Two items in Monday’s news cycle show us different but complementary sides of how the Republican Party is doing to this country what Donald Trump did to Stormy Daniels, except without the bribe. Alas, they also show us why it can be so hard for Democrats and liberals to explain the truth to people.
Item one is infrastructure. As you’ve heard, it’s “Infrastructure Week.” Again. The last time the White House declared it Infrastructure Week, it actually ended up being War on James Comey week. So who knows, maybe this will end up being Defend Wifebeaters Week.
But for now anyway, it’s Infrastructure Week. So the Trump proposal is billed as being a “$1.5 trillion” plan. But it’s actually a $200 billion plan, in terms of commitment of federal money. The rest is supposed to come from state and local governments, which are broke, and the private sector, which will only build highways it can make money on through tolls. It’s a joke. It’s a joke on the American people.
There’s one way to finance infrastructure that’s far, far better than all the others. Doesn’t require this game-playing, this lying. Raise the gas tax. May I say it again? Raise the gas tax.
The federal gas tax is 18.4 cents a gallon. It hasn’t been raised since 1993. The raise was tucked into Bill Clinton’s first budget—the one, you may remember, that not a single Republican in either house of Congress voted for. It was a big budget bill, so they had many other reasons to vote against it, but the gas tax increase loomed large. When he ran for president in 1996, Bob Dole even campaigned on repealing the modest ’93 increase.
Why is the gas tax the right mechanism to fund infrastructure? Well, because it’s chiefly the gas tax that fills the coffers of the Federal Highway Trust Fund, and logically enough, it’s through the Federal Highway Trust Fund that we do most of our spending on highways (and bridges, and even mass transit, too). And it’s broke. Broke, broke, broke.
If the gas tax had been indexed to inflation in 1993, it would be 31 cents today, and we’d be in far better shape. But it wasn’t and we’re not. And it’s all pretty much one man’s fault. Grover Norquist and his awful anti-tax pledge that nearly every Republican in Congress has signed makes it impossible to pass a tax increase. Republicans won’t even discuss it.