Trump’s infrastructure plan offers road to nowhere

By Yu Ning Source:Global Times Published: 2018/2/13 22:33:40

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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