President Trump promised his plan to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure would result in $1.7 trillion in overall investment in the next 10 years. So far, the Republican-dominated Congress has allocated $21 billion, or slightly less than 1 percent of the president’s goal.
Among Mr. Trump’s top economic plans – tax cuts, deregulation, renegotiated trade deals and infrastructure – infrastructure is the area where he has accomplished the least.
As the mid-term elections approach, Congress plans to move only a few small pieces of legislation forward, mostly those reauthorizing funding for existing programs. We shouldn’t expect any massive new investment on the order Mr. Trump had promised.
As I’ve traveled the 8th District, infrastructure is one of the key areas people want addressed. But, it has repeatedly slipped down the congressional priority list because the two sides can’t agree on a funding source. Even the administration’s “infrastructure week” became a running joke as it was filled with unrelated events and issues.
Prominent Republican lobbyists have said an infrastructure bill isn’t a congressional priority and the White House has only detailed $200 billion in federal spending. When the U.S. Chamber of Commerce pushed for a 25-cent increase in the gas tax – the first increase since 1993 – which would have generated almost $400 billion in new revenue, GOP leaders and the Koch network shut them down.
It’s time for visionary thinking and we need to find a way to build America’s future. Most estimates predict a $1.5 trillion plan would generate more than 290,000 jobs. $200 billion in federal spending won’t get the job done and isn’t a realistic starting point in negotiations with Congress. At a time when more than 80 percent of Americans believe we should invest more, our leaders have left us deeply disappointed.
There are pockets of America that are lagging behind in the economic recovery, with some experiencing hourly wage increases of as little as 7 cents over the past year. We can do more to address the needs of Americans who have been left behind in the 21st century economy.
The people who are most likely to take construction jobs have left the labor force in the last two decades. Recent studies noted that the labor participation rate for men without a high school diploma fell by 10 percent to just 76 percent between 2000 and 2015. A major infrastructure program investing in transportation and energy would be an investment in people who have given up on finding meaningful work.
I’ve always said that every challenge presents an opportunity. Opportunity is what infrastructure investment is all about. That’s why more than 80 percent of Americans support it. It has the potential to connect businesses to customers, cities to farms, students to colleges, friends and families to each other. When we open up opportunities for new energy, we create more than new high-paying jobs. Increasing domestic energy lowers prices. The more energy independent we become the less vulnerable we are to disruptions in supplies caused by transportation, politics or even wars.
Former members of Congress know there is no need to delay investments. We must do everything we can in a new Congress to move forward with these investments in our critical infrastructure needs. The American people want it, the economy needs it, and our future depends on it.
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