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Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Infrastructure projects are conservative

"Republicans Should Say ‘No’ to Trump’s Infrastructure Boondoggle" read the headline over the National Review article by Michael Tanner of the tax-exempt, donor-subsidized Cato Institute.

Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Calvin Coolidge roll their eyes and stifle giggles. What a maroon.

Infrastructure improvements are a key to economic development.

Lincoln brought us the transcontinental railroad -- an audacious idea never tried before in the history of the world. And it began in the midst of a Civil War.

Roosevelt brought us the Panama Canal.

Coolidge brought us the Hoover Dam. He signed the law, Hoover started the dam, and FDR finished it.

Eisenhower brought us the project that opened the Midwest to world markets -- the Saint Lawrence Seaway.

You thought I was going to say the interstate highways system. He brought that too. It was a pet project of his dating to his post-World War I travel by automobile across the USA.

But the Seaway in many ways was more important. We already had rail connecting the coasts. The Seaway connected the Great Lakes to the Atlantic.

Really, I do not want to read gibberish about how Trump's plan is a liberal boondoggle.

And yet I do.

From Michael Tanner:
In his famous “Speech to the Electors of Bristol,” Edmund Burke told his constituents that an elected representative owes them “his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”
Republicans in Congress were justly criticized for being supine in the face of the Obama administration. That doesn’t mean they should be equally pusillanimous when dealing with a President Trump. They should support him when his proposals make sense — and oppose him when they don’t.
One place they should start is by saying 'No' to this unaffordable and wasteful infrastructure boondoggle.
The transcontinental railroad was a boondoggle. Sure. We gave the two railroads building it land on both sides of the rail. And Lincoln was a railroad lawyer, winning at trial the seminal Rock Island Railroad case, so I suppose we could call that crony capitalism.

But the railroads opened up the West and turned America into the world's breadbasket.

The interstate exits also were a prize awarded the politically connected.

And of course the Hoover Dam gave contractors work for five years.

But make no mistake, public works projects are fundamentally conservative because they help everyone, not just a few who receive federal handouts.

You can quote Edmund Burke all day, but you cannot change the fact that infrastructure is a primary function of government.

The Constitution provides 17 things that Congress can do. Number Six is "To establish Post Offices and post Roads."

This is seed money. Plant it.


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  1. A very good point, and a great last line!

  2. It seems as if being a libertarian nowadays means destroying the lives of everyday Americans (yeah, smoke pot. Being gay is from birth, but sex and gender are constructs and can change, but you're a Nazi if you say that gays can change, so bake the damn cake "Christian".) But trying to reignite dying industries by rebuilding the infrastructure that is required for it and putting a few working class people back into jobs is anathema. Especially if they happen to be Midwestern and possibly Christian men.

  3. Yes, indeed, please use the 34 cents I pay the feds and KY each time I buy a gallon of gasoline. I pay it somewhat gladly but I expect something in return - some fixing and building on the roads I use!

    1. Right, GT...exactly. Donald should send out a nationwide ballot/list of every single federal expenditure costing more than a million dollars a year and say pick the ten that are most important to you...and then act accordingly based on the results. Mine?

      Social Security
      Immigration Reform

      Uh..and then I'd stop checking boxes.

      The snail darters in Cali deserve no more of our money.


  5. Trump is not really a conservative nor is he a liberal Republican like say Rockefeller, but he seems to be an unselfish pragmatist in a time that calls for one. He was elected because his opponents were selfish and their pragmatism was entirely self mirrored. Their replacements will be no different. The Edmund Burke and Adam Smith intelligencia are rightly afraid of him in my opinion. Liberal Republican actions under Rockefeller, a billionaire who died in the saddle after laying waste the government of New York with a welfare system and public spending policies that pulped it and made it a declining one party state, is on their minds. Nixon and GW also pillaged the Treasury without regret. Or, Will Trump sell out, as his recent confab with the charlatan Al Gore, arranged by his very liberal warmist and favorite daughter,hint he might? I don't know. But while criticism of potential action by Trump is not a sin, even if it comes from the amoral and foolish, he should be held accountable for his promises. The jury is still out on Trump. The historians and his supporters are waiting.

  6. I made the same point over at Insty yesterday, Don. One can make a case that projects like the interstate system (and yes, the Seaway, although IMHO it favored water transportation a bit unfairly) actually create real new wealth. When goods and services are transported more efficiently and economically, those goods and services increase in value to the end user without necessarily increasing in price.

    Projects like Solyndra, OTOH, produce nothing like new wealth and typically transfer real wealth from the taxpayers into the hands of political cronies. Honest infrastructure projects which are awarded to the lowest and best bidder are not crony capitalism unless the bidding is rigged.

  7. It's wrong to intervene in the economy.

    *imports workers to depress wages*

  8. We need a lot of new stuff and upgrades, but remember the 'stimulus' and let's ensure that any fed. projects have a clear positive ROI, and aren't pyramids or pink elephants. I sense a "build build build" vibe but it's got to be "honest" and of course no solyndras or wind power / biomass nonsense or roads to nowhere. Bet your bottom dollar there are a zillion hucksters looking to build useless crap at taxpayer expense.

  9. Farm Boy is correct that all projects must have a clear need and positive ROI. That is why we need to keep Congress out of Project Selection. Conservatives must remember that the "Gas Tax" is not a tax but a user fee (as long as it is used for its intended purpose) Conservatives (like me) should love user fees.

  10. The gas tax is a user fee that provides politicians a bank account to fund many things that are not highway or street related. Look what happened to our Social Security "Trust Fund".

  11. I like user fees. I heard this morning some schmuck opining on infrastructure "there are only so many user fees and so on we can charge." Oh. Really. So there is a limit on user fees. Driven by... laws of physics, or thermodynamics? Nonsense! There is no theoretical limit on user fees. Does Starbucks have a limit on user fees, or cost-shares on its drinks? Hey, I want a 50% cost share on my 2x latte. Users tend to hate them, b/c they want the taxpayer to pay for their benefits instead of them paying for it. Keep Congress out of the selection -- it has to be driven by market principles in all but the most exceptional circumstances. We have seen this over, and over, and over -- any time there is federal pork for the taking, there is a rush to the trough and money gets wasted and goes to cronies and the wealthy. Do not let Congress get their hands on tax $$, they all play the same game of trying to get as much for their cong districts/states, and the fed taxpayer gets screwed again.

  12. When did politicians decide they'd rather have their name on carbon dioxide rather than a bridge or dam or some such?

    1. A nice chunk of granite would be an awesome place for their names.