts by raising wages and benefits, and hiring more workers.
Given this landscape, one of two things likely will happen. Either the Democrats, with their control of Congress, will pass the bill without GOP support.
Or, once again, the much-needed repairs to the nation's infrastructure will be kicked down the road.