It has been, it seems, “infrastructure week” in Washington since the Truman Administration. Infrastructure is the dullest issue—until you land at Kennedy Airport. Why is the wealthiest country on Earth half a ruin? Why has it been so slow to invest in the necessity of green energy? Now there is a bill of significance, a moment of real promise. This week, Joe Biden is expected to sign into law a $1.2-trillion package with profound investments in transportation, broadband access, and environmentally sound energy systems.
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Today, we’re bringing you a selection of pieces about the concrete ways in which issues of infrastructure have so often altered the fate of American cities, towns, and lives. In “The Power Broker,” Robert A. Caro profiles Robert Moses, New York’s master builder, a ruthless and autocratic urban planner who shaped his city more than any mayor. The writer and activist Bill McKibben analyzes the environmental features of the new infrastructure bill and asks whether its specifics are adequate in the face of the climate crisis. In “The Big Story Is Still Joe Biden’s Mighty Ambitions,” John Cassidy considers the President’s efforts to reshape America’s municipal and economic agenda; Susan B. Glasser, meanwhile, examines the domestic political challenges that Biden needs to confront in his attempt to sell a divided electorate on civic investment. For most, infrastructure has long been a MEGO subject—“my eyes glaze over”—and yet it is at the center of our politics and our common future. Start with Caro on Moses and you get a deeper sense of why that is.