BY FROMA HARROP
Democrats running for president are vowing to bring high-speed internet to rural America. President Donald Trump campaigned on the same promise. It was to be part of his big infrastructure plan. But no, there will be no big infrastructure plan.
Responding to the Democratic candidates’ reminder of a broken pledge, Trump’s former infrastructure adviser, D.J. Gribbin, told Politico: “If I were in the White House right now, I would point to the fact that we had a plan. We took a big swing.”
However, the one big swing that Trump actually connected with a ball was the giant 2017 tax cuts that will pile nearly $2 trillion onto the national debt over 10 years. And that pretty much buried any hope of $2 trillion for fixing roads or ports and bringing fast broadband to rural areas.
You may recall the tantrum with which Trump broke off an infrastructure meeting. He ranted against Democrats’ probes of him and his administration. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, he bawled, had accused him of “horrible, horrible things.”
That was quite the performance. Right after, Trump appeared in the Rose Garden behind a lectern with a sign reading, “No collusion” and “No obstruction.”
“I knew the president was not serious about infrastructure,” Pelosi remarked.
What happened was this: Republican Senators had declared the infrastructure plan dead on arrival. They would approve neither new taxes to pay for it nor spending that would further balloon deficits. Trump had to get away from this infrastructure thing real quick.
Now, how can these Senate Republicans say that, gee, they want better roads, bridges and ports, but their constituents can’t have them because of soaring deficits largely caused by the tax cuts they voted for? Easy. They deny nearly every reputable economist’s conclusion that the tax cuts put America in a very deep fiscal hole.
Vox interviewed several of them. “Hell no” was Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy’s response when asked if he’d approve $2 trillion of funding for infrastructure by raising taxes or borrowing more money.
Fair enough. But when asked if the tax cuts had drained money that could have been applied to these projects, he said, “the tax cuts are going to pay for themselves” through economic growth.
On the contrary. The tax overhaul boosted growth by an amount that would offset at most 5% of the tax revenue losses, according to the Congressional Research Service.
In a crashing non sequitur, Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho said, “The tax bill did not only not cost money, it generated revenue for the Treasury.” Nonetheless, he supports an infrastructure plan, saying, “we need to find the revenue sources for it.”
As for boosting the economy, Goldman Sachs economist Jan Hatzius sees the 3.5% growth in the second quarter as the tax law’s peak impact, CNBC’s John Harwood reports. He expects growth to soon return to the 2% levels of the Obama years.
Democratic candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota tells Iowans she’d raise money for rural broadband by raising taxes on the rich. It’s nice to see a genuine fiscal conservative running for president.
You see, voting for tax cuts without cutting spending does not make one fiscally responsible. Quite the opposite. Trump pushed for and Congress approved a two-year budget that would raise spending by $320 billion. And pretending that a tax cut is paying for itself when it’s not coming close is simply lying – unless you truly do not get it.
And so there’s no infrastructure plan. America’s water systems, airports and electric grids will have to muddle through for the foreseeable future. And many rural kids still won’t be able to do homework in their homes.