Adding difficulty

Trump’s plan, budget does not add up to much

Editorial/Commentary Article March 02, 2018
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Bill Wilson

A, B, C and D mixed with a broad subject range is the perfect synapses cocktail.

 

In heavy doses, it deadens the rationale and calculations of the mind—in my DNA anyway. Standardized testing should not be the standard way of evaluating the intelligence mannerism of an individual. My oldest son, Aidan, is a perfect example. In order to take accelerated math in our school system, one has to score a 75 or higher on MAP testing. If you put the MAP test in front of Aidan he will just get lost, because he simply does not care where he is going. Lately we have been pushing him to score higher, and if he was an Olympic figure skater he would have success dangling around his neck. However, a two-point improvement is not going to get you spitting out answers with the big boys. Here is the problem: Aidan is bored in his standard math class . . . which is the direct result of standardized testing. Running numbers is probably the kid’s strong suit, and the teacher tries to give him extra work, work that is elevated in terms of performance level. It’s not enough. Aidan is doing more singing in his head than any math equation.

 

I’m not sure how well President Trump did in Algebra or Geometry, but if his infrastructure plan is any indication I would say he did not have a seat saved in Trigonometry. Trump’s infrastructure ignitor calls for $200 billion in federal money, which with one wave from the wand of the economic fairy will turn into $1.5 trillion. The hope is those at the state and local level, and some private investors, will use the gift to generate another $1.3 trillion. (Phew, that calculation took some time in my head). In fact, those at the state and local level are supposed to match the fed by a 4-to-1 margin. Let me say that in another way: The cash-strapped state and local governments, some of which are already taxing their people to a slow death, are supposed to match by a 4-to-1 margin.

 

According to economists at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, it doesn’t add up. The number-enthusiasts believe Trump’s infrastructure plan may generate a mere $30 billion in state, local and private spending, and that figure carries a heavy dose of, well, enthusiasm. The number could be even lower. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who served as President George W. Bush’s chief economist, thinks the $30 billion holds water.

 

Here is how the, ahem, $200 billion plan would break down: $100 billion would be parceled out as incentives to local government entities; $20 billion would go toward “projects of national significance” that “lift the American spirit” (wow, way to add some elegance to pork projects); $50 billion would be earmarked for rural block grants; the rest would support other infrastructure-related undertakings (wow, way to add some boredom to pork projects).

 

On the other side of Trump’s mouth we heard about his proposed budget, which calls for a 28.6% cut in transportation and the elimination of the wildly successful TIGER grants and Capital Investment Grants program. Wait, what? I’m not the best at math, but for a 10-year, $199 billion infrastructure plan, Trump’s proposed budget cuts to the U.S. DOT, etc., amount to $178 billion over a span of a decade. So we are looking at $21 billion in true funding, correct? And that is assuming all of the $200 billion goes to transportation. This does not generate even one answer to our infrastructure crisis, let alone what it really needs . . . multiple answers.

 

About the author: 
Wilson is editorial director of Roads & Bridges.
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