The Price Tag on Biden’s Infrastructure Plan Sounds Like a Lot. It’s Not.
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The Price Tag on Biden’s Infrastructure Plan Sounds Like a Lot. It’s Not.

$2 Trillion Over Eight Years Is a Drop in the Bucket

Dean Baker

Quick, how much is $2 trillion? That’s the amount President Joe Biden wants for his infrastructure package.

OK, it is more money than even Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have, put together. That probably still doesn’t give people too much information since most people don’t have much familiarity with these folks’ fortunes. But it might be helpful if the media made some effort to put the proposed spending in President Joe Biden’s infrastructure package in a context that would make it meaningful.

The spending is supposed to take place over eight years which means that it would be equal to just over 0.8% of projected Gross Domestic Product, or GDP,  over this period. GDP measures the country’s economic activity.

At $250 billion a year, it comes to about $750 per person each year over this period.

At $250 billion a year, it comes to about $750 per person each year over this period.

That is less than 40% of what we are projected to spend on prescription drugs over this period and less than half of the higher prices that we will be paying as a result of government-granted patents and related monopolies. (For some reason, the money transferred to the drug companies and other beneficiaries of these government-granted monopolies never gets called “big government.”)

Anyhow, instead of reporting $2 trillion as some big scary number, often not even telling people the time period involved, it would be helpful if news outlets tried to put the number in contexts that would make it meaningful to their readers. We get that reporting big numbers is a cool fraternity ritual among budget reporters, but making these numbers meaningful is actually supposed to be their job.

Featured image: Caltrans

April 1, 2021