President-elect Donald J. Trump’s policy initiatives are long on rhetoric and short on details, which is why his plan to spend $1 trillion over 10 years to fix America’s dis- integrating and inadequate infrastructure prompts many questions.
At the top of the list is this: How realistic is Trump’s idea of financing the work with a series of tax credits for private companies?
The soon-to-be Republican president contends that the money lost to the U.S. Department of Treasury through the tax credits would be made up by increased personal income taxes paid by workers hired on projects and by business taxes paid by construction companies that hire them.
This major departure from the traditional method of funding public infrastructure projects – taxpayer dollars – will undoubtedly generate a lot of discussion, both in Congress and around the country.
But what is not in doubt is the urgent need to fix the nation’s roads, bridges, public transit, railroads, energy system, schools, public parks, ports, airports, waste systems, levees, dams, drinking water facilities and hazardous-waste installations in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
According to the Federal Highway Safety Administration, about 60,000 bridges – about 10 percent of the total – are classified as deficient.
The American Society of Civil Engineers reveals about one-third of the major roads are in poor or mediocre condition. Potholes alone cost American drivers $3 billion a year in repairs to their vehicles.
Finally, the Federal Aviation Administration estimates that airport congestion and flight delays cost the country $31 billion annually.
With the civil engineers organization giving the nation a D+ for infrastructure, Trump has made the improvement program a centerpiece of his administration’s agenda.
Third World countries
Indeed, during the election campaign, the billionaire businessman from New York City often compared many of the major airports to those in the Third World. “We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none,” he said.
On the night of his surprise victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton, Trump left little doubt about his plan to put Americans to work by launching a $1 trillion, 10-year infrastructure rebuilding program.
“We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports,” he said.
Democrats in Congress and Democratic officeholders around the country should be willing to set aside their deep-seated philosophical disagreements with Trump and support the infrastructure initiative. The reason is obvious: Thousands of jobs will be created, with many of them in the nation’s older urban centers.
Indeed, given the experience – some would say negative experience – of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the economic stimulus launched by President Barack Obama during the Great Recession, we would suggest that it is not too early for the Mahoning Valley to be prepared.
One of the complaints about the American Recovery act was that it focused on shovel-ready projects. As a result, many communities were left out because they didn’t have projects that were ready to go.
We, thus, urge local government officials and economic development specialists in the region to compile a list of projects that could be launched on Day One. Why is that important? Because the Trump initiative could easily be derailed by the fickle nature of politics.
While Trump envisions an infrastructure improvement program lasting a decade, there’s no guarantee it will survive beyond his first term.
Given the unusual financing mechanism the president-elect has proposed, opposition is already growing. Liberals in Congress and around the country are accusing the political newcomer of not only providing contractors with tax credits, but also giving them control over the nation’s transportation network.
It is noteworthy that while Trump is aiming for a $1 trillion initiative, the American Society of Civil Engineers has determined it would take $3.6 trillion to correct all the infrastructure deficiencies.