AMAC Exclusive By: David P. Deavel
Barry Goldwater famously offered a “choice, not an echo” in his 1964 presidential run. Senate Republicans seem to now be offering the echo. This week the Senate passed President Biden’s infamous $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill on a 60-30 vote. Though the bill does include funding for actual infrastructure, such as roads (a measly 10% of the bill), airport runways, and other actual pieces of necessary infrastructure, there is also plenty of spending on Democratic hobbyhorses such as passenger rail and electric charging stations for cars and racial set-asides in grants and onerous regulations. It also tasks the Department of Transportation with setting up a pilot program to charge drivers on a per-mile basis in order to build up the Highway Trust Fund. Overall, the bill is yet another example of spending of money that is not there. While this might not be unexpected from a Congress controlled by Democrats, what may be surprising is that 17 Republican Senators voted to keep the bill in play and 19 Republican Senators voted for it in the end.
The Congressional Budget Office calculates that the bill will add $256 billion to deficits over the next decade. Even that estimate may be conservative; a Wharton School of Business analysis released before passage of the bill estimated that the true addition to the deficits would be $351 billion—and that the bill would not have any effect on jobs, wages, or economic growth in general through at least 2050. Why would supposed fiscal conservatives sign on to such a bill? And why, given the current situation of inflation and Fed Chairman Jerome Powell’s prediction that it will continue for months, is there no worry that such spending bills will cause inflation to rise further for a number of reasons, not least, as Stephen Miran argued in the Wall Street Journal, because of all of the regulatory measures in this 2,702 page bill?
How about on the question of getting back to equality and not the current tribal-based notion of equity? When it comes to contracts for actual infrastructure, the bill designates that minority-owned businesses will have first priority. As Betsey McCaughey observes of the bill’s attempt to increase connectivity, “the infrastructure bill tilts the grant scale in favor of states with high minority and non-English-speaking populations, instead of considering only economic need and existing broadband capacity. Because Maine and West Virginia are 94 percent white, they’ll get less.”
I think the old term for this kind of division along race lines is “separate but equal,” where you have to read the “equal” with an “un-” in front of it.
The worst part, however, is the proposal for the pilot program to implement a “mileage tax.” Think you’re saving money by driving electric cars? Don’t worry, you’ll be “paying your fair share” soon enough. Will Americans driving gas-powered vehicles now have the dubious privilege of being taxed on their gasoline and their mileage? Looks like that’s the plan.
What were the Republicans thinking?
Perhaps it’s what George W. Bush called “strategery”? The House has not passed their version of the bill yet, and Nancy Pelosi is claiming she cannot pass it until a further $3.5 trillion dollar “human infrastructure” package is passed. The latter is a boondoggle of liberal programs that stands as the epitome of “an agenda that is mighty big, but falls conspicuously short of being mighty smart,” as William Voegeli put it in an essay titled “3.5 Trillion Ways to Lose Your Country.”
So is the gamble here that Nancy will not be able to “git ‘er done” on the bigger boondoggle that Republicans do oppose and that thus the infrastructure bill will fall by the wayside? Could Republicans then both take credit for voting for it (who wants to be against “infrastructure”?) and never feel the consequences? Or is it to force the Democrats to stick to what the agreement was by threatening to refuse to raise the debt ceiling? If the Democrats can push Republicans to support $1.2 trillion of bad spending, who is to say they won’t pressure them all the way? It’s a dangerous gamble since the Democratic plan for the $3.5 trillion is to link it to the infrastructure bill and pass the whole gargantuan mess in reconciliation, which would require only simple majorities to pass. In aiding and abetting this bill, Republicans may find that the tab is not simply $1.2 trillion but $4.7 trillion. Many people might make the joke about “a trillion here and a trillion there,” but it’s safe to say we have been talking about real money all along. The question is just how much.
It is no surprise that South Carolina Republicans in Aiken County publicly censured Senator Lindsey Graham for his support of the bill this week. They stated: “This bill fails to address border security, sets no limits to the fiscal impact of ‘Green infrastructure,’ and dramatically degrades the rights of existing American businesses. He willfully neglected to act within the fiscal conservative agenda we elected him to diligently uphold.” That note of border security is yet another aspect of this mess, for there is nothing in this bill about it and, as Terrence Jeffrey reported at The Daily Signal, the Biden Administration is cutting what little border security infrastructure we had.
However these bills end up, the decision for Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, and 17 others to go along with this bill is one that will likely have an effect on their reelection chances and on the electoral success of the Republican Party as a whole. Collaborating in the further raising of inflation, further attempts to stop Americans from driving, providing grants that are distributed along racial lines, and ballooning our deficits further—all while doing nothing about border security when even the Democratic mayor of McAllen, Texas, says that the border is “wide open” to illegal immigrants—is a massive impediment to Republicans who would like to take control of the Senate again. This bill touches on all the major issues that the American people face: out of control spending, racial picking of winners, environmental nonsense, and unfair taxation. And it takes the wrong side of all of them.
A few years ago when Brett Kavanaugh was being attacked, some of these Senators found their mojo. Lindsey 2.0 was fantastic. For Republicans, Independents, and even some Democrats waking up to the disaster, it would be nice if they had a choice instead of Lindsey 3.0, who is mostly an echo.
David P. Deavel is editor of Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture, co-director of the Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy, and a visiting professor at the University of St. Thomas (MN). He is the co-host of the Deep Down Things podcast.
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