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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 2/16/18

Trump's Big Infrastructure Con

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From Trump's infrastructure plan may be a lie, but it's a Smarter
From Trump's infrastructure plan may be a lie, but it's a Smarter
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The administration's infrastructure proposal, released this week, bears no resemblance to Candidate Trump's campaign pledges. It shamelessly shirks the funding burden, and stops government construction projects that serve the public good.

Candidate Trump boasted that he would double what his opponent Hillary Clinton said she'd spend on infrastructure. But the scheme released by the Trump administration this week not only fails to do that, it would rob vital and cherished social safety net programs to pay for a pittance of improvements.

It is nothing but a con.

During the campaign, in August 2016, candidate Trump said his infrastructure plan would be bigger and better than his opponent's. "I would say at least double her numbers, and you're going to really need a lot more than that," Trump said in an interview on the Fox Business Network.

Clinton said she would increase federal spending on infrastructure by $275 billion. The Trump administration this week proposed $200 billion in federal spending on the likes of roads, bridges, water systems and airports over the next decade.

That's $75 billion less than Clinton. And, Clinton said hers would be in addition to current spending. Trump slashes traditional infrastructure spending in his budget. He snatches $178 billion over a decade from existing transportation programs. The Center for American Progress calculated that altogether the Trump budget cuts $281 billion from traditional infrastructure programs over the decade.

That means the administration actually intends to spend $81 billion less on infrastructure than would otherwise be allocated. That's not bigger and better. It's smaller and worse.

Administration apologists contend that Trump's $200 billion in federal infrastructure dollars will be matched by $1.3 trillion in private, state and local investment, for a grand total of $1.5 trillion. This would shift the burden from the feds to state and local governments and private investers.

The time-honored deal was 80 percent federal dollars matched by 20 percent local. The infrastructure con would flip that, forcing state and local governments to pony up 80 percent of the cost to win 20 percent from the feds.

This comes after Republicans passed a tax break for the rich and corporations that eliminates the deduction citizens previously received for their state and local taxes. That makes it harder for states and cities to raise taxes to pay for infrastructure.

In addition, it's not like states and cities are swimming in cash. In many, state lawmakers quarrel for months over what to cut. In some, politicians who slashed essential programs like education faced citizen backlash.

This responsibility dodge was explained last month to the U.S. Conference of Mayors by D.J. Gribbin, Trump's special assistant for infrastructure. He said, "What we really want to do is provide opportunities for state and local governments to receive federal funding when they're doing what's politically hard, and increasing investment in infrastructure."

Of course, federal officials are ducking what's politically hard by failing to increase investment in infrastructure. Instead, they're telling mayors and governors to do it.

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) says that investment should be $4.59 trillion by 2025. Even if this con job managed to rustle up every cent of the demanded $1.3 trillion matching investment, the total would be $3 trillion less than the amount that the ASCE calculates is necessary to avert serious economic consequences, including $3.9 trillion in losses to GDP and 2.5 million lost jobs.

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