The US Senate on Tuesday (10) approved a 2,702-page infrastructure bill, which contains colossal spending of $ 1.1 trillion. The law will now go to the Chamber of Deputies, which will assess it in September.
After months of negotiations, 19 Republicans and all 50 Democrats backed the measure. The 19 Republicans include Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, plus Roy Blunt of Missouri, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Shelley Moore captain of West Virginia, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Kevin Cramer of Dakota of North Carolina. North, Mike Crapo from Idaho, Deb Fischer from Nebraska, Lindsey Graham from South Carolina, Chuck Grassley from Iowa, John Hoeven from North Dakota, Lisa Murkowski from Alaska, Rob Portman from Ohio, James Risch from Idaho, Mitt Romney from Utah, Dan Sullivan from Alaska, Thom Tillis from North Carolina and Roger Wicker from Mississippi.
(South Dakota’s Mike Rounds, who spoke against the final bill, lost the vote because of his wife’s cancer treatments, The Hill reported.)
This support from both sides can give the impression that the legislation is somewhere in the middle, as is the case with most infrastructure projects.
But that couldn’t be further from the truth, the project gives the left big victories on several fronts:
1. Prepare a $ 3.5 trillion partisan social spending program
Leading Democrats have vowed that the infrastructure project will not become law unless it is mated to a $ 3.5 trillion package, passed under party guidelines through a budget rule known as reconciliation name.
The Senate will work on its wording this week, with detailed instructions for several key committees. The goals outlined so far appear to be a progressive wishlist: widespread expansion of social protection, higher taxes that will kill jobs, aggressive climate agenda, attempted amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants, etc.
Finalizing the infrastructure bill would only serve to speed up the biggest spending and tax hike program in history.
2. Demonstrate Republican support for rising deficits just before the debt ceiling fight
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the bill will increase the deficit by $ 256 billion. That’s a lot, because it doesn’t have a $ 118 billion Highway Guarantee Fund bailout.
This means that the bill will actually add at least $ 2,900 per family to US debt.
Given that the debt is already over $ 220,000 per family and growing, this is a prime example of the financial irresponsibility of American leaders.
Timing is particularly problematic as there is a significant and looming battle over the US debt limit. The limit, which expired on July 31, will need to be readjusted soon to avoid a credit crunch.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Republicans would not support a frantic increase in the debt ceiling given the broad spending program Democrats are planning. There is solid logic behind McConnell’s position, as long as increases in the debt ceiling come with reforms to reduce future deficits.
Supporting a debt-ridden infrastructure package just before debating its limit could weaken this position.
3. Incorporate left-wing concepts of “social justice” and climate into infrastructure
Infrastructure has traditionally been more about practicality than sentimentality or fashions.
However, the bill would integrate various progressive causes into federal policy, such as obsession with “fairness”, giving special treatment to “disadvantaged” groups, establishing a new bureaucracy to increase the number of female drivers. trucks; and the Digital Fairness Act, which includes expanding Internet access for inmates.
The bill also plans to spend tens of billions of dollars on subsidies for electric vehicles and charging points, electric buses, electric ferries, “green” power generation, mandatory “change” reporting. climate ”and even half a billion dollars to try to cool the streets of cities. .
Again, progressive militant groups are demanding dramatic increases in spending going forward, which will be much easier once climate-related programs are in place.
4. Activate an anti-car schedule
The United States is a huge country with a much lower average population density than countries like China, Europe, and Japan, which is why cars and roads are the best way to meet the vast majority. transportation needs.
However, the left has a long standing agenda of trying to get Americans out of the car no matter what is feasible. Many of the programs included in the Infrastructure Bill are designed to move this agenda forward.
Since federal initiatives often gain momentum over time, allowing these provisions to take hold is a very bad idea. They understand:
Federal funding for local projects involving “traffic calming”. This is closely linked to the leftist concept of “road regimes” endorsed by Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg. In other words, it’s about deliberately slowing down traffic and creating traffic jams. While the bill does not directly impose a federal tax on kilometers driven, it provides $ 125 million for studies and pilot projects to encourage state governments in this direction. $ 1 billion for a “community reconnection” program that would destroy highways in urban areas. The Biden administration’s “infrastructure” plan called for $ 20 billion, and several militant groups are already calling for more. Politicians often (and incorrectly) cite “ruined roads and bridges” to justify infrastructure spending, but in this case, ruined roads would be the goal. Spend as much of new spending on public transportation and intercity railroads as it does on highways, although rail and rail transportation account for a tiny fraction of US travel. Campaigners are demanding equal funding for roads and public transport, and the Senate bill is a big step in that direction.
5. Give more power to the capital Washington
For more than a century, one of the main goals of the progressive movement has been to expand the size and reach of the federal government. It has taken many shapes and sizes.
In some cases, that means Washington is taking responsibility for things that are normally controlled at the local level.
The Senate bill states that $ 55 billion will be spent on local water supply systems, which in many cases will mean the emancipation of municipal governments that have neglected one of their core functions.
In other cases, it is “Uncle Sam” giving checks to state governments involving many liabilities.
The Senate Infrastructure Project creates dozens of programs in which bureaucrats from Buttigieg and the Department of Transport decide how to distribute more than $ 100 billion in infrastructure grants. Buttigieg stressed that he would prioritize progressive goals related to race and “fairness” in such decisions.
The most insidious is when the federal government gets involved in the private sector. The Senate bill does this in two main areas: energy and broadband internet.
A total of $ 138 billion would go to a variety of grants, fees and government-run businesses that compete with private providers.
But the swelling of the federal Leviathan is not just a problem for conservative supporters of limited government. The reduction in the power of state and local governments turns federal elections into a winner-takes-all competition.
Rather than trying to impose a single version across all 50 states and thousands of municipalities, Americans would be better off under the founding principle of federalism.
6. Bury the “user pays” principle
Historically, it has been understood that the people who use the infrastructure should be responsible for paying for it. We see this in the form of things like road tolls, utility charges, and airport charges that are part of the cost of flying.
This common sense approach serves to prevent bad infrastructure projects from starting, because if no one wants to pay for it, it won’t start.
However, the left has continuously inserted a number of non-road programs into the Federal Highway Guarantee Fund, which is primarily funded by the federal fuel tax.
Every year, billions of dollars are transferred to public transport, bike paths, streetcars, sidewalks and ferries, at the expense of motorists nationwide.
The Senate Infrastructure Project would develop this flawed approach by funding new infrastructure spending from independent sources, many of which (such as the Strategic Oil Reserve and radio wave auctions) spend on budget gimmicks.
Providing bipartisan endorsement of infrastructure funding by non-users is a dam-breaking threat for years to come, especially for the high-priced, low-demand white elephants that left-wing activists adore.
And even those six items don’t cover all of the 2,702-page monster’s issues.
It is difficult to express to what extent the Senate infrastructure bill would definitely leave American politics on the left, which is why it is imperative that the House put the brakes on when it resumes the bill in September.
David Ditch is a policy analyst specializing in budget and transportation policy at the Grover M. Hermann Center for the Federal Budget at the Heritage Foundation.
© 2021 The Daily Signal. Posted with permission. Original in English.