Talking about real money

In retrospect, President Trump should have chosen his words more carefully.

Who knew, right? That the man with the silver tongue would end up hoisting himself on his own petard as it were.

If Trump, eager to show his art of the deal making acumen, had just said that he made a deal with House leaders to spend “a gazzion bazillion” dollars on infrastructure, then everything would have been hunky dory. Because we all understand that a “gazillion bazillion” is shorthand for a lot of dough-ray-me. 

But he didn’t. 

Instead, Trump boasted that he and House Democrats had agreed to spend $2 trillion on infrastructure. 

And you know what they say in the D.C. Swamp. A trillion dollars here, a trillion dollars there. Pretty soon you’re talking about real money.”

And here’s the thing. No doubt those liberal taxers and spenders in the House would be delighted to spent $2 trillion on asphalt….or on anything else for that matter. That’s what liberal taxers and spenders do. 

But somebody must have whispered in the President’s pink ear that the only thing Senate Republicans would possibly pay $2 trillion for is still more tax breaks for the rich and shameless. 

So what’s a President to do? The only thing he could do was storm into a meeting with House Democratic leaders, glare at them for a designated number of seconds, and then storm out into the Rose Garden and announce to the press that he is shocked (shocked) to discover that Nancy Pelosi uttered the words “cover up.” Thus shoving infrastructure off the table. 

Listen, Congress can build roads or it can investigate the President. It can’t do both. 

In response Pelosi suggested that Trump needs an intervention. But I’m prepared to give the Prez the benefit of a doubt on this one. I think it’s very possibly the sanest and most rational thing Trump has done to date.

Because deciding to spend $2 trillion on infrastructure without first deciding how to spend it is nuts. 

In autoAmerican political speak “infrastructure” means new roads. It doesn’t mean clean water or modern airports or high speed rail or deeper ports or any of the other things politicians mention – but aren’t serious about – when Infrastructure Week and election years roll around.

Here in Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature just decided that infrastructure means throwing billions of dollars at new toll roads that will run through vast areas of rural lands sorely in need of sprawl development. We’ll be paying that bill for decades to come, even as thousands of miles of existing roadways sprout potholes like warts. 

Politicians, like kids at birthday parties, want shiny new things they can show off to the folks back home. Like new interstate interchanges and ever wider traffic-stacking stroads. They throw billions at new lane miles, thousands at existing road repairs and pennies at transit.  

The result being a prescription for autoAmerican bankruptcy.

“As of 2017, we estimate that we would need to spend $231.4 billion per year just to keep our existing road network in acceptable repair and bring the backlog of roads in poor condition into good repair over a six-year period,” says “Repair Priorities,” the latest collaborative study from Transportation For America and Taxpayer for Common Sense. “By comparison, all highway capital expenditures across all government units totaled $105.4 billion in 2015, only a portion of which goes to repair. It is significantly more expensive to rehabilitate roads that have fallen into poor repair than to preserve roads in good condition on an ongoing basis through routine pavement preservation.”

I doubt either Trump or Pelosi has read the study. And I suspect that Trump’s eyes would glaze over long before he got to the part explaining that continually prioritizing new roads over basic repair “is an ever deepening money trap. “Every new lane-mile of road costs approximately $24,000 per year to preserve in a state of good repair. By expanding roads, we are borrowing against the future.”

So I don’t really care why Trump pulled the plug on his $2 trillion pact with the Democrats. Next year is an election year and if past if prologue a lot of politicians want to peg their reelection hopes on new roads to nowhere. 

Or at least as much hot asphalt as a bazillion gazillion dollars will pay for.

Author: floridavelocipede

A sometime journalist who used to string words together for a living before I retired to run a non-profit cycle touring organization that will henceforth go unnamed, as I have subsequently retired from that career as well. I write a bi-monthly column, theater reviews and an occasional magazine piece for my old newspaper. If I still had a business card it would read: Ron Cunningham: Trained Observer Of The Human Condition. Because like The Donald, you know, ego.

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