Our Perspectives on the Latest Issues
President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan announcement in Pittsburgh elicits great pride in being a Pennsylvanian. It feels like it’s been ages since the leader of the United States has put forth a vision of the future that moves us forward—no matter whether we work in the frack fields or an office building, reside in a rural county or city, or we’re beset by pollution or economic hardship. It’s a historic initiative, that if enacted fully by Congress, would be a watershed moment for the country and Commonwealth.
Biden’s economic plan goes way beyond kick-starting an economy hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. At its core, the President’s American Jobs Plan would overhaul our antiquated infrastructure, build resiliency to extreme weather and support new carbon reduction technologies that match and excel beyond the efforts of global competitors currently making their mark in this sector.
The plan will launch a more sustainable American economy anchored by cutting-edge business sectors and family-sustaining jobs that don’t rely on polluting our communities and children to succeed. The President’s plan would finally and proportionally invest in addressing the climate crisis by deploying renewable energy, retrofitting homes and businesses, investing in clean energy innovation, and advancing ways for industry to lower its carbon footprint. The plan will rightly will give our country a fighting start to meet the daily reality of climate change. And it will seed the projects, tools and technologies we need to address the climate crisis, one made more evident every day, and neglected for far too long.
But of all the places he could have made his announcement, why did the President choose Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania? One reason is the abundance of concrete proposals and feasible ideas emanating from the region that are in sync with the President’s economic vision, including Reimagine Appalachia’s blueprint, the Marshall Plan for Middle America, and PennFuture’s Green Stimulus and Economic Recovery Platform for Pennsylvania. These independently-crafted platforms all share the common goal of lifting up the Commonwealth through shared prosperity and future-oriented, sustainable economic opportunities.
Why do such synergies exist between the region and the President’s economic plan? Maybe only an individual like President Biden, whose formative years were spent in the coal fields of upper Appalachia’s Anthracite region, can get why perpetuating fossil fuels as the foundation for future economic growth and opportunity is wrong on so many fronts. As someone who, like the President, has kept their ties to the region, its scarred landscapes, and its strong and proud people, I understand firsthand the President’s perspective.
Appalachia’s coal fields, where the President was born, are a poster-child for what the American Jobs Plan aims to address: boom-and-bust cycles of fossil fuels industries crippling towns, oppression wrought by big companies when workers are unprotected by unions, and the psychological and demoralizing impacts keeping coal communities from pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. Biden experienced and was witness to these declines, and knows they are frightening for communities in the midst of such change, and equally frightening for policymakers to understand and address.
Unless, that is, you are the kind of leader that Biden is, whose experience and empathy has won him much political support from the region and from local influencers who share his vision. President Biden’s vision of prosperity is anchored in the future, and not a distant future, but rather one that is within our reach, if we can all stretch just a bit further and take hold. If we can drop our swords, together we can take a run at doing something monumental and meaningful for our people, to set the country up for success in the new economy, and to make things right for the have-nots among us.
The fight for the President’s American Jobs Plan will be a political battle, to be sure. The thing that will make the fight so tough is partisan identity. Ideologies, political or otherwise, divide and blind us to what is right before our eyes: opportunity and seeing that the world around us has changed. Internationally, we see the most powerful and influential regions shift to a sustainable future, while America drags its feet because there are those among us who don’t want to see others “win” or because some among us believe we can stop societal or demographic change using a wall, an insurrection, a vote, or the suppression of one.
Back here in Pennsylvania, and at PennFuture, we are all for making up for lost time and lost opportunity. We stand eager and ready to move beyond the societal infighting and work to advance solutions that benefit all of us. We are leaning hard into the prospects for federal action on resilient infrastructure and climate solutions. We believe if passed, the President’s American Jobs Plan can yield great things for our state. If nothing else, is any part of Pennsylvania really so prosperous that it and its elected representatives in Congress – regardless of party – have the luxury of dismissing these investments in our common future?
Biden’s proposals are showing bipartisan support among voters. The time has come for courageous leadership from all corners of the state to come to the table and give the President’s proposals a fair hearing and chance.