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When writers of “Happy Days” put Fonzie on water skis and had him jump a shark, it marked the beginning of the creative end for the series. Thus, “jumping the shark” has become a cultural idiom for the point where a series has run short of ideas and is headed downhill.

Similarly, congressional progressives could “jump the shark” in pursuit of their human infrastructure bill this week, unless they join in passing the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Here are my thoughts.

Joe Biden ran to the left to capture the 2020 Democratic Party presidential nomination. In doing so, he endorsed many policies not supported by disaffected Republicans and nonaffiliated voters. While I’m sure a solid number of Biden voters supported these positions, many disaffected Republican and nonaffiliated voters didn’t. They ignored the policies and voted for Biden for the greater good, in the effort to replace Trump.

When Biden won, progressive Democrats took that as a mandate to enact those Biden-adopted positions. That was wrongheaded, especially since the U.S. Senate ended in an even split of 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, with only the vice president’s vote giving Democrats the edge.

Additionally, Democrats lost 13 seats in the House, resulting in a narrow 222-213 majority.

That’s not a mandate.

I interpreted the result as meaning we would not see radical changes proposed in policy. Boy, was I wrong.

Progressives piled up their wish list of programs until they split the infrastructure bill into two parts: Traditional infrastructure (roads and bridges), and human infrastructure.

Generally, the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill includes money for traditional roads and bridges and public transit ($178 billion); electrical grid ($73 billion); railways ($66 billion); broadband internet ($65 billion); drinking water ($55 billion); water-storage environmental resilience ($50 billion); airports and ports ($42 billion); and environmental remediation ($21 billion).

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The larger wish-list human infrastructure bill started out as a $3.5 trillion, 10-year spending plan and included universal pre-K; paid family and medical leave; a lower Medicare eligibility age; dental, vision and hearing benefits added to Medicare; an expanded Affordable Care Act; climate policies; and allowing Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs. I’ve left out many proposals, but you get the idea.

To pay for these programs, advocates propose to increase taxes on corporations (although still less than what they were before Trump’s 2017 tax cuts), increase income taxes on individuals with incomes over $400,000 or perhaps impose a wealth tax on billionaires.

Everything remains fluid in this second bill and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has received much criticism for blocking portions of it. Well, at least he has done so with reasons. I’d be much more concerned with Arizona’s Democrat Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, whose opposition to increasing taxes to pay for additional programs seems downright right-wing for this former member of the left-wing Green Party (through 2004). And there are plenty of others objecting to one program or another whose vote could kill the bill.

So, here’s the deal.

Most everyone agrees to the bipartisan infrastructure bill, but progressives were promised that both bills would run at the same time, meaning they would pressure folks to vote for the human infrastructure bill by withholding their vote for the infrastructure bill (roads and bridges).

If they do, they will be denying all of us, including their supporters, the roads, bridges, broadband and more that is needed and largely has been deferred for years.

Therefore, the vote should happen, regardless of the fate of the human infrastructure bill.

That doesn’t mean programs within the human infrastructure bill should be purposefully delayed, discarded or disparaged. It simply means we should not hold the bipartisan infrastructure bill hostage to this other package of programs. After all, there wasn’t a mandate for these programs in the last election.

If progressives carry through with their abandonment of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, then they likely will “jump the shark,” and this government will meander until Republicans take over.

Tom Crouser is a business consultant living in Mink Shoals. Reach him at tom

@crouser.com and follow

@TomCrouser on Twitter. Also connect via Facebook and LinkedIn.

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