When President Trump announced the first big cuts in the massive funding for the nation’s roads, bridges and bridges during his inauguration, both the New York Times and The Nation magazine took him to task. “If that does in fact become the administration’s line,” Times columnists Frank Bruni and Ross Douthat wrote, “we can be pretty certain that Democrats and progressives will fight fiercely to protect money for infrastructure.” There are simple reasons for that. Building infrastructure can keep America moving, creating jobs and generally giving Americans a better quality of life. And the trouble with Trump’s proposal was that it would lock in a very large deficit and a very large increase in the national debt. The long-term effects of such a debt — which puts upward pressure on interest rates, while adding to the interest we have to pay, reducing the total national product — cannot be avoided.
The left is saying, let’s “put some money in the bank” for spending on infrastructure when a dire need for it becomes obvious. And while to someone without much knowledge of America’s infrastructure, that might sound like a good idea, the budgeting method proposed by the administration is wholly unacceptable, in that it won’t build the country but would instead drive up the debt.
Bruni and Douthat blame Trump for not developing an infrastructure policy that would represent an alternative way of approaching spending. But not a lot of conservative infrastructure experts would disagree that a conservative approach to transportation would mean lower taxes and lower spending, which would be far more desirable for a billionaire like Trump who is as fixated on turning a profit as any real estate investor. Because of this, he will have to rely upon either continuing cuts to non-military, non-defense federal spending or cuts to the Pentagon, which is a bad idea since Republican budget proposals prioritize defense over everything else.
The Right has long claimed that spending cuts are needed to reduce the national debt, though they never mention what programs are to be slashed. But if we start slashing tax credits, we’ll leave ourselves with nothing but money lying around, and will wind up raising taxes on middle-class Americans to pay for cuts that have nothing to do with helping the nation. Taking into account the actual cost to create jobs by building infrastructure, it seems clear that there is a real upside to a patriotic program of funding it. It also would have a real impact on national security.