For all the reservations many of us had about him, I think it’s fair to say that every OPMCIA member was pleased that Donald Trump proposed investing $1 trillion in revitalizing America’s infrastructure during his campaign for president. All of us applauded when he proclaimed, “We will build the next generation of roads, bridges, railways, tunnels, sea ports and airports that our country deserves.”
So when White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on May 9th, “I don’t know that there will be [an infrastructure bill] by the end of the year” and “in terms of a specific piece of legislation, I’m not aware that that will happen by the end of the year,” I had one reaction: A sense of utter betrayal.
By any definition, “Making America Great Again” requires massive investments in our infrastructure. No country with pothole-strewn highways, collapsing bridges, leaky tunnels, crumbling rail systems, deteriorating airports, and lead-filled water systems can be considered great.
So why has President Trump given up on an infrastructure bill during his first two years in office? Because it turns out that he had higher domestic priorities. One was to repeal the Affordable Care Act and take health insurance away from more than 30 million Americans. Fortunately, that effort failed.
He did succeed with his second domestic priority: Slashing taxes for corporations and the ultra-rich. But did President Trump even stop for a second to consider the fact that the $1.5 trillion he threw their way would have been far better invested in our infrastructure? Did he pause to think about how millions more good jobs would have been created rebuilding “roads, bridges, railways, tunnels, sea ports and airports?”
Apparently not. And the result is that even with seven more months to go in the current Congress, infrastructure is off the table. As columnist Jonathan Chait wrote:
[O]nce the tax cut had passed, the deficit soared, and Republicans, following the familiar script, had to start complaining about excessive spending in order to deflect blame for the deficit from their beloved tax cut. Passing a trillion-dollar debt-financed infrastructure bill might have been easy a year or six months ago. At this point, it would be difficult.
What a blown opportunity!
For OPCMIA members, our job is straightforward: To let no one, including the president, off the hook and to hold everyone’s feet to the fire. We must still demand that members of Congress pass a strong infrastructure bill this year. We must ensure that infrastructure is a top issue in this fall’s mid-term elections. And we must do everything in our power to elect candidates who don’t just talk the talk but actually walk the walk on infrastructure.
By fighting together for this essential goal, WE can be the ones to truly make America great again!
Daniel E. Stepano