President Joe Biden and his team are hitting the road to sell his big, multi-trillion-dollar plan for infrastructure, education and jobs. The bold agenda comes with a big price tag and big tax increases for corporate America and the wealthy.
"We provide a way to pay for it, and we think it's a responsible investment now. It'll create three million more jobs over the next couple of years," said Director of the Office of Public Engagement, Cedric Richmond, in a one-on-one interview with TMJ4's Charles Benson.
Vice President Kamala Harris is coming to Milwaukee Tuesday, but the White House has not released specific details of where she's going and what she will be talking about.
President Biden laid out his plans and priorities during a prime-time speech on the eve of his first 100 days in office.
The president has called for $6 trillion in spending since taking office. His stimulus plan passed, but his American Jobs Plan for infrastructure and, now, his new American Families Plan for education, are up for vigorous debate.
President Biden's $1.8 trillion American Families plan would provide free universal pre-k for three- and four-year-olds as well as two years of tuition-free community college and tax credits for childcare.
"12 years is no longer enough today to compete with the rest of the world in the 21st century," said President Biden. "That's why my American Families Plan guarantees four additional years of public education for every person in America."
Charles Benson: "Why the emphasis on community college?"
Dir. Richmond: "Because what we see is that a lot of people that go to community college aspire to go to a four-year college and finishing a bachelor's degree. We want to make sure that we have public education that starts at three years old and allows you to continue, all the way through community college."
Biden is also talking $2.3 trillion in new infrastructure, and not just for roads, bridges and airports - but money for new schools and affordable housing.
"Nearly 95% of the infrastructure jobs created in the American Jobs Plan do not require a college degree," said Biden. "75% don't require an associate degree. The American Jobs Plan is a blue-collar blueprint to build America, that's what it is."
President Biden mentioned $45 billion to remove lead laterals that connect homes to the main waterlines. In Milwaukee, it's estimated the cost is around $750 million over 70 years.
Benson: "Does the president believe there is a sense of urgency with some of these infrastructure issues?"
Dir. Richmond: "Absolutely, our children's drinking water contaminated with lead, the long-term health effects for it. At some point, we just have to fix what's broken. We've been differing it for far too long.
Republicans are skeptical. Sen. Ron Johnson said the massive spending and tax increases "will harm our economy and threaten American jobs."
Sen. Johnson says President Biden is not off to a good start. "He promised to unify and heal America, but has done the exact opposite in his first 100 days. He has declared that America is systemically racist and needs to be "fundamentally transformed," he said. "That type of rhetoric sows division and discord."
President Biden has said he's open to hearing other ideas, but for now, Republicans and some Democrats are questioning the size and scope of his plans.
"The plans we laid out last night, are supported by the majority of the country," said Director Richmond. "And so we're going to keep engaging with Republicans."