Jeanette Strong: Republicans who Built Back Better

“For most of the 20th century, we led the world by a significant margin because we invested in our people. We invested in ourselves – not only in our roads and our highways and our bridges, but in our people, in our families…. We were also among the first to provide access to free education….We invested in our children.” President Joe Biden, Oct. 20, 2021.
When Joe Biden was running for president, his slogan was “Build Back Better.” He’s proposed several plans to improve American lives.
Republicans have criticized Biden’s plans, but these proposals aren’t radical new ideas. They’re comparable to ideas proposed by former Republican presidents. It’s a shame so many modern Republicans don’t know their own party history.
Following are some of Biden’s ideas, compared to similar ideas from former Republican presidents. Maybe this will help Republicans remember what their party used to stand for.
Housing: Biden has proposed $213 billion to build, renovate and retrofit over 2 million homes. The current housing shortage is one of our most pressing problems. Biden’s plan would expand the number of homes for low- and middle-income families.
In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln faced a similar problem. The country was growing and people needed places to live. Lincoln sponsored the 1862 Homestead Act. This act gave people 160 acres of land for free if they lived on it and improved it. From 1862 to 1938, almost 1.5 million families gained title to 287.5 million acres of land. It was one of the most extensive wealth redistribution programs in history. Today’s Republicans would condemn it as socialism.
Transportation: Biden has proposed $621 billion to improve roads, bridges, railways, public transit, ports, inland waterways, airports, and other transportation facilities. The money would modernize 20,000 miles of road, repair over 10,000 bridges, and expand public transit. Biden knows that without safe, efficient transportation, our economy will come to a halt.
Lincoln recognized the importance of transportation, and he signed the Pacific Railroad Acts of 1862 and 1864. In 1863, construction began on the Transcontinental Railroad, one of our country’s biggest engineering accomplishments. By promoting this project, Lincoln brought the country together and allowed our economy to boom.
In 1956, President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Federal Aid Highway Act, authorizing the construction of the Interstate Highway system. By 1992, the cost reached $530 billion in today’s dollars, but the system has returned $6 in economic growth for every $1 it cost. The highway system has revolutionized our economy and quality of life and improved our national security. Today’s Republicans would have opposed it.
Education: Biden has proposed $100 billion to build new public schools and upgrade existing buildings, including new technology labs. Some of this money would help improve community colleges.
In 1862, Lincoln signed the Morrill Land-Grant Act, providing money for public colleges. Today over 75 public universities can trace their origins to this act. Lincoln believed in education and knew it was a vital part of building a strong middle class. He wanted higher education available to everyone.
Health care: Biden has proposed $400 billion for care for older and disabled Americans. This would expand access to long-term services under Medicaid and expand home care for older Americans. It would also provide money to update Veterans Affairs hospitals, which are on average over 40 years older than private hospitals.
In 1960, Eisenhower passed the Kerr-Mills Social Security Act, a precursor to Medicare. This act gave grants to states to pay for medical help for destitute seniors. Eisenhower wanted to expand medical services for older Americans, but faced stiff resistance from fellow Republicans.
Biden’s Build Back Better plan has many more programs which would benefit the American people, all of which have proven to be very popular. Those who want to disparage these programs as “socialism” should remember what Teddy Roosevelt, another Republican president, wrote in 1913.
“Because of things I have done on behalf of justice to the workingman, I have often been called a Socialist. Usually I have not taken the trouble even to notice the epithet. … Moreover, I know that many American Socialists are high-minded and honorable citizens, who in reality are merely radical social reformers. They are opposed to the brutalities and industrial injustices which we see everywhere about us.”
Today’s Republicans may think that spending on Americans is foolish, but as the old commercial said, we’re worth it. Previous Republicans knew that. It’s too bad modern Republicans no longer believe in building up America and making her better.
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at


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