The $1.2 trillion “infrastructure deal” is a progressive-sounding label on old-fashioned pork. It will not grow the economy; it will not be “fully paid for,” as promised; and it will not even focus on the “roads and bridges” that are always being cited as the reason for the spending.
Though the media tell us that it will be a “huge political victory” for President Joe Biden, and a boon for Democrat-aligned interest groups, it is not clear what this bill does for the country.
Start with the economic news.
A major purpose of government investment in infrastructure is to provide the means for the private sector to generate economic activity. Public roads let firms move goods to market; aqueducts provide water to farms; trains help people get to work. Infrastructure projects also create direct and indirect jobs.
An infrastructure plan that fails to generate economic growth is worse than useless, a waste of public money that could be better spent.
So when the University of Pennsylvania Penn-Wharton Budget Model declared Thursday that the infrastructure deal would “have no significant impact” on economic growth, that ought to have ended debate on the matter.
That should also warn us that the main effect of the $1.2 trillion will be to divert capital that could actually have generated growth and will instead boost inflation even as lobbyists, unions, and the politicians who passed it eventually take their cut.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) also panned the deal, revealing Thursday that it would add a staggering $256 billion to the federal budget deficit. President Biden promised that the deal would be “fully paid for,” assuming that Congress also passed his “corporate tax plan.”
Even if taxes are raised to cover the shortfall, Biden would be asking taxpayers to pay more for a plan that will not grow the economy — in short, simply for the sake of paying the taxes.
Biden is constantly talking about how the infrastructure deal is necessary to spur investment in the technologies of the future, like the electric vehicles he was touting on Thursday. And yet the White House chose an outdated, hopelessly fossil-fuel dependent diesel locomotive as their symbol of the deal.
That reflected Biden’s romantic attachment to the Amtrak railroad service, a perpetual money loser except for the Acela line that Biden uses and which few can afford.
There was a New Deal quality to the White House advertisement — and that may be exactly why Biden likes it. He always promised to deliver the most “progressive” policies since FDR, and the $1.2 trillion deal gives him his chance.
Trump wanted to invest even more — $1.5 trillion — but to limit the federal government’s portion to $200 billion, with much of the rest coming from the private sector. That terrified Democrats and Republicans alike: no pork to spend!
What will the infrastructure deal actually do? The much-touted “roads and bridges” amount to $110 billion, less than ten percent of the total bill. The rest is a variety show that pointedly excludes “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects that are urgently needed, but which Democrats don’t like, such as the border wall or the Keystone XL pipeline.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) has proposed amendments to include them; it is notable that negotiators excluded them.
It is not clear what, in fact, Republicans obtained from their negotiations with Democrats on the deal, other than pork for their own constituents.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), that paragon of virtue, even admitted as such: “It’s fair to say if Democrats alone write an infrastructure bill, my state of Utah won’t be real happy by the time that’s done.” He had to be in on the deal, lest Utah be last in line at the trough. (I am certain there are Utahns who take a less pecuniary view.)
The Republican negotiators pride themselves on the $1.2 trillion price tag, which is something like half of what Biden initially demanded. But while Biden appeared to meet them halfway, he also promised another “infrastructure” bill, which would include everything Republicans rejected and would cost some $3.5 trillion.
Democrats still hope to push that bill through reconciliation, which Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said is a necessary prerequisite.
So there is no actual “deal” — just a vote on whether Republicans are going to share the blame for inflation, debt, and corruption. And if Blackburn’s amendments fail, then Republicans will share the blame for Biden’s decision to stop building the border wall during a migration crisis, and to kill the Keystone XL in the midst of an economic crisis.
The infrastructure deal is a swampy hoax — or, in more “progressive” terms: it restores the Washington wetlands.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.