This post was originally published on Lew Rockwell.
Pres. Trump has proposed a $1 trillion boondoggle. He wants to spend this money on infrastructure. This is going to put Obama’s shovel-ready, anti-recession boondoggle to shame.
Only it isn’t going to happen. It didn’t happen for Obama, either. Here is what happened — or didn’t happen.
Back in 2009, former President Barack Obama made some lofty promises about the infrastructure overhaul that his $800 billion economic stimulus plan would provide. Obama used the phrase “shovel-ready projects” in reference to construction projects that could begin right away.In the end, however, only $98.3 billion of the $800 billion stimulus was dedicated to transportation and infrastructure. Of that $98.3 billion, only about $27.5 billion was actually spent on transportation infrastructure projects. Why?
“The problem is that spending it out takes a long time, because there’s really nothing – there’s no such thing as shovel-ready projects,” Obama said in a 2010 interview with the New York Times.
When it comes to economic stimulus, local governments may take years to begin actual construction even once they receive funding. The reason why such a small portion of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 ended up spent on infrastructure is that the projects are simply too slow to get off the ground to provide meaningful near-term stimulus.
That was Obama, who had a majority in both Houses of Congress and an electorate in panic mode over a recession. Here is what Trump has.
First, he is so tied up with special prosecutors and investigators that he is never going to get anything through Congress. For the next 3 1/2 years, there will be no major Trump political victories. Count on it.
Second, bureaucracies at the state and federal level are going to see to it that not one of his projects is launched, let alone completed. Even if he gets this boondoggle through Congress, which he won’t, it will do his legacy no good. Another President, probably elected in 2024, will get the credit. But I may be too optimistic. Maybe it will be the President who is elected in 2032.
Trump is frustrated. I can hardly blame him. In a recent post on the White House website, he offered this cry of woe.
We are here today to focus on solving one of the biggest obstacles to creating this new and desperately needed infrastructure, and that is the painfully slow, costly, and time-consuming process of getting permits and approvals to build. And I also knew that from the private sector. It is a long, slow, unnecessarily burdensome process.My administration is committed to ending these terrible delays once and for all. The excruciating wait time for permitting has inflicted enormous financial pain to cities and states all throughout our nation and has blocked many important projects from ever getting off the ground. Many, many projects are long gone because they couldn’t get permits and there was no reason for it. . . .
For too long, America has poured trillions and trillions of dollars into rebuilding foreign countries while allowing our own country — the country that we love — and its infrastructure to fall into a state of total disrepair. We have structurally deficient bridges, clogged roads, crumbling dams and locks. Our rivers are in trouble. Our railways are aging. And chronic traffic that slows commerce and diminishes our citizens’ quality of life. Other than that, we’re doing very well.
Instead of rebuilding our country, Washington has spent decades building a dense thicket of rules, regulations and red tape. It took only four years to build the Golden Gate Bridge and five years to build the Hoover Dam and less than one year to build the Empire State Building. People don’t believe that. It took less than one year. But today, it can take 10 years and far more than that just to get the approvals and permits needed to build a major infrastructure project.
These charts beside me are actually a simplified version of our highway permitting process. It includes 16 different approvals involving 10 different federal agencies being governed by 26 different statutes.
As one example — and this happened just 30 minutes ago — I was sitting with a great group of people responsible for their state’s economic development and roadways. All of you are in the room now. And one gentleman from Maryland was talking about an 18-mile road. And he brought with him some of the approvals that they’ve gotten and paid for. They spent $29 million for an environmental report, weighing 70 pounds and costing $24,000 per page.
And I said, do me a favor. I’m going to make a speech in a little while. Do you mind if I take that and show it? So I’m going to show it. So they spent millions and millions of dollars. When I said, how long has this short roadway been talked about, the gentleman said, well, if you say 20 years, you’re safe. I said, yeah, don’t say anymore because I have to be — you know, I have to be exactly accurate with these people. I was off by like two months — it’s a major front-page story.
But these binders on the stage could be replaced by just a few simple pages, and it would be just as good. It was actually be much better. Because these binders also make you do unnecessary things that cost billions and billions of dollars and they actually make it worse.
As another example, the 23 — if you look at it, in Ohio, the Ohio River Bridge — $2.3 billion. The project amassed a 150,000-page administrative record — 150,000 pages is a five-story-tall building. Think of it. If you put the paper together, it’s a five-story building.
The monstrosity of the federal bureaucracy is unstoppable. Trump will not change it. No one will change it. Only one thing will change it: the bankruptcy of the federal government. That day is coming a lot sooner than most politicians in Washington are willing to admit or even consider.
The federal government is a blind, lumbering giant. There is no central plan. There is no willingness in Congress to cut the budgets of any of the bureaucracies. The civil courts are clogged with other issues besides bureaucratic issues. The paperwork gets more obscene in its magnitude. This paperwork is never reduced; it always increases.
The bureaucrats have created lifetime employment for themselves. All they have to do is drag their feet. They need only require another form. Then require another study. They have the power to block virtually any project. This is not a hypothetical power. This power is used continually. The longer they delay the implementation of any project, the longer their careers will last. The more forms they require, the more employees they hire. The more employees they hire, the faster they get their promotions.
This post was originally published on Lew Rockwell.