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Outsiders vs. Insiders: Infrastructure tizzy shows Democrats love bureaucracy more than people

If you live in the Washington DC area (or happen to travel through on a regular basis) you know I-95 south of the city is a traffic nightmare. The infamous I-495-beltway surrounding the nation’s capital is no speedy picnic either but this particular stretch of Virginia highway heading towards Fredericksburg is almost always packed to the busting point – at least during waking hours.

Big deal, right? There’s traffic everywhere in the United States with too many cars and too little road capacity to accommodate them. In just the last few decades our government (which certainly includes state and local Trump meeting on infrastructureentities) has spent billions on studies and scholarly experiments seeking a way to ease the congestion -- largely to no avail.

Meanwhile, the common people stuck on the roads question if the problem will (or even can) get better.

What makes the above referenced section of I-95 stick out in locals’ minds is the fact the wide center portion (between the north and southbound lanes) has been under construction since – it seems like forever. Pass by and you can’t help but wonder…what are they doing there? Why are we crawling along in traffic when huge road construction vehicles are sitting idle almost all the time? Don’t they care? How many hours do we waste a year waiting for the capacity to expand?

If President Trump’s recently introduced infrastructure plan ever comes to fruition, relief could be on the way for America’s trekkers of all types. Whether anything will actually get done is another matter. We’ve been down this political “road” before, after all.

Briana Gurciullo of Politico reported, “Trump is proposing to provide $200 billion for his plan over the next 10 years — ‘not a large amount,’ he has conceded — paid for by unspecified cuts elsewhere in the budget proposal that the White House also plans to release Monday. That spending is meant to draw an additional $1.3 trillion or more in investments from cities, states, private investors and other sources.

“But more fundamentally, the White House says it will finally address a dysfunctional system in which Washington calls too many of the shots, federal red tape gets in the way and some communities fail to put enough ‘skin in the game’ — all while dire needs go unmet.

“’The current system is fundamentally broken, and it's broken in two different ways,’ a senior administration official told reporters during a briefing Saturday. ‘We are underinvesting in our infrastructure, and we have a permitting process that takes so long that even when funds are adequate, it can take a decade to build critical infrastructure.’”

The ink was barely dry on Trump’s proposal and already Democrats complained it didn’t contain enough federal pork to make it worthwhile enough to even try. One Democrat commented it’s ironic how the GOP passed tax cuts for corporations yet aren’t willing to spare federal money for roads and internet service for poor people. More class warfare nonsense -- yawn.

Reality indicates Democrats hate the idea of private entities getting involved in popular infrastructure projects because the profit motive could take command control out of Washington and locate it closer to the source – and if power decentralizes then why entertain such a grossly bloated federal government in the first place? Hence no need for more Democrats…they’d go extinct. No wonder they’re flustered.

Perhaps most promising about Trump’s infrastructure proposition is its assurance something would be done to streamline the miserably inefficient permitting process.

Growing up in Southern California I didn’t think traffic could ever be more awful than on the mislabeled “freeways” in the Los Angeles area. Every year the problem got a little worse with urban sprawl hiking the commuting times for everyone in the region. The aptly-named Century freeway opened in the early nineties and it didn’t appear traffic eased much with the new lanes.

I-105 is aptly-named because it seemed like a century passed before it opened (the not yet opened I-105 was immortalized in the Sandra Bullock movie Speed). This is California we’re talking about so any big project automatically included sizeable kickbacks to the public employee unions and that’s not even mentioning the burgeoning pension catastrophe that is CALTRANS, the Golden State’s hopelessly bureaucratic transportation authority. One can only imagine what the federal approval process must have been for the heavily populated I-105 route between a portion of downtown L.A. and LAX.

Many a civil engineer probably spent most of his or her career waiting for the various projects (such as the L.A. subway and light rail) to receive the official go-ahead to move forward. How much more productive could Southern Californians have been if they hadn’t spent so much time in their cars all those years? Unfortunately we’ll never know.

Meanwhile it’s common knowledge to people in California that major portions of the heavily traveled I-10 freeway were severely damaged during the Northridge earthquake in 1994. Considering the sheer enormity of the challenge in trying to restore quickly what was probably the main artery in the entire system, the freeway was up and running again in a relatively short time thanks to good work from the Army Corps of Engineers and other entities accustomed to getting infrastructure in place rapidly. Maybe that’s what the country needs – a little military precision to get the roads and train tracks built.

How does this relate to what’s going on today? It shows infrastructure is vital but it also can be realized within a reasonable waiting period if there’s political will to cut out schedule killers and senseless environmental litigation. The gigantic Hoover dam (on the border of Nevada and Arizona) was built in five years (and opened two years ahead of schedule) and eventually paid for itself through the selling of electrical power (it continues to generate).

These are the types of projects most Americans would wholeheartedly support and perhaps just as importantly, are sound investments in the economy. Normally folks should run screaming in the other direction whenever a politician talks about “investments” in the country, but infrastructure, if done correctly, truly fits the concept.

Needless to say Trump’s infrastructure outline would be extremely costly no matter how much federal vs. state and local vs. private funds are involved. As was revealed last week (by the horrible federal budget deal) there isn’t a lot of urgency among the political class to restructure the government to save a few bucks.

So we should take a victory when we get one, right? How about a cost-saving way to deliver real food to welfare recipients instead of haphazardly doling out food stamp debit cards?

Joseph Lawler reported at the Washington Examiner, “The Trump administration proposed Monday to have the Department of Agriculture prepare and send packages of food directly to low-income families, replacing a portion of their food stamp benefits.

“The proposal, new in the White House fiscal 2019 budget, is for families to receive some of their benefits ‘in the form of a USDA Foods package, which would include items such as shelf-stable milk, ready-to-eat cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans and canned fruit, vegetables, and meat, poultry or fish.’

“Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney called it a ‘Blue Apron-type program’ Monday afternoon, comparing it to the meal kit service. The government would save money on the box, he said, because it could buy the food items wholesale, whereas typically food stamp recipients have to buy food at retail prices.”

Even better, once again following up on President Trump’s campaign promise to buy only American products (the government at least), 100% of the program’s food would be grown here in the good ‘ol U.S. of A. and shipped directly to recipients. Estimated savings for Uncle Sam would be $200 billion over ten years – not exactly chump change.

Of course anytime an innovative idea is put forward liberal Democrats swear conservatives and Republicans are just yanking food out of the mouths of children, but how can they argue when a cost-saving program actually sends the vittles directly to those hungry folks? Michelle Obama spent years touting the societal benefits of increasing nutrition in the federal school lunch program – therefore how could she (and those of a similar ideological disposition) now find fault in ensuring those receiving federal assistance eat a little more properly?

The concept is genius; not only will it accomplish the goal of increasing nutritional values for the poor it will also provide markets for U.S. food producers. More economic growth, right?

Anyone who’s stood in the checkout line at Walmart knows how much taxpayer money is thrown away by food stamp recipients buying barely edible products that aren’t exactly found in health food stores. Further, a friend who works in a grocery store says people come in all the time and use their federal subsidies for non-necessities, such as cakes and favors for their daughters’ Quinceañera celebrations (elaborate Latin American fifteenth birthday parties).

It goes without saying federal food assistance was instituted with the altruistic intent of providing basic sustenance for those in need, but like everything else the program’s been abused to the point where the original purpose is no longer visible. It’s heartening to see Trump administration officials like Mick Mulvaney trying to make change. We can only hope it gets a chance to work.

Whether Trump’s infrastructure or other budget reforms succeed depends on victory in the voting booth later this year. In this tumultuous political climate every election is crucial. It’s even got people like Texas Senator Ted Cruz on edge. Rebecca Savransky of The Hill reported, “Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is warning his party that the ‘left is going to show up’ in the 2018 midterm elections.

“During a speech Friday addressing the Fort Bend County GOP, Cruz talked about an ‘incredible volatility in politics right now,’ according to the Texas Tribune.

“’Let me tell you right now: The left is going to show up,’ Cruz said during his keynote address at the party's Lincoln Reagan Dinner. ‘They will crawl over broken glass in November to vote.’”

The broken glass Cruz referred to won’t stem from the budding infrastructure projects either – it’ll be more like the shrill sound of stark raving mad leftist lunatics looking to undo everything positive that’s been gained in the past year under Trump. Cruz is right; conservatives must respond to a call to battle stations.

President Trump’s infrastructure and various other budget proposals will be run through the political meat grinder and by the time they’re through they’ll likely be unrecognizable – if anything is done at all. The best Americans can hope for is a complete cleanse of Democrats this year.

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