Expert Pitch

Experts discuss Biden’s sweeping infrastructure package

Cornell University
26-Mar-2021 11:05 AM EDT, by Cornell University

The Biden administration is pushing ahead on new legislation that could provide a combined $3 trillion for infrastructure such as roads, rail lines and electric vehicle charging stations, while investing in universal pre-kindergarten, paid family leave and free community college.

The following Cornell University researchers are available to weigh in on this development.

Jerel Ezell is a professor of Africana studies and an expert in health disparities and social inequality in post-industrial communities. Ezell has worked on city infrastructure challenges in Flint, Michigan, and can speak to infrastructure expenditures in the Biden administration’s plan and also expanded subsidies for health insurance purchases for low- and middle-income Americans and their children.

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Noliwe Rooks is a professor of American studies and an expert on the role of segregation in American society, particularly in education and the economy.

Rooks says:

“For all the economic good the infrastructure bill will do, we need to be careful about conflating the spending in this bill, and in the previous one as it relates to schools in particular, with thinking that infrastructure is a key element of educational equity. It’s not. Stimulating the economy and building new schools does not address the urgent issues of the under education of poor children and those that are Black, indigenous and Latinx within a pedagogical and curricular system that harms as much as do dilapidated buildings.

“I can think of any number of stimulus funding bills that resulted in new schools in which the students still struggled educationally. Let’s really Build Back Better by committing to equity in our whole educational system, not just in the building of better buildings.”

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Rick Geddes, professor and founding director of Cornell University’s Program in Infrastructure Policy, is an expert on the funding, financing and operation of civil and social infrastructure. He says the infrastructure investment proposed by the Biden administration should be supplemented with additional forms of financing, such as public private partnerships, regularly used outside of the United States.

Geddes says:

“The $1 trillion investment in infrastructure, as proposed by the Biden administration, will help close the $2.6 trillion funding gap between what is needed to maintain and repair our infrastructure and currently available resources, as tabulated by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Additional funding can be obtained through alternate forms of financing, such as asset recycling, value capture and public private partnerships. While these tools are regularly employed in other countries, they have been relatively underutilized in the United States.”

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John Foote is a lecturer in the Cornell Institute of Public Affairs and an expert on infrastructure policy and finance. Foote was a co-founder of a transportation engineering company specializing in intelligent transportation systems and services. He also has twelve years of experience as a public finance banker both in the United States and Asia. 

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Tae Youn Park is professor of human resource studies. Tae-Youn’s research examines how employment policies and practices, such as compensation, parental leave, and employee turnover and retention, affect both employers and employees.

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