The Great Infrastructure Scam of 2018

Here's some infrastructure work near my house. There's a lot of it going on right now! You may be wondering how we manage to fund this, so here's how we did it. First, the state of California raised its gas tax by 12 cents per gallon to raise $34 billion for new construction projects. Second, Orange County raised its sales tax by half a cent in 1990, and then renewed it in 2006 to pay for an additional $13 billion in local projects. Third, the neighborhood I live in is currently repaving all its streets and building new curb cuts for the disabled. The money for this comes from association dues. All three of these have one thing in common: they tax residents in order to raise actual money to pay for infrastructure improvements. This is how adults do it.Photo by Kevin Drum

So. Donald Trump’s $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan. As near as I can tell, here’s the skinny:

  • It’s really more like a $1 trillion plan.
  • States are expected to put up $800 billion.
  • The federal government will put up $200 billion.
  • But the money will be taken from other projects.

In other words:

  • Net new spending from the federal government will be zero.
  • The incentives to states will be far too small to prompt any truly new development—though I have no doubt that states will compete ferociously to get federal money for projects they were going to do anyway.
  • The private sector will get involved only if they can make money via tolls, use fees, etc. That is to say, taxes.

In yet other words:

  • There is nothing there. There will be no new publicly-funded infrastructure.

Would anybody care to tell me if I’m missing anything here?

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

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We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

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Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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