Biden pushes giant infrastrcture spending for 'American century'

US President Joe Biden speaks about his Build Back Better economic plans in Crystal Lake, Illinois.
US President Joe Biden speaks about his Build Back Better economic plans in Crystal Lake, Illinois.PHOTO: AFP

CRYSTAL LAKE, UNITED STATES (AFP) - President Joe Biden pushed his giant infrastructure spending plans on Wednesday (July 7) in a speech urging the country to modernise and create "an American century."

"We have to think bigger, we have to act bolder and we have to build back better," he said in a speech in Crystal Lake, Illinois.

Referring to Ronald Reagan's famous assertion in 1984 that the booming economy brought "morning in America," Biden said his plans promised "an American century."

The Democrat, who has been criss-crossing electorally important states to showcase his project, promoted the two plans currently being negotiated in a heavily divided Congress.

The first, worth around US$1 trillion (S$1.3 trillion), has some chance of bipartisan support and would fund massive rebuilding of roads and bridges, as well as removing harmful lead pipes from water systems, and expanding high-speed Internet.

The second, potentially far larger Bill would expand public education, childcare and other costly areas of what Biden calls "human infrastructure." This has no Republican support but, if Democrats remain united, could squeak through Congress with a rarely used parliamentary procedure.

Biden expressed confidence on the first plan, saying "I believe we're going to get done."

Success there would be a remarkable victory for Biden in a capital where the two parties rarely agree on anything.

This so-called "hard infrastructure" would lay "the foundation for a strong and durable and sustainable, competitive economy," Biden said.

However, he focused on the even more ambitious Democratic wish list for a second package, saying that a better educated nation was vital "to truly win the 21st century and once again lead the world."

"We need to invest in our people," he said, detailing plans for universal free pre-school and two years of free post-school community college, making a total of 14 years of state-funded education instead of 12.

"Does anybody think in the 21st century, with the change that's taking place in technology and across the board, that 12 years' education is enough?" Biden asked.

"Any nation that out-educates us is going to out-compete us," he said.