Posts Tagged ‘Infrastructure program’

The infrastructure bill is a built-in failure

June 25, 2021

American infrastructure is in a bad way.  According to the American Society of Civil Engineers:

  • There is a water main break somewhere in the USA every two minutes.
  • About 43 percent of U.S. roads are in poor or mediocre condition.
  • The USA has an estimated 40,000 miles of flood control levees.  The location and/or condition of 10,000 miles of them is unknown.
  • The ASCE’s overall rating of U.S. infrastructure is C-minus.

If reports are accurate, the compromise infrastructure bill agreed to by the Senate will not meet the USA’s infrastructure needs.  It has failure built in.

The ASCE estimates than an additional $2.58 trillion is needed in the next 10 years to bring U.S. public works up to a B level.  The compromise infrastructure bill is only $579 billion. 

Only a fraction of that will go to actual infrastructure.  Much of it will go to welfare programs and corporate subsidies.

And it will be financed neither by increased taxes on the rich (best) nor by borrowing or money creation (acceptable because it is an investment in the nation’s future wealth), but by raiding funds appropriated for other purposes and, worst of all, by selling off or leasing public assets.

The problem with privatization is shown by the City of Chicago’s selling a private company the right to collect parking meter revenues for 75 years.  The city met a short-term revenue shortfall by imposing an additional cost on the public.

Some of the non-infrastructure things in the infrastructure bill are necessary and good.  Others need more discussion.  I’m not opposed to subsidies for corporate research and development, but there should be some way to guarantee that the benefits help to build up the American economy.

Better than nothing?  A plan that merely allows the USA to deteriorate at a slower rate is not good enough.

LINKS

American Society of Civil Engineers infrastructure report card – executive summary.

American Society of Civil Engineers infrastructure report card – full text.

Biden’s Infrastructure Capitulation by Jack Rasmus.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Agreement Is Embarrassing by Benjamin Studebaker.

Progressives Alarmed by Privatization Dub Infrastructure Deal ‘a Disaster in the Making’ by Jessica Corbett for Common Dreams.

Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Is a Stalking Horse for Privatization by David Dayen for The American Prospect.  [Added 7/1/2021]

Biden infrastructure plan isn’t all that big

April 1, 2021

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pointed out that Joe Biden’s $2.25 trillion-dollar infrastructure plan isn’t all that big, when you consider that it’s going to be spread out over 10 years.

Biden himself proposed a $7 trillion-dollar plan while campaigning, as Krystal Ball noted on her TV show.  Bernie Sanders proposed $11 trillion. 

The Congressional Progressive Caucus has proposed $10 trillion.  Even Joe Manchin of West Virginia, possibly the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, suggested $4 trillion.

The President has limited himself by proposing to finance it on a pay-as-you-go basis.  Since infrastructure contributes to future economic growth, it makes sense to finance it by borrowing, the same as taking out a mortgage on a house or any other long-term investment.

Politically, there is little to gain by holding back.  Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce would be just as opposed to it if it were $2.25 billion or $2.25 million.

There are a lot of good things in Biden’s plan.  It’s bigger and better than anything Presidents Trump or Obama tried to do.  But is it enough?  Is it a first step, or is it all there’s going to be?

LINKS

Ocasio-Cortez on Biden infrastructure plan: “Not nearly enough” by Dominick Mastrangelo for The Hill

Biden’s Infrastructure Plan Is More Than That – But Does It Go Far Enough? by Kara Voght and Rebecca Leber for Mother Jones.

Biden’s Infrastructure Plan Needs More Climate Spending by Kate Aronoff for The New Republic.

Biden’s Infrastructure Plan Is No Green New Deal, Left Says by Zahra Hirji and Ryan Brooks for BuzzFeed News.

Biden’s New Deal and the Future of Human Capital by David Wallace-Wells for The New Yorker.  Hat tip to Steve from Texas.

Trump’s broken promises to working Americans

May 14, 2018

Donald Trump and supporters. Source: Quartz

When Donald Trump ran for President, it was on an economic populist platform that, in many ways, put him well to the left of Hillary Clinton and of any Republican since Richard Nixon.

Most of what he promised would have been politically popular, economically feasible and beneficial to American working people—although not necessarily politically feasible.  But none of it was done or even seriously attempted.

Jonathan Chait last week wrote about Trump’s broken promises for New York magazine.  Here’s a short list of Trump promises:

  • Create a health insurance program that covers more people than Obamacare.
  • Negotiate lower drug prices through Medicare.
  • Pull out of NAFTA and negotiate a better trade deal.
  • Raise taxes on the rich, including himself.
  • Enact a $1 trillion infrastructure program (later $1.5 trillion).
  • Enact a six-point plan to curb lobbying, including no lobbying by former government officials or members of Congress until five years after leaving office and curbs on foreign companies making campaign contributions.

Trump has done nothing to replace or reform Obamacare, only made minor changes that make it worse.  Nothing was done to lower drug prices.

Simply canceling NAFTA would have been wrong.  Nations, even superpower nations, can’t just break agreements and not suffer consequences.  But there certainly is a need to renegotiate NAFTA and similar agreements.

The infrastructure plan is now $200 million, and even that has been postponed until next year.

As for putting limits on lobbying—that is a joke!

But I suspect that most Americans aren’t aware of this.  Most of the reporting on Trump has to  do with the Russiagate investigation, or Trump’s scandalous personal behavior, or the latest outrageous thing that Trump has said on social media.

These things matter, of course.  But they have nothing to do with public policy.

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President Roosevelt on fighting unemployment

September 30, 2011

Here’s what President Franklin Roosevelt had to say in a Fireside Chat on Sept. 30, 1934, about infrastructure improvement and unemployment.  What he said is just as true today as it was then.

To those who say that our expenditures for Public Works and other means for recovery are a waste that we cannot afford, I answer that no country, however rich, can afford the waste of its human resources.  Demoralization caused by vast unemployment is our greatest extravagance.  Morally, it is the greatest menace to our social order.  Some people try to tell me that we must make up our minds that for the future we shall permanently have millions of unemployed just as other countries have had them for over a decade.  What may be necessary for those countries is not my responsibility to determine.  But as for this country, I stand or fall by my refusal to accept as a necessary condition of our future a permanent army of unemployed.  On the contrary, we must make it a national principle that we will not tolerate a large army of unemployed and that we will arrange our national economy to end our present unemployment as soon as we can and then to take wise measures against its return.  I do not want to think that it is the destiny of any American to remain permanently on relief rolls.

Click on FDR Chat 6 for the whole speech.

Hat tip to Fred Clark’s slacktivist web log.