Donald Trump knows building.
Relying on memory here, but I recall much of Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign was based on his lifelong experience building things – you know, companies, office buildings, hotels, resorts, golf courses, media networks, the Miss Universe pageant, renovating old stuff, hiring lots and lots of people and generally leaving whatever he took on better than it was before. People on the street passing one of Trump’s projects take note of the beauty or solidness of the creations, but likely give little thought to what went into the construction that was unique to one man.
Everyone knows senile president Joe Biden also talks a lot about building things these days. He’s frequently shown boasting about the “infrastructure” package he helped push through Congress with the help of infamous liberal agenda pushers (former) Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader “Chucky” Schumer and nearly every Democrat – and a handful of Republicans as well.
But Biden talks less on building new things than he does about satisfying the nation’s (supposed) need for green energy infrastructure to replace the much cheaper and more prevalent – and just as environmentally sound – fossil fuel industries. How many times has Joe burped out the words “electric charging stations” and various other references to pipedream-type products that only the rich can afford and have dubious effects on the air we breathe or water we drink?
Democrats care more about the idea of making progress on “woke” infrastructure than they do about demonstrable results. Those of us living in growing communities see roads, overpasses and buildings being put in, but the existing stuff isn’t doing much to alleviate traffic or pollution (noise or otherwise) dilemmas.
Whatever happened to the old days when American innovations made folks’ quality of life better? Can you think of a single recent mass transit project in your neck of the woods that achieved anything for anyone? How do you feel about the tens of billions spent on new subways and rail projects that hardly anyone uses anymore?
Trump builds things. He should talk a lot more about it. In a piece titled “America Once Knew How to Build Infrastructure”, Mark Penn and Andrew Stein wrote at the Wall Street Journal the other day:
“There’s no indication the new infrastructure package will put efficiency over politics and change the dysfunctional status quo. What should be vital investments in America’s future are going to be treated as political ping-pong balls. Most of the money will likely be frittered away on make-work projects, paving and repaving old roads. How many new highway dividers does America really need? Or shopping malls in airports?...
“America desperately needs new infrastructure. Train freight left on old tracks can become increasingly dangerous, as the derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, demonstrates. We may not need post offices anymore, but we will need a new electrical grid, upgraded ports, safer airports and better tunnels and bridges—especially as we embark upon a new era of self-driven vehicles.
“If we just keep throwing money at infrastructure without giving priority to efficiency, we will get highway dividers that cost $50,000 a foot but no more of the awe-inspiring bridges, roads and tunnels that once defined American innovation.”
Both Penn and Stein are Democrats, which makes their common-sense pitch all the more… surprising. Rather than prop up the current president’s preference for dumping money into infrastructure trinkets that don’t really help individuals, they harken back to a golden American era where our forefathers did great things like building the Golden Gate and Brooklyn bridges – for a fraction of the cost in today’s dollars.
I’ve mentioned it before, but one of the most remarkable days I’ve spent at a tourist destination was discovering the enormity of the Hoover dam in Nevada/Arizona, a project devised during the great depression and carried out by a generation of men with work ethics that no longer exist in today’s pampered OSHA environment. Add this Democrat administration’s “woke” ESG and DEI hiring practices and it’s not hard to fathom why nothing ever gets done in the twenty-first century.
As you may have heard, California and the west coast is experiencing record – or near record – rainfall and cold this season, but much of the life-sustaining wet stuff is flowing out to sea unrecovered because nothing of consequence, in terms of dams, reservoirs or other retention measures, has been built in the past sixty-odd years there. Some of the malaise was due to a lack of foresight, but most of the problem involved inane permitting and environmental rules that made it impossible to dream up a project the scale of the Hoover dam (which to this day provides “clean” electric power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses as well as stores precious water for the southwest).
And it’s not just new roads and bridges that aren’t being finished. Something like the Keystone Pipeline could’ve been this generation’s major contribution to infrastructure. Keystone was a project that not only employed tens of thousands of Americans, and when complete, it would’ve provided affordable energy to millions in North America and around the globe. It also would’ve helped the U.S. and Canada become major energy exporters, which, again, would pay for itself many times over in economic freedom from leftist dictators who don’t give a hoot about what they do to the planet.
Another major issue is the length of time it takes to “fix” what’s already there. When I used to live and commute in Northern Virginia, for example, I was often ensnarled in the ongoing construction on the infamous “Mixing Bowl” at the intersection of Interstates 95 and 495 (as well as a few local roads) while making my way to my employer. Commuters recognized that the work was vitally necessary, but who figured, when they broke ground on the project, that it would take over eight years to complete?
Then there was the construction at the equally infamous Wilson Bridge which connects Maryland to Virginia south of Washington DC, another notorious location for traffic snarls and a multitude of epithets, especially when the authorities announced that the drawbridge was to be opened – thankfully, only occasionally.
It’s likely that anyone who lives in a major or semi-major metropolitan area has similar stories. Freeway construction happens, but it seems to (or literally) takes decades to start, build and finish. Why can’t it be done faster? I was still living in southern California when the January, 1991 Northridge earthquake hit, severely damaging many of the area’s freeway overpasses (most notably on I-10, in the middle of everything). The private sector took over and the rebuild job, as I recall, took less than three months.
The post-quake work proved we can still do it when we need to. Where’s the desire? Where’s the know-how? And perhaps most importantly, where’s the political leadership to separate the “woke” crapola from the useful things? As demonstrated by Penn and Stein above, even some Democrats could be open to leaving their leftist plantation long enough to embark on a new kind of national renewal.
Donald Trump and the Republican Party as a whole should make this a major part of their campaign pitch to the country. Just as he did with Supreme Court justices in 2016, could Trump assemble a series of infrastructure projects that he would at least initiate in his new administration? Could he lead the effort to conduct a wholesale review of laws and regulations that slow down innovation and bring them up to date?
2024 Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy has talked a lot about reforming the federal bureaucracy and imposing term limits on so-called civil servants. This is an idea with tremendous merit and, I believe, would attract the attention of Americans fed up with the excessive cost and lack of responsiveness of government.
Seriously, if we’re promoting term limits for federal legislators – and the president is constitutionally kept to two terms – why shouldn’t the bureaucrats who turn the wheels of the executive departments similarly see their well-paid “service” as a mere stepping stone to something else that actually generates wealth instead of just consumes it?
This would be no easy task, and government employee unions would fight tooth and nail against any measure that demands additional accountability – and work – but a man like Trump or Ron DeSantis could use the bully pulpit to promote the concept.
If the entire culture of the country needs to change – or more pointedly, return to a time when government did recognizable things – why not start with reform at the most basic level? Donald Trump could make the 2024 election about the future and simultaneously demonstrate that he’s over harping about 2020.
A smart strategy for Trump – or any Republican – would be to emphasize a campaign based on building infrastructure. Not just re-building, but actually doing something ground-breaking like designing new bridges, highways and dams. All of these things can be accomplished without ruining the environment, and best of all, will make all of our lives better. Look to the future.
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