To Infrastruct or Not To Infrastruct?

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and incoming Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer.Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and incoming Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer.  Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

I confess it occurred to me shortly after the horror of last Tuesday had begun to settle in that at least maybe now we could move forward on some infrastructure spending, create some jobs and begin to repair our crumbling roads and bridges.  President Obama has been begging for that for eight years, and both Hillary and Voldemort DJT made noises about it in the campaign.  The irony of the GOP’s very predictable instant turnaround from debt terror to stimulus frenzy would be good for some scorn and a few people might be better off…

But Jonathan Chait makes a solid argument that we don’t want to fall limply into the GOP’s waiting arms here.  His argument has two prongs.  First, …

For Democrats to cooperate unconditionally with this strategy is to institutionalize a political order in which Democratic presidents must be punished with contractionary policy while Republicans are rewarded with expansionary policy. Reasonable people can disagree about what level of national debt can be sustained, but the figure is finite. The political system seems to passively accept that America’s long-term debt should be allocated toward the goal of maximizing growth exclusively during Republican administrations. Why Democrats would find this system good for their country, let alone their party, is difficult to understand.

Because most voters only see who is in the White House, the effect would be to increase DJT’s popularity and increase the likelihood of further GOP consolidation.  Republicans understand that things work this way and have cynically used that knowledge; that’s why they have resolutely kept their collective foot on the economic brakes over the entire Obama presidency.

And not only that, but as we have seen, DJT will steer benefits, financial and otherwise, to himself and his companies in this as he does in everything else:

…Trump’s high potential for corruption involves the interplay of two different rejections of political norms. First, unlike every other presidential candidate in modern history, he has refused to disclose his tax returns, so his financial interests remain opaque. Second, he will continue to hold his interests in office rather than retreat into passive investment. … Asked […] about the presidential tradition of placing his assets in a blind trust, Giuliani replied (correctly) that a blind trust would do no good if Trump’s branding business continued, since he knows its assets, and only selling off the entire company would do. But Giuliani insisted that such a drastic step would be unfair to Trump’s offspring: “Put his children out of work, they’d have to go start a whole new business, that would set up a whole set of new problems.” The premise that Trump’s children could not find jobs that did not involve selling their father’s name, and that averting the crisis of Trump-children unemployment should take precedence over averting massive corruption of the federal government is one Republicans probably do not relish having to defend.

Giuliani’s second defense was even more audacious. “You have to have some confidence in the integrity of the president. The man is an enormously wealthy man. I don’t think there’s any real fear or suspicion that he’s seeking to enrich himself by becoming president,” he laughed. “If he wanted to enrich himself, he wouldn’t have run for president.”

In reality, the world is replete with wealthy men who attained power and used it to enrich themselves. This is the very source of concern about Trump’s attack on the norms that prevent American presidents from using their power for self-enrichment. These norms exist precisely because we don’t assume a president is immune to temptation. …

Giving Trump and his party such a valuable gift, and weakening Democrats’ own chances for regaining power, is worth doing in the case of a vital humanitarian interest. But for some highways? And to give bipartisan cover to what may well have grants to contractors who will be giving kickbacks to Trump and his family? …

Read the whole piece.