President Joe Biden said he will unveil his long-term economic rejuvenation plan next week, promising a new “paradigm” for the middle class and a major ramp-up in investment and infrastructure spending that will strengthen the U.S. position against China.

“I want to change the paradigm -- we start to reward work, not just wealth,” Biden said Thursday in his first press conference since taking office. He alluded to expanded support for health care and tax changes to address a system that currently contributes to “feathering the nest of the wealthiest Americans.”

The administration included a major expansion of the earned income tax credit for lower-income workers in the US$1.9 trillion pandemic-relief plan Biden signed this month, along with an increase in the child tax credit. Democratic lawmakers are pushing for permanent extensions of those measures, while White House aides are working on tax hikes for companies and the richest Americans to help pay for the elements that will make up the “Build Back Better” program.

Biden said he would be unveiling that program during a visit to Pittsburgh, scheduled for next Wednesday.

The president also cited a raft of data that described a dire state of American infrastructure, from the poor condition of highways to endemic delays on passenger flights to millions of homes that still have lead piping in their water supply. While America allowed its transportation and other systems to decay, China has been investing at a pace more than three times that of the U.S., Biden said.

Republican Opposition

The administration is considering proposing as much as US$3 trillion worth of measures in the long-term economic program, and the president’s top aides have spent the last several days weighing how to advance the plan in the face of staunch Republican opposition.

Biden highlighted that he was able to win passage of his US$1.9 trillion relief plan this month without Republican support, to the surprise of many observers. And he claimed support among GOP voters, if not from the opposition party’s lawmakers.

One component of the coming long-term plan will be ramping up investment in science and technology, Biden said, pledging federal support for areas including medicine, artificial intelligence and quantum computing.

Biden said he wants to boost research and development spending toward 2per cent of gross domestic product, as he says it used to trend in the past, against 0.7per cent today. As Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg did at a congressional hearing earlier in the day, Biden positioned the initiative as a way to counter China.

China Positioning

“China has an overall goal” to become “the leading country in the world, the wealthiest country in the world and the most powerful country in the world,” Biden said. “That’s not going to happen on my watch.”

Buttigieg said in opening remarks for a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing Thursday, “By some measures, China spends more on infrastructure every year than the U.S. and Europe combined.”

The transportation chief, whose department will play a major role in the infrastructure initiative, also said, “Across the country, we face a trillion-dollar backlog of needed repairs and improvements, with hundreds of billions of dollars in good projects already in the pipeline.”

While the details of the Build Back Better program remain in flux, aides are leaning toward separating Biden’s policy plans into two bills -- one focused on infrastructure and the other on issues including child care, college tuition and health care -- with tax hikes to offset part of the cost. Biden laid out many of the policy details, including tax increases, during the campaign.

Broad Scope

Keeping progressive and moderate Democrats unified around his next spending package could prove much tougher than what Biden faced with his COVID-19 relief plan. Democrats saw that package as a necessary response to both the pandemic and resulting economic downturn. But the next proposals deal with a broader set of long-term and controversial issues, such as climate change and inequality.

While infrastructure has long been considered a bipartisan issue, Republicans balked at headlines this week that the proposal could cost trillions of dollars, and include a broader range of issues than they anticipated.“I am defining infrastructure in my own mind as highways and broadband and wastewater,” said Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia. “So, the scope of what I’m hearing is much greater than what I envisioned of infrastructure.”

“Hopefully we can continue this conversation but it’s going way beyond the scope of what I thought an infrastructure package would be creating jobs,” Capito added.