Trump should “Cancel order!” of $1 trillion in spending, for now
President-elect Donald Trump should heed his own advice and “Cancel order!” for his $1 trillion spending package, at least for now.
Turns out Trump was mostly right with his recent Twitter post attacking Boeing for plans to build two new Air Force One planes for $3.75 billion.
But his aim was a little off. It’s not exclusively Boeing’s fault the government is going to spend that much on two planes.
What Trump says in 140 characters, however imperfect and ill-advised, is exactly what The Washington Post said in a front-page story this week: There is extreme waste in government contracting.
The Post found evidence that the Pentagon hid $125 billion in administrative waste, much of it funneled through contracts with private companies.
Unfortunately, the problem isn’t limited to defense. It’s rampant across the federal government’s procurement processes. And here’s the scary part. Trump is getting ready to drop something like $1 trillion in infrastructure spending in his first 100 days. Given the bipartisan agreement for some kind of stimulus, his plan almost seems inevitable.
“We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals,” Trump said during his victory speech a month ago. “We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become — by the way — second to none. And we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it.”
For that money to have any real impact on the economy, and to leave the lasting legacy of President Dwight D. Eisenhower (a name both Trump and Hillary Clinton evoked when talking about their plans), Trump will have to reform how such money is distributed and spent. But enacting meaningful reform is not going to happen in Trump’s first three months in office. Accomplishing such a task will involve taking down a legacy of cronyism and graft.
The president-elect and Congress ought to slow down their desire to saddle the nation with even more out-ofcontrol spending, and first design a system actually able to ensure the taxpayers’ money will reach intended targets.
Trump’s plan talks a good game. He pledges to “link increases in spending to reforms that streamline permitting and approvals, improve the project delivery system, and cut wasteful spending on boondoggles.”
He also pledges to “complete projects faster and at lower cost through significant regulatory reform and ending needless red tape.” Before a dime gets spent, we hope Congress backs Trump’s calls for these reforms.
Democrats can play their part in this conservativebacked spending spree by being vigilant. There are some good protections in the “red tape:” Rules and regulations that were drafted in response to a specific abuser, such as a friend of a congressman who got a lucrative contract, a history of racism and sexism in public bidding processes, and price gouging.
Can both efficiency and regulation live in harmony? Certainly.
Also, Trump’s plan emphasizes public-private partnerships and tax credits to incentivize business investments. Congress needs to set tight guardrails defining where exactly this money is headed to keep it a public infrastructure plan and not a private subsidy.
Trump should learn from the mixed results both presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush had with their stimulus spending — billions can disappear quickly without thoughtful investment and meaningful oversight.
Otherwise, Trump could find himself subject to derisive tweets that argue: “Costs are out of control. Cancel order!”