Donald Trump, Infrastructure and Jobs
Donald Trump, Infrastructure and Jobs
by Anthony Stahelski
President-elect Donald Trump will start his administration with low expectations. He is perceived by many as a shoot-from-the-hip frat-boy who acts before he thinks, with no political experience and no coherent policies. I admit that I am one of those with strong misgivings about his ability to govern, but I could be proven wrong. In fact, I hope I’m proven wrong. I hope that whoever is elected President will at least not make things worse, and possibly makes things better. Trump will be pushed by his supporters to act on his campaign promises and roll back Obamacare and build a wall on our southern border. He should resist the temptation to do either.
Doing either would further increase the divisiveness begun during the campaign, and he would squander his short ‘honeymoon’ window that could best be spent on something more positive. This is not to say that the Affordable Care Act cannot be modified, or that security on our southern border cannot be strengthened. However, action on these issues is unlikely to endear him to anyone that opposed him.
During the campaign Trump stated that he wanted to be the best ‘jobs’ President ever, and since his election he stated that he wants to be the President for ‘everybody’. I think he has one opportunity to do both, by doing something that will boost the economic well-being of everyone. Because the Republicans kept control of the Senate and the House, Trump will presumably have a two year ‘honeymoon’ period to create and implement policies that could positively impact the country. He could use this window to attack three of our greatest weaknesses: the sad state of our infrastructure, the economic decay of our inner cities, and the decline of American manufacturing.
All of these issues have been ignored for decades. The American Society of Civil Engineers has rated U.S. infrastructure overall as a D- since the 1990s. Inner city neighborhoods have improved very little since the 1970s, despite various government improvement programs. American manufacturing jobs have consistently declined since the 1980s. Trump could attack all three of these with one program: a major infrastructure repair and upgrade program that employs the unemployed and under-employed of all racial groups and uses only American-made products.
Arguably infrastructure is the basis of our entire economic system. There is no socialism (government programs and services) without capitalism, and there is no capitalism (the private market-based economy) without infrastructure. We cannot generate significant additional wealth for both the private and public sectors unless we dramatically improve our infrastructure. A viable economy depends on the efficient movement of goods and services. Decaying, antiquated infrastructure decreases the speed and quantity of delivery, increases costs and energy use, ultimately decreases the quality of our products, and diminishes our ability to be a successful exporter.
America’s inner city neighborhoods used to be manufacturing centers. The decline of manufacturing turned these neighborhoods into wastelands. An infrastructure program could revitalize these neighborhoods in two ways. One, the program could employ neighborhood residents, and two, infrastructure creation and supply facilities could be located in these neighborhoods. Furthermore, the positive economic multiplier effects from such a program would spread to every sector of the economy and every part of the country.
Being President for ‘everybody’ implies that Trump wants to be a national ‘healer’. In America the best way to culturally heal is to economically raise ‘all boats’. Meaning, have an economic program that benefits everyone. A massive infrastructure program would benefit the poor, the middle class, and the rich. It would benefit everyone, regardless of race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. It would benefit individuals and corporations. And by economically strengthening the private economy, it would provide funding for public programs, and possibly reduce the national debt. The attacks on Pearl Harbor and 9/11 brought us together. An infrastructure program could have the same unifying effect. What more could we ask for from a single program?
Anthony Stahelski, is a a professor of psychology at Central Washington University in Ellensburg Washington.