The President, the Speaker of the House, and the Senate Minority leader shared a celebration of goodwill and harmony recently, in agreeing to spend TWO TRILLION DOLLARS on infrastructure. Yes! Let’s pick a gigantic round number first, and then come up with a list of ways to get the biggest political impact! So far they’ve come up with a list of nine items, starting with the notion that it’s essential to “create jobs immediately”. Four days later the Labor Department announced that the unemployment rate was at the lowest level since December of 1969.
The new jobs are to pay “the prevailing wage”, which is code for “hang the expense, we’re giving all the jobs to our union donors.” And only a very select group of contractors (“women, veteran and minority-owned businesses”) will be allowed to bid, so you can add another few zeroes to the cost of each project. There will be projects in “every congressional district”, so this was never really about the danger of collapsing bridges.
Collapsing bridges sound a lot less exciting when the Department of Transportation describes the risk: “The percentage of structurally deficient bridges declined from 12% in 2010 to 9.1% in 2016”. If the nation’s bridges are rotting, why don’t they bother to keep them painted? And maybe use a little less road salt?
The President said “We will build gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways, and waterways across our land.” Clearly he’s not talking about fixing old roads, or boring stuff like improving the electric power grid. He must be planning to help California build high speed rail! The train for rich people ticks off all the boxes, with “women and minorities” bidding on giant “prevailing wage” contracts in “several congressional districts”, and “bolstering commerce” in the sparsely-populated Central Valley by spending amazing amounts of money. If they run some wires alongside the tracks they might be able to tick off “expanding broadband to underserved areas”, and they can surely claim item #6, “being for the future”, because it could take 30 years to get this boondoggle built.
This is the Year of the Pig, so it’s wonderful to learn that they’ve found a way to bring pork back to Washington, where the word “infrastructure” (don’t it just roll along your tongue like honey) is a euphemism for “I get to buy votes”. Politicians have been mourning the loss of earmarks ever since they were banned in 2011, and recently made noises about bringing them back.
Spending on infrastructure is every bit as good. Two trillion dollars works out to $14,500 per American voter! It’s no wonder that incumbents win so many elections.