You have probably been stuck on Interstate 10 between the Malbis and Virginia Street exits at some point in your life.
Either some truck took a curve too fast or there was a wreck and those involved had nowhere to pull over and get out of traffic.
At some point in your life, you have probably also heard pleas for some high-dollar government initiative to fix our “crumbling infrastructure.”
When you hear Joe Biden wants to spend $2 trillion on “infrastructure,” you are probably like, “Heck, yeah!”
Infrastructure consistently polls high because every place in America has some road or bridge in need of improvement.
Sometimes we are even told there are “shovel-ready projects” and people out of work. All that needs to be done is for government to pick up the cost.
“Simple enough, and desperate times call for desperate measures — write the checks!”
That is the reaction Democrats on Capitol Hill are hoping for, but with the understanding that infrastructure takes on a different meaning in 2021.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer know 2022 will probably be a challenging year for Democrats. Traditionally, the party in power struggles in the midterms.
Before the 2022 election cycle gets rolling, Pelosi and Schumer want to get a lot of social spending out the door. Even if Democrats win in 2024, presumably with Biden or perhaps Vice President Kamala Harris, beyond 2022 could be a repeat of the last six years of President Barack Obama’s eight years in office.
No significant initiatives made it through. Keeping the government open was a struggle when it was Obama, Boehner, Reid and McConnell.
Democrats know they must move now because another opportunity to grow the reach of government may not come along for at least another decade.
So, what is the plan? Since infrastructure polls high, let’s dedicate money for global warming, housing, child care, food stamps, Medicaid, etc., and throw in a few hundred billion dollars for roads, bridges and mass transit. Then let us call it all “infrastructure.”
If anyone questions the basis for calling $12 billion for community colleges “infrastructure,” we will just vilify them for opposing the most critical kind of infrastructure, which is “human infrastructure.”
Will that work? Maybe. Democrats have majorities in both chambers. It would be a matter of Pelosi and Schumer keeping the caucus together.
If passed, it will be a glorious occasion. Biden will give a primetime East Room address heralding the accomplishment. There will be a signing ceremony, probably with multiple souvenir pens. The media will swoon.
It probably will not impact your life that much at first. There will be inflation, meaning prices will go up. Maybe higher taxes.
But there will likely be no money for the Interstate 10 Mobile River bridge.
All those years of Richard Shelby as the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and what do we have to show for it?
Huntsville got a boost for its space and defense industry. Birmingham bolstered health care and UAB. Montgomery got additions to Maxwell Air Force Base. You guys down in Mobile? Well, we may not have secured enough money for I-10, but how about the Port of Mobile? That is infrastructure we can be proud of, no?
By the way, who was clamoring for the expansion of the port?
But the show goes on.
There are also long-term consequences. Democrats could poison the well for so-called “infrastructure” bills for decades.
This $2 trillion boondoggle will make “infrastructure” a pejorative. If Biden’s effort goes as planned, and there are no shovel-ready projects, just a bunch of random, big government entitlement spending, no one will get out in front of infrastructure legislation for a long time.
Every time a member of Congress tries to steer federal transportation dollars to some project in their home state, Republican or Democrat, they will have flashbacks of the contorted infrastructure-in-name-only effort of 2021.
This will be quite problematic for those hoping for a federal bailout to rebuild the Mobile Bayway. The departure of Shelby and the perception of “infrastructure” being code for runaway government spending puts federal money for the project in peril.
There is always the possibility of a natural disaster and having to rebuild from scratch with the feds’ help, but that potential loss of life and property is not worth it.
Elections have consequences. So will the legislative and policymaking components that come out of those elections.
For Democrats, this is a quick fix to get more government spending out the door before gridlock arrives in Washington, D.C. For Republicans, it will be a practical talking point to use against Democrats.
For those in Alabama who are pragmatic enough to know the Bayway and other serious road and bridge projects cannot be done independently without aid from Washington, it is a significant loss.
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