Every day, as I either skirt around or clunk into and out of potholes, I’m reminded of our crumbling infrastructure and of the lame political promises of the Trump administration to fix our roads, bridges, airports, water and sewer pipes and more. Just before the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland Florida, Donald Trump’s presented his infrastructure plan with great flourish. But, like so many other lies he has told, this proposal is a fraud.
Do not be fooled by the idea that what the President proposes is a great idea because it envisions $1.5 trillion to be spent on roads, bridges, airports, and other parts of our antiquated and long-ignored infrastructure. It’s an abdication of responsibility that could ultimately undermine our economy.
Eighth district Congressman Michael Capuano of Somerville sits on the House Transportation Committee. Speaking last week before the New England Council, Capuano blew a hole in any hope that the President’s proposed infrastructure bill offers hope of upgrading our roads, bridges, airports, communications networks, or, for that matter, any real opportunity for meaningful bipartisanship.
Here’s why. In the old days, infrastructure costs were covered 80 percent by the federal government and 20 percent by cities and states. Then it slipped to a fifty-fifty sharing of costs (e.g. Green Line extension). But the President’s proposal calls for a whopping 87 percent to be paid by cities and states, with the feds paying a measly 13 percent. Plus, there are limitations on the kinds of projects that would even be eligible for those limited matching funds. That means there simply will be no more big infrastructure projects. “If the cities and states had the money, they’d be doing the projects now,” said Capuano. The federal government should not be taken out of the transportation business.
If you have any doubts about the President’s intentions, please note that the same day Trump outlined his infrastructure plans, he also presented a proposed federal budget that slashes funds for transportation by more than the parsimonious amount he laid out in the infrastructure proposal. What a cynical game he is playing!
Infrastructure is just one of many discrete issues on which the Administration is dead wrong. Think immigration, environment, consumer protection, trade, ethics, transparency. The question is whether the Democrats can weave those free-standing issues into a unified message that will resonate in this fall’s elections and beyond. It’s not enough just to be anti-Trump. Failure to win back the House or the Senate in 2018 will signal to Donald Trump that the country likes things just the way they are. We can expect the situation to go from worse to worst.
Fortunately, that unifying message, while of paramount importance in a presidential race, and somewhat true in a Senate race, is less important in House races, which are more parochial. House campaigns are more likely to be fought neighborhood by neighborhood, knocking on doors across a congressional district. And that suits self-described “street fighter” Capuano, who has well served his district and the Commonwealth, just fine.