AuthorCisneros, Henry

Gray and boring. Stolid and unexciting. These words are sometimes used to refer to infrastructure. The prefix "infra" derives from the Latin word for "under" or "beneath," suggesting why it is easy to understate its significance.

Infrastructure is the invisible substrata of our physical environment, composed of steel, wiring, concrete, asphalt, electric pulses, metals, masonry, and other materials. But it is also, at this moment, connected to the most important progressive goals in the United States today.

The pandemic uncovered a deep inequality in access to basic public services, from poorly located and equipped health facilities to transportation systems that put essential workers at risk of exposure. We saw this clearly in current public services as well as in the pernicious long-term effects of disparities in jobs, incomes, and wealth.

Years of underinvestment in poor neighborhoods and left-behind rural areas contributed to the divide, as have the lack of adequate communications and transportation systems.

The reality of the nations digital divide became obvious when online education was not available to students in poor neighborhoods. The benefits of telemedicine have been denied to those who needed it most. And over the course of the last year or so, we have seen clear evidence of climate change and its increasingly harmful effects, including more violent storms, property damage, and the loss of lives.

Addressing these challenges will require a range of policy actions and behavioral changes, which progressives have championed. To be sure, infrastructure by itself is not the solution to all of these significant concerns, but it is a part of the solution to every one of them.

Therefore, at a time when the Biden Administration is pushing a long-overdue infrastructure initiative on a massive scale, it is important to harness the potential of governmental and private-sector infrastructure investments to advance progressive ideas.

We should not miss this opportunity.

Infrastructure is not just the purview of engineers, builders, mechanics, transit companies, architects, plumbers, construction materials firms, electricians, and their supporters in state legislatures and the U.S. Congress. In fact, infrastructure should be important to the U.S. public, especially those who advocate for equitable solutions to pressing social problems.

Part of this expanded interest in infrastructure is emerging from an expanded definition of infrastructure...

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