Eric Klinenberg in the New York Times: “…Consider civic infrastructure. Many of the critical systems the United States needs to build and sustain a good society are degraded. Discriminatory voting laws, like Georgia’s new legislation, threaten the integrity of the political process. Social media companies like Facebook, by using algorithms that reward political extremism and promote political polarization, distort the discourse in our public sphere. Community organizations that help feed, house and educate low-income Americans are essential for preserving peace and improving living standards, but they have struggled to remain solvent during the pandemic. Mr. Biden’s plan leaves these failings in the civic infrastructure practically untouched.
The neglect of social infrastructure in Mr. Biden’s plan is even more striking, given how critical social infrastructure was to the success of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, the last “once in a generation” investment in America. The New Deal was not just about roads and bridges, after all. It also funded the construction or renovation of thousands of gathering places across the country, in suburbs and cities, rural areas and small towns.
What came from these investments? Libraries. Parks. Playgrounds. Piers. Post offices. Swimming pools. Sports fields. Theaters. Museums. Gardens. Forests. Beaches. Lodges. Walkways. Armories. Courthouses. County fairgrounds. Today too many of us take these projects for granted, even as we continue to use them on a huge scale.
Paradoxically, the success of this social infrastructure is also the source of its degradation. Our gathering places are overrun and dilapidated. Parks and playgrounds need updating. Athletic fields need new surfaces. Public libraries have an estimated $26 billion in capital needs, according to the American Library Association, and the costs of safely operating them at full capacity are likely to exceed what states and local governments can afford. None of this, sadly, is explicitly addressed in Mr. Biden’s proposal….(More)”.