Trump rolled out his oft-promised infrastructure plan yesterday, something he’s been harping on since the campaign, at one point promising to put $1 trillion into it to restore roads, bridges, rail systems and other elements that are in terrible shape. Oh, and it will create tons of jobs!
But as always with him there’s a catch.
The president’s plan recasts the federal government as a minority stakeholder in the nation’s new infrastructure projects. Half of the $200 billion promised over 10 years will be used for incentives to spur even greater contributions from states, localities and the private sector. Mr. Trump also wants to speed up the approval process.
In other words, he wants the states and local governments to come up with most of the money to pay for the projects and the federal government will stamp the permits as long as they benefit private enterprise. So if Palm Beach County wants to repave the road to Mar-a-lago, hey presto, here’s your contract. But if they want to repair the plumbing at an inner city school, well, show us the money.
In the first place, the states and local governments don’t have the money. Thanks to legislatures in many states being taken over by Republicans who are bent on cutting taxes to buy off their corporate pals, there isn’t any money left for critical infrastructure work even if the federal government kicked in the 80% that it has been common practice to do. And even if they had it, the incentive to rebuild a crumbling bridge in the urban areas doesn’t have the appeal of building a nice big hotel and golf course with all the fixings. So asking the state and local governments to come up with the cash is like asking the homeless guy to pay for your limo.
Second, the idea that the federal government should chip in a large portion of the funding comes from the basic idea that this country is the united states, meaning that the taxes people pay in Omaha go to build a school in Miami and that the tolls paid by cars from Indiana and Pennsylvania on the Ohio Turnpike benefit everyone, not just the people from Ohio.
And lastly, we could probably replace every crumbling bridge, school, tunnel, and water system with the extra money he’s throwing at the Pentagon for planes and guns and ships that they themselves have said they don’t want, need, or have places to put them. So far the hike in defensive spending has been to assure the world that Trump doesn’t have a small dick.
And he’ll find a way to stiff the state and local governments for the fed’s share. It’s the way he does business.