Trump’s in­fra­struc­ture plan of­fers road to nowhere

Global Times - - Editorial - By Yu Ning Page Ed­i­tor: li­u­jianxi@glob­al­times.com.cn

In his first State of the Union ad­dress, US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump promised an in­fra­struc­ture agenda that would let the coun­try “build gleam­ing new roads, bridges, high­ways, rail­ways and wa­ter­ways across our land.” His plan un­veiled on Mon­day, how­ever, looks like a shiny ho­tel made en­tirely of tofu.

Ac­cord­ing to the plan, $200 bil­lion will be cut from other fed­eral pro­grams over the next decade to fund in­fra­struc­ture projects and Trump aims to raise up to $1.5 tril­lion in to­tal by at­tract­ing in­vest­ment from state and lo­cal gov­ern­ment, as well as pri­vate firms.

The plan soon drew crit­i­cism. Some Amer­i­can an­a­lysts held that it failed to of­fer ad­e­quate fed­eral fund­ing and would place a heavy fi­nan­cial bur­den on lo­cal gov­ern­ments. They also ar­gued that pri­vate cor­po­ra­tions won’t in­vest in much-needed projects that may not re­turn a big profit.

Trump since his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign has re­peat­edly blamed the “crum­bling” state of US in­fra­struc­ture for prevent­ing the coun­try’s econ­omy from reach­ing its full po­ten­tial. Most of the coun­try’s ma­jor in­fra­struc­ture sys­tems were de­signed in the 1960s and many are reach­ing the end of their life­span.

How­ever, the path for Trump’s am­bi­tion is full of pot­holes. On the sur­face fi­nanc­ing is the big­gest ob­sta­cle. But in essence it’s mainly con­strained by the US po­lit­i­cal sys­tem, par­tic­u­larly the par­ti­san pol­i­tics.

The US doesn’t have a smooth po­lit­i­cal sys­tem to pro­mote mega projects such as over­haul­ing the coun­try’s in­fra­struc­ture sys­tem. It’s hard to win sup­port from both par­ties. The two par­ties ob­sti­nately stand against each other to win elec­tions.

The Democrats im­me­di­ately ex­pressed their op­po­si­tion af­ter Trump’s plan was re­leased. They said pri­vate-pub­lic part­ner­ships, a core con­cept of Trump’s in­fra­struc­ture plan, were a “scam” de­signed to en­rich pri­vate con­trac­tors. Democrats re­cently un­veiled their own $1 tril­lion in­fra­struc­ture pro­posal, which con­sists en­tirely of di­rect fed­eral dol­lars.

Given the po­lar na­ture of US pol­i­tics, Trump’s plan is un­likely to pass Congress. In 2011, Se­nate Repub­li­cans blocked a $60 bil­lion pro­posal of then pres­i­dent Barack Obama to re­pair bridges, high­ways and other trans­porta­tion sys­tems.

Isaac Boltan­sky, a pol­icy an­a­lyst at the re­search firm Com­pass Point, told Busi­ness In­sider that al­most no one ex­pects Congress to pass any­thing re­sem­bling Trump’s plan this year, cit­ing the “deep pol­icy di­vide over the fund­ing mech­a­nism” and the “al­ready over­bur­dened leg­isla­tive cal­en­dar.”

China’s in­fra­struc­ture con­struc­tion in re­cent years has made re­mark­able achieve­ments. The US re­gards China as a com­peti­tor. In­fra­struc­ture con­struc­tion is also a sort of com­pe­ti­tion. It’s a com­pe­ti­tion of gov­ern­men­tal ad­min­is­tra­tive ca­pa­bil­i­ties and po­lit­i­cal sys­tems.

Wash­ing­ton’s abil­ity to mo­bi­lize re­sources has never been more con­strained than it is now. The prospects for Trump’s in­fra­struc­ture plan are gloomy.

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