We’re not hearing much talk these days from Trump or his surrogates about his promise of a $1 trillion infrastructure plan. This morning, House Speaker Paul Ryan listed the top three priorities for Congress next year: repeal Obamacare, make changes to the tax code and roll back regulations. Two things that were missing from that list are border security and infrastructure.
Just a couple of weeks ago, when Steve Bannon talked to Michael Wolff, he said this:
It’s everything related to jobs. The conservatives are going to go crazy. I’m the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. With negative interest rates throughout the world, it’s the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything. Shipyards, ironworks, get them all jacked up. We’re just going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks. It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution — conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement.
Apparently Bannon’s argument was enough to get none other than Rush Limbaugh on board. Yesterday he made a perfectly Keynesian argument in favor of infrastructure spending. It was a sight to behold!
You know what this actually reminds me of, if this happens? Three initials: FDR. Let’s just play a little game here. Let’s pretend that Trump actually does follow through on his plan to rebuild airports and schools and roads and bridges. It’s exactly what happened in the 1930s.
We built — ready for this? — in a span of five to seven years, we built the Golden Gate Bridge, we built the Bay Bridge connecting Oakland to San Francisco, and the Hoover Dam, in the Depression. That money actually produced things. There were actual results from it, which created tax paying jobs, which created tax-creating incentives, expanded the tax base, and increased productivity by enabling people in California to get to and from a massive number of new jobs much sooner and easier with those bridges.
The day that Limbaugh sounds just like Paul Krugman is a day to note for the history books.
But I’m guessing that this whole Carrier deal is turning the tables on the plans for infrastructure investment. People like Pence and Ryan are loath to spend federal money on anything. And Trump was able to get endless publicity out of offering their favored approach of corporate tax cuts to save a few jobs. Let’s be clear…the promise to Carrier was for much more than the $7 million in state taxes that is being reported in the media. As I noted the other day, a Carrier source told Alan Murray that, included in the deal was a promise from Trump that their parent company’s corporate tax breaks (soon to be enacted by a Republican president and Congress) would dwarf the $65 million/year the move to Mexico was designed to save. That’s the kind of thing conservatives like Pence and Ryan want to see.
What Trump wants more than anything is the kind of attention and acclamation he’s received for saving about 800 jobs. He’ll bluster about imposing taxes/tariffs on companies that move overseas, but he’s done nothing to demonstrate that it’s anything more than empty rhetoric designed to rile up his base of supporters. What conservatives want more than anything else is a repeat of the same old “trickle-down” economics of pandering to the one-percenters with tax cuts and the gutting of regulations. The Carrier deal gave everyone exactly what they wanted. In doing so, it may have ended any plans for infrastructure investment. I’d be interested to hear what Steve Bannon thinks about that. He and Limbaugh are going to have some catching up to do.