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Congress Should Invest in ‘Human Infrastructure’

It seems that Democrats and Republicans cannot align on a proposal to invest in an economic plan to generate good-paying jobs in infrastructure, climate solutions, and the care economy.

Last month, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (unveiled) the Republican infrastructure plan, a dangerously inadequate alternative to the economic renewal plans proposed by President Biden and progressives. We have yet to see Capito’s or the Republicans’ complete plan. We are unsure if Republicans in Congress simply cannot align on a proposal but we do know that the Republicans want to limit infrastructure investments to a narrow set of projects like roads, bridges, waterways, and broadband access.

These are critical areas of investment but at a time where so many West Virginians, and citizens all across America are suffering from the effects of stagnant wages, low wage jobs, rising costs of healthcare, childcare and elderly care, and housing costs, all this coupled with the economic downturn we’ve faced due to the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s simply not enough. Such an approach would create far fewer jobs than are needed for a full, robust economic recovery.

Last month, Sen. Capito stated, “Economic loss has left behind a cycle of drug abuse, poverty, despair, and health implications.” However, the senator is failing to recognize that bold economic investments would not only address unemployment but also other social, health, and environmental challenges burdening West Virginia.

In order to holistically manage the multiple on-going crises that are facing West Virginians and Americans alike, the THRIVE Act, introduced in April, is an economic plan that addresses almost every element of society. The THRIVE Act offers a roadmap for economic renewal and reinvestment that will Transform, Heal, and Renew by Investing in a Vibrant Economy.

In West Virginia, the THRIVE Act would create 50,000 jobs in the first full year of the program and sustain high levels of employment throughout the decade. The program would invest $5.2 billion a year in West Virginia, over the next 10 years, in clean renewable energy and energy efficiency, infrastructure, agriculture and land restoration, and the care economy, public health, and the postal service. Economic renewal investments with strong labor standards ensure that jobs will not only increase, but that the quality and safety of jobs will also improve. This is why we also must pass sweeping legislation such as the Pro-Act to protect workers’ rights to organize and strengthen unions.

Not only do the Republican proposals and policies fall short on employment and labor standards, they neglect to address the climate crisis. In contrast, the THRIVE Act prioritizes employment and investments that will reduce the climate effects being felt in West Virginia and all over the country. According to a 2020 poll, the majority of West Virginians believe global warming will harm future generations, plants, and animals. Harmful climate impacts in West Virginia are already occurring as are gross violations of environmental standards, wide-scale pollution of our waterways, and the exploitation of our natural resources. In order to fully address the multifaceted economic and environmental problems that our state and nation are facing, we need a bold new plan to invest in our economy, our environment, and our people. We need Sens. Shelly Moore Capito and Joe Manchin to commit to supporting the THRIVE Act for a West Virginia and America that we all deserve.

Jenny Craig is a public school teacher in Ohio County Schools.

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