US President Joe Biden has called for trillions in spending aimed at re-igniting America’s economic growth by upgrading its crumbling infrastructure and tackling climate change The $2.3tn (£1.7tn) proposal would direct billions to initiatives such as charging stations for electric vehicles and eliminating lead water pipes The spending would be partially offset by raising taxes on businesses Those plans have already roused fierce opposition.
Republicans have called the rises “a recipe for stagnation and decline”, while powerful business lobby groups including the Business Roundtable and Chamber of Commerce said they supported investments but would oppose tax increases The pushback is a sign of the tough fight ahead for the plan, which needs approval from Congress.
2px presentational grey line Acrimony looms Analysis box by Anthony Zurcher, North America reporter Joe Biden could have gone in a number of different policy directions after narrowly getting his covid pandemic aid package through Congress. That he opted to push for an infrastructure bill, rather than upping the pressure for gun control, voting rights, immigration, the environment or healthcare reform, suggests he’s looking for a popular, non-controversial legislative second act.
Of course, like that coronavirus package, the Biden administration is likely to use a massive piece of legislation to quietly advance some of those other policy priorities. The proposal contains hundreds of millions of dollars in green energy spending, expanded care for the elderly and disabled and job training, for instance.
Also like the coronavirus aid bill, even non-controversial infrastructure provisions that have high public support will be swamped in partisan acrimony. In particular, Republicans are going to vehemently object to the tax increases for corporations and businesses contained in the proposed legislation.
Chances are, Democrats will again have to go it alone when it comes to passing Biden’s legislative agenda.
The challenge, then, will be keeping the Democratic coalition together at a time when a wide number of constituencies, many of whom held their tongue during the Covid negotiations, line up to ensure their priorities are funded.
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The White House has promoted its proposal as the most ambitious public spending in decades, saying the investments are necessary to keep the US economy growing and competitive with other countries, especially China.
“This is not a plan that tinkers around the edges,” Mr Biden said in a speech in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Wednesday. “It’s a once in a generation investment in America.”
What’s in the American Jobs Plan?
It calls for investing more than $600bn in infrastructure, including modernising roads, replacing rail cars and buses and repairing crumbling bridges.
Billions more would be devoted to initiatives like improving veterans hospitals, upgrading affordable housing, expanding high-speed broadband, and providing incentives for manufacturing and technology research.
It calls for money to be directed to rural communities and communities of colour, including establishing a national climate-focused laboratory affiliated with an historically black university.
Civic Works runs programmes focuse don job training for green careers in Baltimore, MD
IMAGE COPYRIGHTCIVIC WORKS
image captionCivic Works runs programmes focused on job training for green careers in Baltimore, MD
The spending, which would have to be approved by Congress, would roll out over eight years.
The White House said tax increases would offset the cost over 15 years.
Mr Biden called for raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, a move that would partially undo cuts the US passed in 2017. He also proposed raising the minimum rate charged for overseas profits.
In his speech, in an acknowledgment such plans are likely to face, he said he was also “open to other ideas” when it came to paying for the spending.
“Failing to make these investments adds to our debt and effectively puts our children at a disadvantage relative to our competitors,” he said. “The divisions of the moment shouldn’t stop us from doing the right thing for the future.”
Will it pass?
Mr Biden’s proposal – which closely resembles promises he made during last year’s election campaign – comes just weeks after Democrats muscled through $1.9tn more in aid to address the economic upheaval caused by the pandemic, approving that package without Republican support.
It’s not clear yet how much of Mr Biden’s latest plan will make it through Congress – or how much of another spending package focused on areas such as childcare and education that he plans to unveil in coming weeks.
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Paul Ashworth, chief North America economist at Capital Economics, said the speedy advance of the pandemic package was unusual.
“Normally the negotiations drag on for months and what eventually gets passed, if anything gets passed at all, bears only a passing resemblance to what the administration originally asked for,” he said. “We suspect these negotiations will revert to the mean.”
Eli Allen is director of the Center for Sustainable Careers at Civic Works, a non-profit organisation that offers programmes such as job training focused on careers in sustainable energy in Baltimore, Maryland, a majority black city near Washington, DC.
He said he was “cautiously optimistic” that something resembling Mr Biden’s ambitions would eventually pass and was particularly heartened by Mr Biden’s emphasis on creating “quality jobs” in terms of pay and benefits – which he said could help set a standard across the industry.
“The focus on racial equity is not something we’ve seen in some of the past federal programmes that we’ve worked with,” he added. “I think that focus … is very important as we think about strategies to expand access to these jobs, especially for communities of colour.”
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‘Prioritising infrastructure in a new way’
A general view of the Pittsburgh skyline is seen during an NFL football game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Pittsburgh Steelers on September 17, 2017 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, PA.
IMAGE COPYRIGHTGETTY IMAGES
image captionJoe Biden delivered his speech in Pittsburgh, which has been working to reinvent its economy
Stefani Pashman is chief executive of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, a regional economic development group in Pittsburgh, the former steel town in Pennsylvania where Mr Biden delivered his speech on Wednesday.
The city, located in a state that was key to Mr Biden’s election victory, has been working to reinvent itself as a centre for high-tech research in areas such as autonomous vehicles.
Ms Pashman said the president’s promise of billions of government dollars has also injected new energy into ambitious local plans, like an effort by Carnegie Mellon University and rail technology company Wabtec to establish a new research lab focused on innovations in freight rail, like autonomous trains.
“The idea is to transform the rail industry … but we need $600m from the federal government to amplify what we’re able to do at the local level,” she said.
“The past few years … I don’t think the government was positioned to take this on at the level that it needs to be addressed and invested in to propel our region’s economy and all the economies of the nation,” she added.
“It’s clear that they’re prioritizing infrastructure in a new way.”
Asian markets rose on Friday following a record-breaking session on Wall Street.
The S&P 500 broke the 4000-point barrier for the first time, while the Nasdaq and Dow Jones also made gains.
Investors were buoyed by President Joe Biden’s new $2.3tn (£1.7tn) infrastructure spending plan and growing optimism about the economy.
Markets in Tokyo and Seoul were up more than 1%, while Shanghai was also in positive territory.
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Trading was thin in Asia, as markets in Hong Kong and Australia were closed for Good Friday.
The latest highs in the US point to renewed confidence among investors that the economic recovery is gaining pace.
The S&P 500 has gained 7% since the start of 2021, although the Nasdaq is about 5% below its peak in February.
President Biden’s mega rebuilding package – which follows the passage of a $1.9tn stimulus – has stirred more enthusiasm among investors.
“Investors greeted optimistically President Biden’s infrastructure plan,” brokerage TD Securities wrote in a note to clients.
A key measure of US manufacturing activity also soared to its highest level in more than 37 years in March, a strong sign that a rebound is underway.
The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said its index of national factory activity jumped to a reading of 64.7 last month from 60.8 in February.
A reading above 50 indicates expansion in manufacturing, which accounts for 12% of the US economy.
Two paramedics have told a Minneapolis court that George Floyd had no pulse and did not appear to be breathing when they arrived at the scene.
Former police officer Derek Chauvin is accused of killing Mr Floyd by kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes during an arrest in May 2020.
Paramedic Seth Bravindar said he had to ask Mr Chauvin to get off Mr Floyd so that they could access the patient.
Earlier, the court heard emotional testimony from Mr Floyd’s girlfriend.
Courteney Ross described their first kiss, and their struggle with opioid addiction on the fourth day of Mr Chauvin’s trial.
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Mr Chauvin, 45, who was fired from the Minneapolis police force, denies charges of murder and manslaughter.
What was the paramedics’ testimony?
Mr Bravinder said the initial call-out was deemed non-life threatening although that soon changed.
He told the court he initially thought that a struggle was taking place when he and his partner arrived on the scene, but quickly realised that Mr Floyd, 46, was limp.
Derek Chauvin in court on 1 April 2021
image captionDerek Chauvin has been taking notes throughout the trial
Asked about video footage showing him gesturing to Mr Chauvin, Mr Bravinder said he wanted to “have him move” and this was “so we could move the patient”.
His partner Derek Smith checked Mr Floyd’s neck for a pulse but could not find one. “In lay terms, I thought he was dead,” Mr Smith said.
“When I arrived on scene there was no medical services being provided to the patient,” he added.
Mr Bravinder cradled Mr Floyd’s head to prevent it from hitting the road as they transferred him to a stretcher.
They put him in an ambulance and started chest compressions.
At one point Mr Smith thought he saw electrical activity from Mr Floyd’s heart and delivered an electrical shock to try to restart it. “He was a human being and I was trying to give him a second chance at life,” he said.
Mr Bravinder said he had to stop the ambulance en route to the hospital to help his colleague after the heart monitor showed Mr Floyd had flatlined – his heart had stopped. All further efforts to resuscitate Mr Floyd failed.
What did Floyd’s girlfriend say?
Courteney Ross is the first person to testify who personally knew Mr Floyd.
She told the court that she met him in 2017 in the lobby of a Salvation Army homeless shelter, where he worked as a security guard and she was waiting to see the father of her son. She said Mr Floyd asked if she would pray with him.
Courtney Ross gives evidence on 1 April 2021
image captionCourteney Ross said they had both used opioids for chronic pain
“It was so sweet and at the time I had lost a lot of faith in God,” she said, adding that they kissed that night.
She said their first meeting was “one of my favourite stories to tell”.
Ms Ross said they both suffered from chronic pain, and were addicted to opioids.
“Addiction, in my opinion, is a lifelong struggle,” she said. “It’s not something that comes and goes, it’s something I’ll deal with forever.”
She did not specifically address whether Mr Floyd was using opioids on the day he died.
A statement from Floyd family lawyers Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci denounced “defence attempts to construct the narrative that George Floyd’s cause of death was the Fentanyl in his system”.
“We want to remind the world who witnessed his death on video that George was walking, talking, laughing, and breathing just fine before Derek Chauvin held his knee to George’s neck, blocking his ability to breathe and extinguishing his life,” it said.
What else has happened at the trial?
Jurors also heard from David Pleoger, the supervising police officer on duty that day, who said he only learned later in the evening that Mr Chauvin had restrained Mr Floyd by kneeling on his neck.
He told the court that an officer should stop using the knee as a restraint once “you get control of the situation” and the suspect is in handcuffs.
“Leave someone on their stomach for too long, their breathing will be compromised, so you’ll want to get them up out of that position,” he said.
Defence lawyer Eric Nelson sought to play down the significance of his testimony by saying Mr Pleoger had “not reviewed the entirety of the evidence in this particular case”.
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The trial began on Monday with the Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell saying Mr Chauvin had “betrayed his badge” and used “excessive and unreasonable force”.
Defence lawyers have indicated they will argue that Mr Floyd died of an overdose and poor health, and the force used was reasonable.
Footage from both witnesses’ mobile phones and the police officers’ bodycams have been shown at length. At one point, Mr Floyd can be heard pleading with officers: “I’m not a bad guy”, while the police officer is heard telling a bystander: “We had to control this guy because he’s a sizeable guy. It looks like he’s probably on something.
Several witnesses have also taken the stand, including four children who were under the age of 18 at the time of the arrest, and spoke of their trauma at what they saw.
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Shop employee Christopher Martin – who inadvertently set off the tragic events after alerting his manager to a fake $20 bill Mr Floyd had used to buy some cigarettes – has spoken of his “disbelief and guilt”. “If I’d have just not taken the bill, this could have been avoided,” he told the court.
Throughout the testimony, Mr Chauvin has been taking almost constant notes. Three other officers charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder will go on trial later in the year.
Why is this case so important?
The video footage of a white police officer kneeling for a prolonged period on the neck of an African-American caused outrage and led to global protests and a racial reckoning in the US.
Mr Floyd’s death had followed on the heels of several other high-profile cases of African-Americans dying at the hands of police officers.
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Former President Barack Obama said the protests represented a “genuine and legitimate frustration over a decades-long failure to reform police practices and the broader criminal justice system”.
African-Americans are disproportionately more likely to be fatally shot by police and arrested for drug abuse and five times more likely than white Americans to be imprisoned.
Police officers have rarely been convicted – if they are charged at all – for deaths that occur in custody, and the verdict in this trial is being widely seen as an indication of how the US legal system will treat such cases in future.