Few Americans would argue that this nation is the richest on Earth, or that there is enough money to make America the greatest nation on the planet. However, Republicans have made no secret that their ardent belief is that all of the nation’s wealth belongs, by god’s will, to the richest one percent and spending one penny to improve this pathetic crumbling nation is an abomination bordering on religious sacrilege. It was encouraging, if for no other reason than someone is saying it out loud, to hear Senator Bernie Sanders pledge that if elected president he will make rebuilding and repairing the nation’s third rate and crumbling infrastructure a high priority.
It is likely that Senator Sanders was sending a message to the Koch brothers that regardless they currently control government spending, he intends on appealing to the people for support to invest in America. Something Republicans oppose regardless Americans’ lives have been lost and are increasingly in danger due to America’s substandard transportation infrastructure.
It is curious that Republicans claim to be the “pro-life” party, and yet their willingness to cut spending for Amtrak revealed that they have no problem refusing to spend on infrastructure that literally kills Americans. There are no valid reasons for not spending profusely on repairing and rebuilding the nation’s decrepit infrastructure. There are, however, at least three very important reasons why Bernie Sanders called for substantial infrastructure spending when he officially launched his presidential campaign.
First, spending on the nation’s infrastructure is a necessary and unavoidable investment in the country and failing to do so in a timely manner increases the deficit in real terms and postponing repairs will only cost more down the road. It also is a boon to the nation’s economy because it improves the gross domestic product and impacts America’s competitiveness on the world market. Last, but not least, it is beyond dispute infrastructure investment is one of the most obvious sources for job creation that leads to increased tax revenue, reduced need for social welfare spending, and reduces poverty. Also, for most Americans, spending on infrastructure projects is wildly popular and a top priority that at one time enjoyed the greatest bipartisan support. However, that was before America was ripped apart by racist religious teabaggers, Republicans, Ayn Rand devotees, and anti-government conservatives bent on starving the government into bankruptcy.
America stopped being a bipartisan nation when Barack Obama won the Presidency in 2008 due to constant propaganda from Republicans and conservative media. The result is that today there are two Americas; one that believes the nation is a “United States” of America, and one dominated by the “real Americans clutching their guns, god, and Constitution” that reside primarily in the Republican-controlled former Confederacy and Midwest. Subsequently, there is a valid opinion that since Republicans predominate the Confederate states, they are unwilling to support one penny of funding for the heaviest center of infrastructure in the Northeast and West coast. It is, as one commenter noted, nothing less than a Republican “bipartisan scandal” putting America in a precarious position as the wealthiest nation on Earth with the infrastructure of a second-rate developing nation. It is why when the Northeast was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, Republicans had to set aside the so-called “Boehner rule” to garner Democratic votes because only 70 House Republicans would vote for hurricane relief for those “damn Yankees” that are not real Americans because they are not Republican states.
Republicans like Paul Ryan already pledged two weeks ago that regardless the Amtrak derailment, crumbling bridges, and roads barely fit for foot traffic, Republicans would not fund any infrastructure improvements to, as Ryan said, “save money.” However, Republicans had no problem passing a “balanced budget” rife with tax cuts for the rich and corporations, or proposing standalone monumental tax cuts for the rich that would make George W. Bush gasp. Like Republicans’ predilection to always finding ‘surplus’ funds for the bloated defense budget, they always find money for tax cuts while opposing infrastructure spending due to “America being broke.”
This opposition to infrastructure spending is not new to 2015. In 2012, House Republicans introduced a farce called a “transportation bill” that slashed Amtrak spending and increased truck-weight limits, but provided no spending for the nation’s highways and bridges. The GOP austerity plan left Ray LaHood, secretary of transportation during President Obama’s first term, with no choice but to call it “the worst transportation bill I’ve ever seen during 35 years of public service.” Mr. LaHood’s remarks are notable since he was a seven-term Republican congressman from Illinois before he was tapped to serve in President Obama’s cabinet.
Besides Republican Confederate states refusing to vote for anything that may benefit other Americans, Republicans generally oppose raising revenue as part of their Starve the (government) Beast philosophy to “drown it in a bathtub.” In a newer version of Starve the Beast, since President Obama’s election, the Republican approach is holding hostage any infrastructure spending for cuts to social spending like Medicare, food stamps, Social Security, and Medicaid but to name a few. Republicans see the required hundreds-of-billions or trillions needed to bring America’s infrastructure into the 21st Century as “a golden opportunity” to extort massive cuts or completely eliminate any and all domestic, social, regulatory, and non-defense spending.
The GOP’s only goal in hostage-funding infrastructure with Draconian social program cuts is not their “fiscally-conservative” way to “invest in America,” but a plot to serve the Kochs and Grover Norquist’s purpose of “drowning the government in a bathtub;” something that was glaringly evident in 2011. When President Obama proposed increased spending for infrastructure in 2011, Republicans opposed the plan as proposed vehemently. Instead, they came up with a devious “alternative proposal” to fund infrastructure improvements by cutting “$40 billion from other domestic programs, block the President’s clean air rules, and prohibit him from ever issuing new environmental rules again.”
One of the primary, and hardly mentioned, reasons Republicans will never approve a penny for infrastructure is their goal of privatizing the nation’s entire infrastructure for the Koch brothers, banks, and Wall Street. The plan is transforming all public roads and highways into “privately-owned profit centers” by charging Americans to pass over “private roads, bridges, and waterways. It is why nearly all conservative infrastructure reform proposals” include privatization and toll roads and bridges. In the Senate, the Cato Institute testified that “now is the time to go back (to the 19th Century) to reducing hurdles to entrepreneurship and private investment the way the nation operated before the 20th Century.” It is stunning that Cato said go back to 19th Century aloud before the Senate, but not that the mainstream media failed to report an abominable proposition and admission that conservatives lust to return to the 19th Century.
Republicans, and their Koch libertarian masters, believe that giving the highway system to corporations and allowing private turnpike companies to build thousands of miles of toll roads the nation’s infrastructure would be in great shape. Cato, in speaking for the Kochs, claimed that “the takeover of infrastructure like highways and bridges by the government in the 20th century was a drastic mistake, and policymakers should focus on correcting that overreach.” That so-called overreach created America’s great interstate highway system post World War II that helped created the now-vanishing great middle class able to traverse the nation without paying toll fees to corporations; but those days of ‘free passage‘ are numbered if Republicans have their way.
There are other reasons Republicans will never, never ever, again support funding infrastructure improvements, but they are too numerous to note. Except, however, it is worth noting that the hundreds-of-thousands of Americans working on infrastructure projects earn living wages thanks to the 1931 New Deal law, the Davis-Bacon Act, that requires payment of the local prevailing wage on all public works projects for laborers and mechanics. Republicans want that, and all other, New Deal employee protections abolished and teabagger Senator Mike Lee made repealing Davis-Bacon a major requirement for any future infrastructure funding bill.
It was encouraging to hear Bernie Sanders make infrastructure improvements one of his proposals to help rebuild the middle class and give America back to the masses. However, as long as the Koch brothers control the Congress, and the Republican Party, there will never be another penny spent to “improve and rebuild” America. Not, that is, unless Democrats concede that Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, Medicaid, environmental protections, and labor laws are abolished in their entirety before one red cent is spent on infrastructure.