Robin Smith / March 13, 2017

Building the Road to Success

By a wide margin, people support Trump’s infrastructure plan.

President Donald Trump met with key business leaders last week regarding America’s infrastructure. Trump continues to pledge a $1 trillion infusion of money to states to help complete projects to renovate existing roads and bridges within a 90-day start date. Once approved, Trump’s infrastructure dollars will be block-granted to states with truly shovel-ready projects, with the objective that it not be lost down bureaucratic money holes with endless calendars.

In a March 8 Quinnipiac Poll, Republicans, Democrats and Independents voiced their strong support of Trump’s infrastructure plan, with all groups at least 90% in favor. With clear bipartisan support, the Trump administration has an issue that transcends party lines.

Rush Limbaugh recently reviewed these numbers and other data on the big spending proposal of Trump. “The American people, many of them, and particularly on the Republican side, think the country is falling apart in a whole bunch of different ways,” Limbaugh noted. “We’re falling apart culturally. We are falling apart in our politics. We’re falling apart politically. And I believe it’s nothing more complicated than people actually do think that we need to modernize some things in this country. And I believe that if you would deeply ask these people, if you would find … that the vast majority of them think that this is a legitimate responsibility for government, state and federal combined, to make sure that the airports are modernized and not falling apart, to make sure bridges are not going to collapse down the road, to make sure dams are okay. The stuff that people assume government does anyway.”

He also contrasted Trump’s plan with Barack Obama’s “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.” Almost $1 trillion in government spending, Obama’s “stimulus” was a big government fantasy buffet of public spending. Taxpayer money went to everything from expanded welfare benefits to subsidies for health insurance to an infrastructure plan that included “shovel-ready jobs” aimed at highway and bridge repair and construction.

The Obama administration insisted there were more than 19,000 “shovel-ready” projects totaling more than $150 billion that could begin within a 90-day period. A year after the massive government spending was approved and in progress, however, Obama admitted that there is “no such thing as a shovel-ready project.”

Limbaugh noted that most Americans were skeptical of Obama’s vague plan, and then were proven right when millions went to union groups and other Obama cronies with little or nothing to show in the form of completed projects.

Now, according to an American Society of Civil Engineers report card, the nation’s infrastructure gets as a D+ that will require up to $3.6 trillion in investments through 2020 for repairs and expansion.

As a developer and businessman, Trump anticipated the barriers never factored into the wasted spending via Obama’s plan: regulatory approval. Trump has already conferred with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on the regulatory impact of some projects. Obama’s expansion of the Waters of the United States rule, for example, creates havoc with any water runoff by turning cattle paths that collect rain into “bodies of water” to be regulated. Pruitt leads the effort to vacate this rule that is one of many environmental extremes in blocking construction and development.

Back in January, one of Trump’s executive orders expedited environmental reviews and approvals for all infrastructure projects aimed at “improving the U.S. electric grid and telecommunications systems and repairing and upgrading critical port facilities, airports, pipelines, bridges and highways.”

In short, Trump’s infrastructure plan is overwhelmingly popular because the American public has more faith in a president whose can-do record includes the development of skyscrapers, hotels, the completion of a New York skating rink, international resorts along with other business ventures versus the faculty lounge academics of a community organizer.

As Limbaugh put it, “I think people trust Trump on this — this money is literally going to end up in the economy.”

Another critical difference between the Trump and Obama administrations’ approach to infrastructure was revealed in a little noticed comment from Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. In an interview in February with Fox News, Chao referred to the mammoth list of road, bridge and construction needs across the U.S. on a scale and scope of expense that the federal government did not have the capacity to bear all the costs.

Stop. Read that again. The Secretary of Transportation understands that, unlike Obama’s “stimulus,” money can’t be printed and debt can’t be obliged just because it’s a government job.

Chao, secretary of labor for President George W. Bush and now of transportation for the Trump administration, noted, “Public private partnerships are a very important part of a new way of financing our roads and bridges that are in disrepair and our very dangerous.”

Secretary Chao is echoing the promises of Trump. There will be plenty of federal spending, likely above that $1 trillion. But public-private partnerships that incentivize private financing and maintenance for a pre-determined time will be a new approach to addressing a problem.

Conservatives must remain vigilant in protecting taxpayers from insatiable money pits. Primarily, mass transit is characteristic of protracted construction timelines, enormous budget overruns and promises for taxpayer subsidies. Projects to relieve volume congestion should be the responsibility of state and local officials who oversaw permits and approvals for their own community’s growth.

Taxpayers need to be assured their tax dollars are spent as advertised — for construction, repair and maintenance of structures, not walking trails, bike lanes, beautification projects and other initiatives that are and should be locally driven to add value to a community. And certainly not merely enriching Democrat cronies.

Peter Drucker, famed for his business management teachings and philosophy, stated most accurately, “If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.” Trump and Congress have a winning issue with a new approach for funding. We’ll soon see what comes of it.

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