By State Representative, Leon D. Young
Donald Trump delivered his first address, as president, before a joint session of Congress last week, and it was a surreal experience — to say the least. The usually bombastic and generally caustic Trump appeared to adopt a different tone in delivering his speech, which was noticeably short on specifics, but heavily laden with populist themes that helped him capture the White House
More specifically, Trump called on Congress to work with him on a myriad of initiatives that included: overhauling health care, changing the tax code and rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure and military. I was intrigued by his call for a new program of national rebuilding.
President Trump took glee in noting that another Republican president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, initiated the last great national infrastructure program [Fact check: This is completely true]. His initiative culminated in the building of the interstate highway system in the 1950s.
Per Trump, the time has come for a new program of national rebuilding. And, to launch this national rebuilding project, the president will be asking Congress to approve legislation that produces a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure of the United States, which will in turn create millions of new jobs.
Really? How quickly we forget. When President Barack Obama tried to do it, a Republican-led Congress fought him at almost every turn. And, thus the nation lost a golden opportunity to jump-start our sagging economy.
Critics of Trump’s infrastructure plan are again sounding the alarm that his approach is nothing more than a trap. Moreover, these same critics contend that Trump’s proposal is neither a jobs nor infrastructure plan.
The plan provides tax breaks to private-sector investors who back profitable construction projects; not to mention that the plan does not directly fund infrastructure projects like new roads or airports.
The argument is also advanced that because the plan subsidizes investors, not projects; because it funds tax breaks, not bridges; because there’s no requirement that the projects be otherwise unfunded, there is simply no guarantee that the plan will produce any net new hiring.
This begs the question: Who would stand to benefit from Trump’s infrastructure plan? It seems clear that this plan would add substantially to the national deficit, while greatly helping investors — and not workers.
Trump may employ populist rhetoric in speaking, but offers policy initiatives intended to benefit members of his own elk: the very rich.