Tom’s Take: Infrastructure is the Foundation — The Beltway Times


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President-elect Trump has laid out an aggressive policy agenda in many ways.  The question, as always, is what does he try to accomplish first?

I cast my vote for infrastructure.  It will not be the easiest choice as a Republican-held Congress will resist the spending required to upgrade our public infrastructure, but their support should be solicited by requiring they give before they get the tax reform they are keen on leading with at the start of the Trump presidency.  It will get some Democrat support as well, which might silence the chorus arguing against normalization.

If Trump is going to fill the potholes and make sure no more bridges crumble, he has to do it quickly.  Do it now while the Democrats aren’t yet in stonewall mode and while the GOP is still respectful of the victory.

Short-term political tactics aside, the reason to focus on infrastructure first is because it saves money.  Attentive observers will realize the Federal Reserve Bank is starting to raise the rates.  Artificially suppressed during the Obama Administration, the promise of three-quarter point rate hikes over the next year promises that government borrowing is going to become markedly more expensive in just a year’s time.  While that might be good for the purchasing power of the dollar, it means the sorts of bonds and other instruments which would pay for fixing our country will cost much more than 1% to finance a year from now.

It is a costly investment that Trump has estimated to be a trillion dollars, but the benefits should distribute throughout society.  Better roads will encourage more commerce, upgrades to our rail and air systems will facilitate travel along new paths, and fixing our electrical grid will save energy, reducing consumer costs in utility bills, freeing up capital for spending elsewhere.

Upgrades to our public water and sanitation systems should also be considered.  It has been disgraceful to witness the forgotten sick people in Flint, Michigan and it is frightening to consider the possibility that similar issues might arise elsewhere.  Leadership is dedicated to helping our people, and a strong message will be sent as Donald Trump acts decisively to help the black community, where in contrast Barack Obama gave them little more than a photo opportunity.  That’s how you lead, and that’s how you fix America.

Infrastructure might be a loss leader, but it connects people together in ways not easily predicted and those relationships create opportunities.  Just as roads are a network, so too is the internet, and it is worth considering what the vital infrastructure of the 21st century should include.  Could it mean improving wireless access?  It’s a discussion we should be having considering how many of our daily needs are dependent upon the information that travels over the web.  The inability to be a part of that network is a surefire way to be left off the fast lane to our nation’s future.

Whatever emerges will be a compromise between the executive and legislative branches to include input from both Republicans and Democrats alike.  But after sixteen years of gridlock, wouldn’t it be a welcome change to see a President not motivated by ideology get a bill through Congress where all the representatives actually participated?  It has been a long time since America ran properly, and before we tackle more contentious issues, doing something that has the potential to bring us together is both good politics and good policy.

Get creative about paying for it.  One hint:  There’s a major international market right now for American sovereign debt with the promise of a strengthening dollar.  Most countries offer a 50-year bond, which at historically low interest rates, might be just the ticket for our incoming President who knows more about debt and financing than any of his predecessors.

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