40 Years After Reagan, a Bet Big Government Can Get Something Done

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Taken together, those come down to reversing the tax cuts of President Donald J. Trump, who on Wednesday denounced Mr. Biden’s plan “a classic globalist betrayal” that he argued would benefit politicians, government bureaucrats and China.

But Mr. Trump himself may have helped make it possible by throwing out so much Republican orthodoxy. He let deficits soar, and invoked tariffs on Chinese goods that American consumers paid. And his actions neither drove up interest rates nor tanked the stock market, raising confidence inside the Biden administration that it may have more leeway to pump money into the economy without fears of rapid overheating.

The plan includes big outlays for traditional infrastructure projects: $115 billion for highways, roads and 10,000 small bridges that need to be reconstructed. There is $85 billion for transit systems and $80 billion for Amtrak — an acknowledgment that the once-tempting idea that a passenger high-speed rail program could be a profitable private enterprise, able to raise the capital to keep up-to-date, was a fantasy.

Then there is the unfamiliar part, stretching the definition of infrastructure in new directions. There is $180 billion for research and development and $50 billion to revive semiconductor production in the United States, clearly intended to counter China. Billions of dollars for internet connections in ill-served rural and poor communities is being sold as a jobs program, an issue of equity and an enabler of innovation.

To many on the left, the Biden plan is too cautious, a fraction of what Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts called for when they ran against Mr. Biden for the Democratic nomination. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the New York Democrat and perhaps the most influential voice of the progressive movement, declared after seeing Mr. Biden’s plan that “this is not nearly enough.”

But the argument the Biden administration will make in coming days is that it simply restores the status quo of five decades ago when public investment in research and development, infrastructure and commercialization of technology was, as a percentage of the economy, significantly higher than it is today.

“What this is designed to do,” Mr. Deese said, “is to get us back up to something approaching what that level was in the 1960s.”

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