One-on-one with MA Rep. Katherine Clark on ‘human infrastructure’ and what’s at stake

BOSTON — The price tag on the Democrats budget reconciliation proposal, dubbed a “human infrastructure package,” is $3.5 trillion.

Democrats say this is once in a generation opportunity to boost American families. Republicans argue it will saddle those same families with the nation’s growing debt.

Boston 25 News anchor Kerry Kavanaugh sat down one-on-one with the Assistant Speaker of the U.S. House, Congresswoman Katherine Clark to find out what this could mean for local taxpayers.

“People understand what an infrastructure bill is bridges, roads, transit, but what’s ‘human infrastructure’,” Kavanaugh asked.

“It is all the underpinnings of our economy,” said Clark. “And far often, we’ve made that a narrow definition, roads, and bridges, we’ve expanded it to include broadband, and, you know, green technologies and, and renewable energy. But we also need to look at the other pieces of critical infrastructure, like childcare, and home care, and pay leave policies that enable people to get to work.”

Speaking with Kavanaugh in her hometown of Melrose, Rep. Clark said the pandemic has motivated this agenda by exposing so many inequities, beginning with childcare and the burden placed on women.

“For so many families before the pandemic, it was a cost that was up to 20% of their family’s income,” Clark said. “At the same time, we had providers who were being paid wages that they could not afford to provide for their own families on. When everything shut down, it took childcare, that operated on the thinness of margins in good times and broke the system.”

According to a recent report by economics firm McKinsey and Company, more than 2.3 million women left the U.S. Workforce in 2020.

“It can be up to $57 billion, that we are leaving on the table, because we cannot get parents of young children that care, they need to get back to work,” Clark said.

The Democrat says one solution is universal Pre-K.

“We will see universal Pre-K in this country, and that will be just what it sounds that every child, every family will be able to attend preschool, just like they attend to public school,” Clark said. “We know that for every dollar we invest in childcare and universal Pre-K, we get over $7 back”.

But there is major concern, though largely partisan, over the cost.

“When you add it all up, Democrats want to ram through one of the largest peacetime tax hikes on record, if not the single largest,” said Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell. He blasted the package this week saying this will only further damage the economy still working its’ way back after the pandemic.

“A smothering wet blanket thrown onto an economy that is already struggling to fully recover because of the inflation and worker shortages that Democrats’ policies have already unleashed,” McConnell said.

“If we want the economy of the future, we do have to think big and act with the urgency that it deserves,” Clark said.

“A lot of people do feel some urgency right now when they go to the grocery store when they fill up their tanks of gas,” Kavanaugh said. “The Bureau of Labor Statistics says 5.3% increase in the consumer price index. And, that’s just in the last 12 months.”

“We are confident that if we are making these investments, we unleash the power of the American economy, we are going to be able to bring those costs down,” Clark said.

“According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, the country, as of September is facing a $2.7 trillion deficit,” said Kavanaugh. “As you talk to your constituents and taxpayers across the country about this, how do you sell that price tag to those concerned about the country’s deficit?”

“$3.5 trillion is a huge investment. But it’s what’s needed because we have urgent challenges in front of us,” said Clark.

Clark says the plan would also address climate change, expand broadband access, and raise wages for people in child and eldercare.

The package will be paid for through increasing taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals.

To get this agenda passed, nearly every House Democrat would have to vote in favor of it. No vote is scheduled just yet. Though Speaker Pelosi remains committed to a September 27th vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Many in beltway speculate if these two plans don’t move forward together, both will fail due to pressure from within the Democratic party. That would be a huge blow to President Biden’s entire domestic agenda.


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