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the trillion dollar question
Can Trump’s Infrastructure Projects Get Past the Administrative State?

A massive infrastructure package is high on the administration’s list of priorities, but as we’ve emphasized before, actually bringing this idea to fruition will be harder than it looks. Even if Congress authorizes the spending—which can’t be done on a party line, and will therefore require the administration to show a little bit more bipartisan savvy than it has exhibited to date—new infrastructure projects are likely to be held up for years by lawsuits, convoluted procurement processes, antiquated labor rules, and bureaucratic red tape. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Many lawmakers and economists agree with President Donald Trump that America needs to fix a backlog of infrastructure needs, which the Transportation Department pegs at $926 billion. There’s a similar agreement that conservation and preservation laws have helped mitigate damage on neighborhoods and the environment.

A tour through of the nation’s thorniest infrastructure struggles shows how these two goals are often in conflict. As a result, long, costly reviews and legal battles will likely confront Mr. Trump’s efforts, just as they delayed much of President Barack Obama’s 2009 economic-stimulus efforts.

“You would have to fix some of these issues” said McKinsey & Co. partner Tyler Duvall, a DOT assistant secretary for policy in the George W. Bush administration, “in order to get the money into the system in a productive way.”

Francis Fukuyama argued before the election that there has been a “de facto conspiracy on the part of the two main political parties to block a push on infrastructure” in recent years. Republicans have opposed any further expenditures while Democrats have insisted on costly union contracts and environmental reviews that would turn any new projects into boondoggles. Trump’s particular brand of populism might be suited to cutting through this stalemate if he could persuade enough conservatives to vote for new spending in exchange for liberals dropping some gratuitous regulatory requirements.

If Trump can win money for infrastructure, then, the big question is whether his administration can also do the harder work of streamlining the project development and review and procurement processes so that the price tag and time to completion no longer dwarfs those of other industrialized countries. That would be a feat of governance. But even if it can be achieved, we can expect the hostile bureaucracy that tried to shoot down Trump’s EPA chief to keep throwing hurdles at the administration along the way.

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  • Andrew Allison

    Repeal Bacon Davis, fire obstructionist bureaucrats, fast-track review, and make environuts pay the government’s cost for nuisance lawsuits.

    • Psalms564

      Regulatory reform for pork from infrastructure project. That’s how this sausage gets made if it gets made at all.

  • Anthony

    Well, there’s always another perspective: “The way to make the American workforce more competitive…it’s to invest more (infrastructure projects perhaps) and invest better in the education and skills of Americans, in-on-the job training, in a healthcare system that reaches more of us and makes sure we stay healthy. And to give workers a say in their companies through strong unions.” http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2017/02/19/why_trumponomics_fails_133132.html

    • Psalms564

      So more direct government interference in people’s lives? No thanks. We’d rather not. Thanks for offering though. Bye bye now….

      • Anthony

        Yeah, O.K. Shalom!

        • Psalms564

          Glad we agree that your idea is stupid. Shalom!

          • Anthony

            You have a wretched view of most of humanity (your antagonism boils) – 1st Paul Krugman, now Robert Reich (the quote is his). And if you believe in “complete Shalom”, then find another manufactured virtual enemy (remember genius and stupidity as well as Pait’s famous directive: it’s best to have the…have the last word).

          • Psalms564

            Your insistence on failed government solutions was a great statement on the infinite nature of your own stupidity. So it was fitting in that way. living your own favorite statement. I admire that, I really do.

            I like the idea of small government and dislike the idea of government interference. So those who want men with guns to come to my house to tell me how to live do not get the kindest of treatments. I’ve been fairly consistent about that over the years. Why would you expect that to suddenly change?

            Also, if you can’t stand your ideas being challenged, don’t post them. I’m ready to defend my ideas. If you aren’t ready to defend yours, then may I suggest you either go away or stop acting like a little biitch. Or you can continue acting like a little biitch, free country and all. But then I may be forced to make fun of you.

          • Anthony

            This is reminiscent of Don Quixote – de la Mancha. And I repeat: the difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits while stupidity reveals in name calling and hallucination (such as having an idea to challenge – there must be a virtual villain or imagined opponent where needed).

          • Psalms564

            Blah blah blah. You have a tick of repeating the same phrase thinking it lends you an air of being profound. It doesn’t. You linked to editorial from a well known Left-winger advocating for more direct government control. You got called out on it and are now acting like a little biitch, afraid to actually defend your position.
            Yes, you are stupid. We already established that as well. You not on my intellectual level to be my opponent.

          • Anthony

            JR, you have bounced around internet trolling websites in search of imaginary opposition. Stand still my man and introspect. The search begins and ends there (within). There, JR, you may embrace the enemy (ies) you so desperately seek. Shalom wanderer.

          • Psalms564

            See, this… this is exactly what I mean. You posted a link to a stupid editorial advocating for direct government intervention. When confronted about that, you choose to obfuscate and talk about, what, exactly? My inner journey?? WTF does that even mean? Shall we talk about the inner journey you have to walk to battle your desire to fondle pre-teen boys? I mean, since we are talking about journeys and stuff….
            You can’t defend anything you say. Just like Comrade FriendlyGoat. Just like Pait. Instead you guys choose to engage in some bullshite psychobabble that sounds like a rejected line of dialogue from Days of Our Lives.
            May you search for your enemies begin and end within as well. That does sound profound in a Kung Fu panda kind of way. I do wish you would try to argue for your position, instead of running away like a little biitch. I guess some wishes are not meant to happen….

          • Anthony

            Yeah, O.K. “GOODNIGHT” (and remember Pait’s advice: it’s always best to have the..have last word, so be at it).

          • Psalms564

            More nonsense. If you can’t defend your positions, don’t present them. Whining at me won’t change that.
            I’m glad you find genocidal maniacs like Dan Greene to be important. That actually tells me quiet a bit about what a scumbag you are.
            If you feel like I’m making it inhospitable for you on these boards, feel free to leave.

          • Anthony

            Yeah, O.K. (but because you call something nonsense does not make it so). Yet, I’m not going to ruin online time with you today so follow Pait’s instruction and have…the last word, be at it.

          • Psalms564

            More nonsense. You can’t defend your positions, you like genocidal maniacs like Dan Greene and spew psychobabble. You are just a piece of shlt. It’s OK, you are not the first piece of shlt I dealt with in my life. I doubt you will be the last.

          • Anthony

            I was going to end above JR but gave you (or your type) some thought and came to coherence: a troll, a provocateur, someone whose schtick is to say…and then goad a tagged commentator into a mindless on-line charade of back and forth (a very puerile trolling at its simplest).

            “Trolling is always focused on the feeling of power it gives the troll, the power to enrage and outrage.” In the end though, it doesn’t accomplish much at all. GOODBYE JR, PSALMS564 or whatever Disqus moniker you assume – this the end.

          • Psalms564

            Can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Support genocidal anti-Semites, get called a piece of shlt. It’s pretty simple.
            Not my fault you are unable to defend your positions.

          • Angel Martin

            “This is reminiscent of Don Quixote …”

            this from the man who’s solution for America is more unions and more university degrees !

          • Anthony

            Fine your lane! Or better still, write to topic.

    • Boritz

      “And to give workers a say in their companies through strong unions.”

      Kick this off with a workshop / seminar moderated by the UAW and GM executives.

      • Anthony

        Well, you ought to read Reich’s article before satirizing UAW and GM executives as model.

    • FriendlyGoat

      Thanks for the link. The critics here probably didn’t read it, of course, but I did. As for Donald Trump, I suspect he will brag on a few unions and union workers here and there—–even as Republican government seeks to undermine their bargaining.

      • Anthony

        Reading, FG, reading has very little utility with polemic inclined. However, this quote is telling for any (not in retirement) wanting an America concerned about future citizens’ capacity: “to pay for all this, these countries also impose higher tax rates on their corporations and wealthy individuals than does the United States. And their health, safety, environmental, and labor regulations are stricter. And incidentally, they have stronger unions.”

        • ——————————

          “Reading, FG, reading has very little utility with the polemically inclined.”

          So the article you provided a link to was written by a liberal professor Trump hater from the ultra-liberal UCBerkeley…so it must be true {rolls eyes}.

          Since most of those who frequent here support Trump and his policies, perhaps your article was polemic….

          • Anthony

            I try to preclude author’s political leanings in evaluating the basic assembly of facts. Robert Reich makes an informative presentation (I linked the article not pro/con Trump). I am not concerned with who frequents TAI and will leave the polemic determination to the discerning eye.

  • KremlinKryptonite

    Anyone who stands in its way will be shamed by Trump – effectively and totally – as the infrastructure project is popular with basically everyone

  • Pait

    Is there any reason to believe that anyone in the government wants a large investment in infrastructure? If they did, wouldn’t there be some hint of the plans by now? Even some vaporware would give more confidence.

    For the sake of comparison, Obama’s ARRA was signed within a month of his taking office. We don’t even have a vague hint of what the infrastructure legislation might contain. It is possible that the present government and congress are lazy and incompetent; alternatively that they don’t have any plans for infrastructure.

    Or perhaps the huge unbelievable plans were delayed by the Bowling Green massacre and the recent terrorist attacks in Sweden.

    • Anthony

      Pait, sometimes perhaps a publication feels the need to fill space (as well as satiate the crowd).

    • Tom

      Or, alternatively, that they’re actually trying to make sure that they aren’t just spending money like drunken sailors. And I would like to apologize to any drunken sailors I have just insulted by the comparison.

      • Pait

        As Commander Data would say, “I suppose I must accept that as a possibility, although the unidirectional nature of the continuum makes it unlikely.”

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    I don’t want the Government spending any more money! TARP was a huge waste of money, did nothing for the economy, and much of the money was just stolen (looted by the Politicians and their Cronies). Let state and local governments maintain the infrastructure in their areas, and have the Federal Government butt out! The only authority over infrastructure the Constitution gives to the Federal Government is over Post Offices and Post Roads. And since nothing is enumerated about anything else, those Responsibilities and Authorities remain with the States and/or the People.

    I understand that Trump wants to dangle some bait out there to control the Politicians and Deep State bureaucrats. But, this infrastructure spending is one promise I hope Trump reneges on. Hopefully the Politicians and Deep State bureaucrats will be so greedy and intransigent, that Trump will have to go around them or give up.

    • Eurydice

      TARP was for the acquisition of toxic assets from troubled financial institutions, not about spending on infrastructure.

  • jeburke

    What success in this requires is a President who can evoke and channel broad public support for his plans. You can’t get Congressional Democrats to rally round a plan that involves their giving way on environmental or other regulatory issues, unless their constituents are at least open to it. Since Trump has done nothing since November 8th to reach out beyond his core base of support and has instead done everything to permanently anger and alienate most Democrats, it ain’t happening.

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