Democrats Counter Trump’s Non-Infrastructure Plan With a Real One

A few weeks ago Donald Trump released his so-called infrastructure plan that basically took federal funds from elsewhere to use as incentives for states and private entities to spend their own money. It was a non-starter for everyone involved. Then Sen. Cornyn put the nail in its coffin by declaring that it wasn’t a priority for Republicans.

This week Senate Democrats have taken ownership of the issue by releasing an infrastructure plan of their own. They’ve titled it “A Jobs and Infrastructure Plan for America’s Workers.” But the tag line is pure genius: “Returning the Republican Tax Giveaways for the Wealthy to the American People.”

Before getting to what that means, here’s a summary of the proposal:

Major ticket items include $140 billion to repair roads and bridges, $115 billion for water and sewer infrastructure, $115 billion to update public transportation, and $40 billion to enable universal high-speed internet access.

For the power and cleantech sectors, the proposal includes an attractive $80 billion to “bring innovation to America’s energy grid.” That funding would go toward research, development and demonstration programs for “energy storage and other advanced grid technologies, including microgrids and distribution-level investments” and would “help integrate more renewable energy onto the grid, empower consumers, improve the security of the grid, and help meet electricity demand.”

Smart buildings, smart transportation systems and smart grid technologies would also benefit from the $80 billion carve-out. In addition, the federal government would invest directly in advanced building management and controls at government-owned facilities under the Democratic plan, which states that smart technologies have the potential to increase U.S. GDP by 25 percent to 40 percent by 2030.

In addition to upgrading this country’s infrastructure, Democrats suggest that the plan would create 15 million good-paying jobs.

What is getting more attention than the amount of spending proposed or the jobs created is the plan for how to pay for these investments.

To pay for the $1 trillion plan, Democrats propose reversing certain tax breaks. For instance, the corporate tax rate, which was slashed from 35 percent to 21 percent under the Republican plan, would climb back to 25 percent under the Democratic plan. Democrats would also restore the estate tax exemption to $11 million for couples, after the GOP bill doubled it.

Of course, this proposal has no chance of passing in the current congress. But what it provides is a stark contrast for voters this November. What Democrats will say is that their Republican colleagues voted to give millions of dollars to wealthy individuals and corporations via tax cuts. As an alternative, Democrats would repeal those parts of the tax bill and spend that money on infrastructure, creating 15 million jobs in the process. How do you think that will play in Senate races in Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin, to name just a few?

The next time you hear a patronizing pundit suggest that Democrats need to run on something other than being anti-Trump, rest assured that they are woefully uninformed.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.