by Jeffrey A. Rendall
Think about it. How many times have you driven down the road and thought, ‘Gee, someone had to pay a lot of money to build this?’ Or used the restroom in a public place and pondered, ‘When I flush the toilet, where does it all go?’
Here’s thinking hardly anyone — maybe outside of a civil engineer — even gives such scenarios a second thought. Here in western civilization, everyone takes it for granted when they switch on the faucet that clean and potable water will emerge and driving over a bridge or passing through a tunnel that it won’t collapse on them. Over the years lots of smart people ensured that everything works properly for us…or they would’ve lost their jobs (and been sued!).
But even the most well-conceived systems require maintenance, and they’ll eventually wear out and need replacement or expansion. The timeless creations of Ancient Rome didn’t last forever. Here in America the decay is noticeable in many places. President Donald Trump campaigned on upgrading the country’s infrastructure and made it a central pillar of his “Make America Great Again” platform. As a lifelong builder of big beautiful things, Trump appreciates the aesthetic as well as practical sides of roads, bridges and airports.
Naturally the Democrat leadership isn’t about to just accede to Trump’s requests without demanding a big chunk of dough for their friends, cronies and constituents in addition. Therein lies the sticking point. Dave Boyer reported at The Washington Times, “[T]he immediate issue is fixing roads and bridges, a big-ticket item of as much as $2 trillion that has eluded an agreement for the first two years of Mr. Trump’s presidency. Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer said Democrats want to expand the infrastructure spending wish list.
“’To truly be a gamechanger for the American people, we should go beyond transportation and into broadband, water, energy, schools, housing and other initiatives,’ they wrote. ‘We must also invest in resiliency and risk mitigation of our current infrastructure to deal with climate change.’”
Boyer’s article additionally indicated the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and big leftist union AFL-CIO combined to propose hiking the federal gas tax to supply more money for infrastructure, but Democrats won’t consider it (and we know how they love taxes!) unless Republicans and Trump agree to redo the Trump tax cuts they claim favor only big corporations. Forget the fact the nation’s economy is humming along with healthy growth and the unemployment rate is at a 50-year low — Democrats want to raise taxes to stop all the good news!
Boyer continued, “Democrats reintroduced a House resolution Monday saying that most of the money for infrastructure should come from the government instead of private revenue, and urging lawmakers not to repeal environmental protections. It pointed out that the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates there is a $2 trillion shortfall to modernize the nation’s infrastructure over the next decade.”
So there you have it. Everyone agrees there’s a crushing infrastructure deficit in the country yet each interest group hopes to fashion a different solution to it. As they do with everything else, Democrats are playing politics with the people’s welfare (not the kind they want), holding up funds for improvements until they get their own hulking slices of the pork pie to sprinkle on hypothetical boondoggles like “green energy” and combatting climate change.
And they know Trump would never agree to altering the tax cut law now — it would guarantee he’d lose next year. Remember George H.W. Bush going back on his “Read my lips, no new taxes!” pledge? If the president caved to Democrats on this matter we might very well be saying “President Buttigieg” (Pete) in January, 2021.
Besides, who would’ve predicted Democrats would balk at the notion of a gas tax? After all, theoretically speaking, if you tax something you get less of it — you know, hiking fuel prices will get people buying less and using less refined carbon-belching machines, purchasing more efficient cars, dropping off their thirsty SUVs at the junkyard and strolling to the nearest bike shop to invest in more human-powered two-wheelers (not motorcycles, mind you, even though they get 56 MPG).
Who knows, there might even be huge demand for hybrids and electric cars. It’s like a Democrat’s dream!
Not so fast. Gas taxes are among the most regressive levies in existence because who pays them (and therefore feels the most “pain”)? Well, everyone, of course. But will the super-rich care one iota if they have to shell out an extra $4-$5 for a tank of gas? Heck no! The average working schlep who toils for an hourly wage sure will, and sucking an additional twenty-five to thirty bucks a month from the family budget means poor folks will have to tighten or eliminate in other areas just to incentivize Uncle Sam to fix those bridges and potholes.
Economically speaking, you get no additional benefit from paying more for a gallon of gas. The car doesn’t care. It’s like charging more for bread or milk — it’s basically a waste.
Uh-uh, no deal. If Democrats truly care about the less fortunate, they wouldn’t advocate for gas taxes — or any taxes — that trickle down to the bottom of the financial food chain. Likewise, they wouldn’t be asking for concessions on tax rate reductions to pay for subsidies for bloated “green energy” companies that can’t hope to compete with less expensive fossil fuels. Again, such things only further the wealthy, even if Democrats can’t see it — or won’t own up to it.
Democrats are therefore purposely sabotaging the negotiations before they even get off the ground.
For his part Trump wants more money budgeted for infrastructure but also thinks the funds should come from public/private partnerships. Yes, that’s right, big companies would profit from ponying up the dough to improve infrastructure and many would be willing to help pay for it too. The administration also thinks big-time savings would be realized through streamlining the permitting process, which only serves to dramatically increase costs and discourages investment.
Make no mistake, the federal government already spends a huge amount on infrastructure, as do state and local government entities. Increasing taxes — rather than cutting spending — doesn’t appear to be a worthwhile fix. But Trump will at least listen; Democrats are prepared to throw the whole shebang if they don’t get their way.
There’s no getting around it, any big, problem-solving infrastructure legislation will be expensive — and someone has to pay for it. The chances of Democrats and Republicans coming together on this are slim to none, especially with “Chucky” Schumer and Nancy Pelosi leading their faction. They’ve proven over and over that it isn’t about serving and making people’s lives better — the pitched battle over the border wall demonstrated it.
The system’s at a standstill. Will anything get done with the presidential election on the horizon?
Democrats are pretty desperate to oust Trump. One of them even offered up his family’s pet as a sacrifice in exchange for a party winner. Dominick Mastrangelo reported at The Washington Examiner, “Former Clinton advisor and current CNN commentator Paul Begala said any of the Democratic candidates running for president in 2020 could murder his dog Gus and he’d still vote for them over President Trump.
“’I’m a JFK Democrat. I’ll pay any price, bear any burden, oppose any foe to ensure the defeat of Donald J. Trump,’ Begala said Monday on CNN’s ‘Cuomo Prime Time.’ ‘You can be Medicare for all or not … you could shoot my dog and if I think you can beat Trump I’mma be for ya.’
“Begala’s comment came during a discussion with host Chris Cuomo about an ongoing debate national Democrats are having about what party voters care most about when selecting a nominee.”
Poor Gus. Lucky for him (assuming the dog is a male) no current Democrat looks overly strong vis-à-vis Trump and his successful record. The abortion debate’s shown Democrats don’t give much credence to life, but this is extreme. It’s a good thing Begala later tweeted out a picture of the dog and confessed he was only kidding.
But the feeling is still the same. Democrats’ desperation to beat Trump in 2020 surpasses any desire to help the country, including passing a responsible infrastructure bill that won’t raise taxes. Pelosi and “Chucky” are only checking all the appropriate political (“We gotta do something”) boxes by appearing to cooperate. The inevitable result? Another stalemate.
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Photo “Infrastructure Repair” by Brisbane City Council. CC BY 2.0.