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Posts underestimate infrastructure funding in American Jobs Plan

July 14, 2021 GMT

CLAIM: Less than 5 cents of every dollar of the $4 trillion “infrastructure” bill actually goes to infrastructure.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. No matter how you slice it, President Joe Biden’s initial infrastructure proposal unveiled March 31 allocates more than 5% of its funding to items that are widely considered infrastructure. A bipartisan infrastructure deal that Biden endorsed in June also dedicates significantly more than 5 cents of every dollar to core infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, waterways, railways and airports.

THE FACTS: The amount of “real” infrastructure funding in Biden’s $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan has been a topic of political debate for months, with Republicans criticizing the president’s pitch as a Trojan horse for Democratic policies and tax hikes.

A conservative-backed nonprofit resurrected the criticism on Facebook this week, claiming in a widely shared video that “less than 5 cents of every dollar of the $4 trillion ‘infrastructure’ bill actually goes to infrastructure.”

While “infrastructure” can be defined in numerous ways, the claim that Biden’s initial plan is made up of less than 5% true infrastructure funding is decidedly false.

First, it should be noted that when social media posts refer to Biden’s $4 trillion plan, they are actually talking about two distinct bill proposals: the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan. The former is a $2.3 trillion package for hard infrastructure items, while the latter is a companion bill of roughly equal size for soft infrastructure items like investments in child care, family tax credits and other domestic programs.

Whether or not you count the companion bill as part of Biden’s so-called infrastructure plan, items widely agreed upon to count as infrastructure make up more than 5% of the total, according to Marc Goldwein, senior vice president of the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

Goldwein said looking at just the American Jobs Plan, “somewhere between a third and two-thirds” of the proposal consists of projects squarely in the infrastructure category, such as repairing roads and bridges, replacing water pipes, enhancing the electrical grid, investing in airports and improving coastal ports.

Looking at the entire $4 trillion proposal, Goldwein said, infrastructure items would still make up at least one-fifth of the total.

“It’s not just roads and waterways,” Goldwein said. “But these are things that we think are pretty indisputably infrastructure.”

Critics of the proposal may have come up with a 5% figure by only including improvements on roads and bridges in their definition of infrastructure, according to Garrett Watson, a senior policy analyst at the Tax Foundation. Only about $154 billion in the American Jobs Plan went to those items, he said.

Indeed, a caption on the video shared widely on Facebook this week laid out the reasonable criticism that “less than a nickel on every dollar” in Biden’s set of proposals totaling $4 trillion “would go towards filling potholes or repairing bridges.”

However, Goldwein said, items like broadband, water systems and other transportation infrastructure are widely considered infrastructure by both Democrats and Republicans, and those items together with repairing roads and bridges make up a larger portion of the plan.

Biden’s American Jobs Plan is no longer the prevalent infrastructure proposal in Congress. In June, the president endorsed a scaled-back nearly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure proposal that supporters hoped would have enough Republican support to pass in the Senate.

That bipartisan proposal, which would involve about $579 billion in new spending, allocates about $109 billion — nearly 19% of the total — to roads, bridges and major projects, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Add in other types of transportation infrastructure, such as airports, public transit and ports and waterways, and infrastructure makes up more than half of the bipartisan proposal.

A bipartisan group of senators on Tuesday said they were aiming for a Thursday deadline to wrap up the details on their infrastructure bill despite opposition from business leaders, outside activists and some GOP senators over how to pay for it.

Separately on Tuesday, Senate Democrats announced they’d reached a budget agreement envisioning spending $3.5 trillion over the next decade. Together with the bipartisan infrastructure plan, they represent close to the president’s initial $4 trillion-plus vision for a national investment.

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536