Corrupting Infrastructure in Order to Expand the Federal Government’s Size and Scope

Corrupting Infrastructure in Order to Expand the Federal Government’s Size and Scope

Allusions to George Orwell’s 1984 are often overdone, but the applicability is simply too great to ignore. After all, how else do you refer to a proposed $2.7 trillion infrastructure package that spends only 16-cents on the dollar for infrastructure?

Having reviewed the President’s proposed package based on the White House Fact Sheet and the detailed budgetary review created by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, it’s hard not to come to that conclusion.

The spending is not officially broken down into its actual spending on infrastructure and its spending on other programs, of course. Using the definition of infrastructure as spending on roads, bridges, airports, ports, waterways, and water infrastructure, the $2.7 trillion in proposed expenditures only includes $418 billion in actual infrastructure spending – about $52 billion annually over the proposed 8-year timeframe. The table below reflects my recategorization of how the money is actually being spent.

  Requested Expenditures

(in billions)

Share of Package
Total Spending $2,650.00 100.0%
Other policies (e.g., education, healthcare, income support) $851.00 31.8%
Green New Deal $808.00 30.2%
Infrastructure $418.00 15.6%
Industrial Policy $323.00 12.1%
Waste, fraud, and abuse $165.00 6.2%
Local government responsibility $110.00 4.1%

As you can see, the largest share of the package is spent on other policy priorities that include expanding Medicaid home services (costing $400 billion), building new public schools ($50 billion), and modernizing VA hospitals ($18 billion). Perhaps these expenditures are called for, perhaps not. Nevertheless, the pros and cons of each one of these policies deserves a proper debate where the merits can be publicly evaluated. They should not be buried in an infrastructure package that obscures an effective evaluation of these programs.

The same logic holds for the myriad of proposals that would implement the Green New Deal by stealth. How else do you justify the inclusion of $400 billion in clean energy tax credits, $174 billion in additional electric vehicle subsidies, and $126 billion to build energy efficient housing.

There are many reasons to believe that these anti-growth policies will not meaningfully impact global climate change and will impose large economic costs on the country for many years. The Biden Administration clearly believes otherwise. The proper way to address the situation is to conduct a formal debate where the costs and benefits from such an important decision are openly discussed. Hiding the Green New Deal under a bloated infrastructure package forecloses such a beneficial process.

I could continue but the lesson is clear: President Biden’s proposed infrastructure bill is anything but an infrastructure plan. Whether it is $52 billion in corporate giveaways, or upping the Department of Commerce’s budget by $50 billion to create a new bureaucracy that monitors the domestic manufacturing industry, the package is nothing more than a trojan horse for bigger government. It hides a massive expansion of government’s size and scope under the veneer of an infrastructure plan.

Dr. Wayne Winegarden is senior fellow in business and economics at the Pacific Research Institute and director of PRI’s Center for Medical Economics and Innovation.

 

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