President Joe Biden visited New Hampshire last week to tout the signing of the bipartisan infrastructure framework with a speech from the NH 175 Bridge, an infrastructure that has been in need of repair since 2014.
The bridge provided a perfect backdrop for the photos and allowed the all-Democratic congressional delegation from New Hampshire to demonstrate their ability to “bring the bacon home.” Ironically, the delegation’s comments on the “late” nature of the fix did not mention that the delegation was made up of two three-term governors, one two-term vice-president and current president, and nearly dozen. years in the US Senate.
Of course, there are a lot of reasons for the condition of the bridge, but it’s worth noting that the group was at least partially responsible for the delays they highlighted.
Make no mistake, the infrastructure deal is big news. America’s infrastructure has been collapsing for decades, while other countries, including China, are investing in building theirs. Hundreds of billions of dollars in domestic investments, including $ 40 billion in critical bridge repairs and replacements, will go a long way in re-establishing America as a world leader in physical connectivity.
And while it’s easy to find flaws in the bill (Why is New Hampshire getting the fewest dollars for freeway upgrades? What impact will infrastructure spending have on prices already in? Surely that will fuel the inflation fire further, right? Is it funded enough?), it’s worth zooming out to note the obvious. The bill is not perfect and I have many concerns about how the money will be spent, but it is a law and the country needs better infrastructure.
Last year I wrote a book called Think for yourself: restore common sense in the age of experts and artificial intelligence. In it, I note that every perspective is limited, every perspective is biased, and every perspective is incomplete. The solution to these problems is to employ multiple perspectives and points of view. In political language, my message is a call for bipartisanship. (By the way, if there were three parties, I would call the tripartisan!)
And while it’s easy to call for altruistic and selfless promotion of national interests rather than individual goals, making such bipartisan progress is by no means pretty. In this case, Democrats and Republicans have come together to draft a relatively centrist, pragmatic, two-party law that invests in America. (It is important to note that investments generate returns on investment and that the infrastructure bill is expected to increase the economic capacity of the country. I contrast this with social spending (i.e. ‘profits’) ) that do little to improve the potential of an economy.)
Building bridges, however, is easier than building bridges over partisanship. Many Americans think Washington DC is stuck in a deadlock of our own making. I saw recently Charlie Wilson’s War and couldn’t help but laugh when Julia Roberts asked Tom Hanks, “Why is Congress saying one thing and doing nothing?” to which Hanks replies: “Tradition, above all”.
Moving from Hollywood to Granite State, however, is not as big a leap as it seems. Governor Chris Sununu, who has chosen not to compete in the next US Senate race, recently noted that “sadly, on both sides of the aisle, doing nothing is a victory.”
Sununu went further, stating that “there has to be a fundamental shift in philosophy on both sides of the aisle to just start getting things done … because if everything is a party line test then nothing is wrong.” will never be done. “
I couldn’t agree more. And given the pressures many American families face – rising cash and pump prices, supply chain and labor shortages, and continued disruption from the pandemic, for to name a few – voters from redwood forests to Gulf Stream waters (as well as in our state) deserve action.
We need to put partisan issues aside. Our country does not need more tax cuts for the richest 1%, nor cuts funding for police services. There is no need to teach our children that America is inherently bad or ignore our long and troubled history. What America needs is common sense. He must focus on the things that matter and move forward to improving the lives of all Americans.
I was delighted to hear Senator (and former Governor) Jeanne Shaheen highlight her efforts to cross the aisle to work with Republican Senators Mitt Romney and Susan Collins on the infrastructure bill. We need more of this. Breaking the partisanship impasse is also the best chance for our country to tackle what I believe is the most pressing geopolitical challenge of the century: our rapidly escalating rivalry with China.
Even areas considered to be of mutual interest, such as climate change mitigation and pandemic management, are proving to be competitive. The Uyghur genocide unfolding in Chinese-occupied East Turkestan could become a global flashpoint as the Olympics shine the spotlight on the issue. And as Taiwan’s status becomes increasingly uncertain, it is increasingly evident that we are waging a war of values.
The challenges ahead were fully exposed earlier this week, as President Biden’s conversation with Chinese Xi produced nothing significant. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently noted that China does not see us as a competitor, but as an adversary. He suggested we do the same.
Last summer, the United States Senate passed the United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA), formerly known as the Endless Frontiers Act, a bipartisan, multidimensional and comprehensive law that aims to strengthen US strategic approach to China.
USICA includes billions of dollars for research and development, semiconductors, supply chain resilience, and a renewed diplomatic strategy for the Indo-Pacific with an increased focus on our allies and partners. The bill is a positive step towards developing US capabilities and tackling potential aggression from China. It is an investment that will pay dividends for decades and decades to come.
I remember Ronald Reagan once asking Mikhail Gorbachev if America and Russia could put aside the many intractable differences in the relationship if the world was ever invaded by aliens. Gorbachev agreed. I would ask Democrats and Republicans the same question, albeit updated for our current dilemma.
Can we not put our differences aside and focus on the challenge at hand?
Right now, the USICA bill is stuck in the House of Representatives, but Congress can and should immediately break this bottleneck. We need to send the legislation to the president for signature as soon as possible. There is no time to waste in narrow partisan politics when it comes to competing and facing China. Beijing is certainly not wasting time.
(Vikram Mansharamani lives in Lincoln and teaches a course on the world’s toughest problems to undergraduates at Harvard University.)