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'Piecemeal Solutions Won't Suffice': Progressives Press Biden to 'Go Big' on Infrastructure Plan

"Millions of us are depending on Congress to take this once-in-a-generation opportunity and deliver the jobs, care, and justice we so urgently need, and we intend to make them deliver."

Activists plan to welcome President Joe Biden to Pittsburgh on Wednesday with four billboards calling for a "bold" economic recovery plan. (Image: Green New Deal Network)

Activists plan to welcome President Joe Biden to Pittsburgh on Wednesday with four billboards calling for a "bold" economic recovery plan. (Image: Green New Deal Network)

When U.S. President Joe Biden heads to Pittsburgh on Wednesday to unveil the first part of his long-awaited and already hotly debated infrastructure plan, he will be greeted with four billboards from grassroots advocates urging the administration to "go big" and "go bold" on economic recovery, in part by supporting the THRIVE Act.

"This is a time in history that demands Democrats go big and bold on recovery, no excuses and no exceptions."
—Maurice Mitchell, Working Families Party

While the Washington Post reports that Biden is expected to propose spending $2.25 trillion on the first part of his jobs and infrastructure plan—with the two-part package possibly topping $4 trillion—the THRIVE Act announced Monday by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and other progressives would invest $10 trillion over a decade.

"The THRIVE Act would immediately create 372,000 jobs for Pennsylvania. We wanted that number right up there where President Biden could see it," said Thais Carrero, state director of CASA PA, a group involved with the billboard effort, which is part of the two-week Recovery Recess campaign pushing for a pandemic package modeled after the THRIVE Agenda.

Carrero added that "372,000 jobs would not only revitalize our communities, but give hope to the next generation of Pennsylvanians that their futures won't be defined by crisis, but by opportunity."

The billboards cite figures from analyses by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst on job creation in the state if Congress and Biden enacted a THRIVE Act-aligned recovery package. According to the Green New Deal Network, the billboards will remain up throughout the campaign.

The Recovery Recess campaign, which features over 100 events nationwide, highlights demands for bold policies addressing the coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic fallout as well as the climate crisis and racial injustice—and comes as activists warn that Biden's reported infrastructure plan falls short of what's needed.

On a national scale, the THRIVE Act aims to create millions of well-paying union jobs while rapidly making progress on green buildings, clean public transportation, and the transition to 100% renewable energy—"with justice for Black and Brown communities at the very heart of our work," as Markey noted in a tweet Tuesday. 

"To match the scale of the crises we face, piecemeal solutions won't suffice," said Ben Beachy, director of the Sierra Club's Living Economy Program. "By investing $1 trillion per year, we can end the unemployment crisis by putting over 15 million people to work in projects that deliver cleaner air, healthier homes, and a down payment on racial, economic, and climate justice."

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"Strong labor and equity standards are essential to ensure the new jobs offer family-sustaining wages and help curb systemic racism and gender inequity instead of reinforcing the unjust status quo," Beachy added.

Organizers emphasized the necessity of urgently tackling the concurrent crises.

Noting that marginalized Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian and Pacific Islander voters "showed up in record numbers in 2018 and 2020 to elect a new Congress and president," Elizabeth Yeampierre declared that "'now it's time to make sure that our government delivers a real recovery that recognizes the harsh reality our communities continue to face on the ground."

Yeampierre, co-chair of Climate Justice Alliance and executive director of UPROSE Brooklyn, said that "we've had enough excuses, enough delays."

Echoing that message, Working Families Party national director Maurice Mitchell said "this is a time in history that demands Democrats go big and bold on recovery, no excuses and no exceptions. Americans can't wait years for jobs to come back."

"We can't wait to invest in the Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities hit the hardest by these crises, and we can't wait until the next climate disaster tears our lives apart," Mitchell continued. "Millions of us are depending on Congress to take this once-in-a-generation opportunity and deliver the jobs, care, and justice we so urgently need, and we intend to make them deliver."

In a fact sheet on Tuesday, the youth-led Sunrise Movement—which is spearheading a congressional pledge for a $10 trillion, 10-year investment—pointed to the American Rescue Plan that Biden signed into law earlier this month as evidence of what federal lawmakers can do, even without support from the GOP.

While that $1.9 trillion package provided "much needed relief," it "merely keeps the economy afloat and makes sure people can keep food on the table," Sunrise said. "Not only are people still acutely suffering even after this stop-gap support, but our economy and infrastructure are reeling from decades of disinvestment and privatization."

"It is clear that if Biden is serious about transforming our economy and building back better, a much greater scale of investment is needed," the group added. "Sunrise Movement expects a $10 trillion investment in infrastructure, both material and social, over the next decade to meet this moment and take on the crises we as a nation are facing."

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