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By going big on infrastructure, Biden launches new recovery

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden’s presidency was born amid doubts that at 78 he was too old and too small in political substance for the job. But his brash beginnings on fighting the pandemic, facilitating economic recovery and now revamping the nation’s infrastructure warrant a more hopeful assessment.

As Barack Obama’s vice president, Biden led Obama’s more modest efforts to address the nation’s financial health. Thereafter, he rather quietly observed at times that the challenges required a somewhat bolder approach, which he is now imposing in his new administration. It is a major new initiative that smacks of the dimensions of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s assault on the Great Depression of the 1930s, a decade before Biden’s birth.

As a lifelong Democrat from blue-collar, coal-country Scranton, Pa., the new president is clearly an FDR disciple who has had a long time to reflect on that era, when the nation was brought back from a similar economic brink.

Biden is now demonstrating his willingness, even his eagerness, to throw caution to the winds by undertaking what the rival Republican Party of historic opposition to deficit spending has traditionally called rank profligacy.

Biden thus is gambling that his $1.9 trillion splurge to pull the country out of its current financial ditch, which is to include sending cash to voters regardless of party, and his $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan will be too inviting for many people, including Republicans, to reject.

But one Republican, Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, quickly labeled the Biden infrastructure plan an “an out-of-control socialist spending spree” reflecting “the left’s radical agenda.”

Of his ambitious jobs and infrastructure initiative, Biden said in Pittsburgh, “It’s going to create the strongest, most resilient, innovative economy in the world. It’s not a plan that tinkers around the edges. It’s a once-in-a-generation investment in America, unlike anything we’ve seen or done since we built the Interstate Highway System and the Space Race decades ago.

“I’m convinced that if we act now, in 50 years, people are going to look back and say this was the moment that America won the future.”

The country is getting a new look at Joe Biden, earlier the subject of dismissal and even ridicule as an incurable optimist whose well-known empathy cast him in many eyes as a pushover.

His ambitious agenda of social welfare and structural rejuvenation now appears to be introducing a bold and risk-taking politician who has spent nearly a half-century in public life at the highest levels and is now firmly seizing the reins of public service now placed in his hands.

As a longtime senator never before given the executive power to govern the whole nation, Biden may be biting off more than he will be able to swallow. But to his credit, he is stepping forward in his moment of opportunity, with or without his celebrated desire to reach across the partisan aisle in Congress to lift a troubled America out of its current economic and structural challenge.

* Respond to this column at juleswitcovercomcast.net.

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