Planes, trains, and automobiles

An idea for harnessing the coming whirlwind for peaceful purposes - promoted by hesterprynne

We can get all bent out of shape, jump up and down, and run around in circles. Or we can be strategic.

I choose strategic.

At this point, it’s time to look at exactly who is this Donald Trump guy. What makes his heart sing? It’s clear he loves getting in the middle of a rally, getting energy from a big crowd. But the thing that Trump loves more than anything else? Building things.

He hates wonkieness, but Donald Trump loves a good building project. He loves to break ground, he loves to stand in the middle of a construction site, he loves to cut ribbons. And that’s a good thing. As Barack Obama looked to bring us out of the Bush financial crash, the Republicans fought against a strategy of funding significant infrastructure improvements. WIth intense needs, and interest rates at or about zero, it was a great time to invest in America, but the Republicans preferred obstruction over infrastructure.

Donald Trump’s passion for infrastructure, and his vision for making America great, was articulated often. The most prominent remark came during the first debate, when Donald Trump said:

Our airports are like from a Third World country. You land at LaGuardia, you land at Kennedy, you land at LAX, you land at Newark, and you come in from Dubai and Qatar and you see these incredible ― you come in from China, you see these incredible airports, and you land ― we’ve become a Third World country.

If you think the airports are bad, how about the trains? If Kennedy and LAX are third world, the train system resembles one of those tourist trains that break out the vintage equipment. The trains are so bad, folks go to the Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport and wonder, why can’t we have transit like this?

Crumbling roads, deficient and obsolete bridges, nineteenth century trains. Democrats need to go to Donald and say, “Let’s fix this. Let’s make America great again!”

If we can keep Donald Trump’s attention focused on infrastructure and jobs, we could focus this administration’s energy on the public works projects that congressional Republicans have refused to fund. We get trains. Donald Trump gets to cut ribbons. Republicans get to fund capital projects. It’s a best case scenario, but we should do everything we can to make it happen.



Discuss

23 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. More trains!

    I’m down for pretty much any excuse to build and run more trains.

    I’m afraid Amtrak will be an early casualty of the red tide. I’d love to be shown wrong.

  2. Jeffrey Sachs shares pablo's view

    in the Globe, here.

  3. It won't be difficult at all.

    He has already said in an interview on The Channel That Must Not Be Named that he regards infrastructure as a top priority for both efficiency and…drum roll…creating jobs.

    My own reaction is that we did that. You who decry trickle down seem to like it as well, but the only sector that ded well after the stimulus is that which is tied to governmentcontracts, i.e., big enough to be on a bid list with connections to get them. Suffolk, et al, not a small cement company without the overhead, payroll, and HR department that ensures they can be used as subs on government jobs. The restaurant, retail, and other gains attendant upon this spending has been illusory at best.

    The flaw in using government to create jobs is that the only jobs they can create are government jobs, or jobs in the private sector so tied to government that they hire and use the same workers and businesses over and over. It is like stimulating a dead frog in biology class with an electric current – the leg twitches, but the frog remains dead.

    Landers, Keolis, and others will be happy to hear this, but consider the definition of insanity as it pertains to doing the saem things over and over.

    • Nonsense

      The restaurant, retail, and other gains attendant upon this spending has been illusory at best.

      People with 40 hour/week jobs are far more likely to go out to eat than those who are underemployed. Same goes for shopping.

      Labor economists have a pretty good understanding of direct, indirect, and induced labor. There’s no doubt that federal government money spent by states on local infrastructure projects means a bunch of direct jobs, bunches of indirect and induced, and a more efficient economy in the decades to comes as goods and services are moved more quickly, more safely, and more cheaply.

      And for all companies, there’s work on the edges. The construction firm my wife works for typically does interior work for multiple stories of skyscrapers at a time. But when work is slow, they’ll go after retail banks and other smaller jobs. When the big firms are tied up doing big jobs, the medium and small jobs are available for the smaller contractors. Everybody gets busy because total demand exceeds total supply. And, of course, all of these construction firms also have lawyers, engineers, planners, delivery drivers, front offices, etc. The jobs flow.

      If there’s one beef with the “go long on government infrastructure” angle, it’s that it is by and large a male employment stimulus. It’s not that women can’t operate front loaders, it’s just that they typically don’t. A female employment stimulus could happen — hire more K12 teachers or more nurses, for example.

      Porc, check out the selectmen’s agenda in your town. Notice all those contracts they sign for $50k – $500k for things like roadwork, roofing, etc.? Those are often with relatively local companies. To the extent that President Trump goes long on infrastructure, the vast majority of the dollars will be spent at the state and local level, on contracts like the BoS ones (local) or 10x -100x that at the state level. The state contractors will, of course, have subs that are smaller.

      My fear is that President Trump focuses solely on airports and building more lanes of highway — excluding rail, excluding mass transit, excluding bike and ped, excluding HOV. A very 20th century approach.

    • More GOP nonsense

      I refer to this paragraph:

      The flaw in using government to create jobs is that the only jobs they can create are government jobs, or jobs in the private sector so tied to government that they hire and use the same workers and businesses over and over. It is like stimulating a dead frog in biology class with an electric current – the leg twitches, but the frog remains dead.

      Wrong. Dead wrong. Dangerously wrong.

      This comment ignores basic macro-economics (like so much of the rest of the GOP dogma). Government workers spend money just like private workers. They go to restaurants. They buy houses and then they buy things to put into and maintain those houses. All that money they spend in the private (and often small) businesses around them help those small business grow — and create jobs in so doing.

      A major reason that our recovery from the 2008 GOP calamity is that the GOP has won the day in its woefully-mistaken “austerity” programs. The result is that government at all levels is missing in action. The private sector has, in fact, recovered at very healthy clip — job creation in the private sector has stayed ahead of where it was in earlier recessions. The difference, in this recession, is that the government is not hiring.

      Two areas where government spending causes the economy to grow by more than a dollar for a dollar are government hiring (during a recovery) and unemployment.

      The GOP steadfastly resists both — then blames the resulting malaise on Democrats, “libruls”, “illegals”, minorities, or any other scapegoat that comes to mind.

      • Very pre-election analysis

        http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303945704579387692278347858

        This is not a response to an election, but an economic piece.

        As I tried to say – the government workers who spend, et al, certainly did so. But it is the SAME workers over and over. Their neighbors did not benefit to anything like a similar extent.

        • But that's true of all jobs.

          Their neighbors did not benefit to anything like a similar extent.

          When the three guys on my block who are unemployed get jobs, it benefits them a hell of a lot more than it benefits me. Now, a week from now, a year from now. Of course that’s so.

          Nobody is suggesting that the government hire everybody for 3 hours a week, nor is anybody suggesting that the government hire everyone for 40 hours a week. Nobody is suggesting that everyone will be helped exactly the same. But the fact of the matter is that when my neighbor has a job:
          * there is more state and federal tax revenue,
          * there is less local, state, and federal expenditures on social welfare, and
          * local and not-local merchants sell more goods and services, thereby boosting their tax payments and upstream economies.

          Who’s best off now that my neighbor has a job? My neighbor and his family. By orders of magnitude. No doubt.

          Which is why I want thousands of new jobs, so that I get thousands of tiny slivers over the next few years, and then get to live in a society with better infrastructure, thereby reaping the benefits therein for the next few decades.

        • It's a paywalled WSJ piece

          First, your piece is behind a WSJ paywall. No, I’m not willing to subscribe to the WSJ to read it. Second, the following sentences (visible in the teaser) tell me all I need to know about the rest:

          The $830 billion spending blowout was sold by the White House as a way to keep unemployment from rising above 8%. But the stimulus would fail on its own terms. 2009 marked the first of four straight years when unemployment averaged more then 8%.

          This is like an abutter to a raging inferno who first complains that the fire engines are too noisy, then turns off all the fire hydrants, and then complains that the building burned down.

          I invite any who care about reality (rather than GOP dogma) to, for example, peruse this 2012 report, rather succinctly summarized in the following graph:

          Ratio of Government Employment to Population

          America followed GOP dogma, and slashed government employment after 2008. The response, as predicted, was that the recovery stalled.

          The GOP chose to cause tens of millions of Americans to suffer rather than cooperate with a Democratic president — the choice was great for GOP politics and a disaster for America. Yes, I believe that the choice was intentional, cynical, and indescribably cruel. The GOP leveraged that suffering to put an incompetent bully in the White House.

          Government failed to hire new workers. The predicted and actual result was to hobble the recovery. That’s the truth, whether admitted or not.

        • Hire more public workers instead of private companies

          I also couldn’t read the article because it was behind a paywall, but I get the impression that you’re complaining about “cronyism” – that more government spending just enriches private firms that have ties to the government. I sympathize with you on this point. I think that it is a symptom of the “public-private” system that is in place.

          I think that we could do things differently – of course, my vision will probably make your head explode. I think that we should expand the number of public workers – those employed by government, not by contractors.

          I expect that your head will explode because you believe that public workers are inherently bad, lazy, whatever. I’m sure there are some that fit that bill, we can debate the percentages at a later date. However if we had actual public workers doing the work, that would certainly stop the situation where the same connected fat-cats land big government contracts and reap tens of millions, wouldn’t it? The money would be spread around a lot more fairly.

          So instead of hiring a large construction company like Suffolk Construction, create a public construction division and let ordinary citizens get hired by this new public department. Allow public employees to gain expertise in this area from the ground up, and then still do project with private contractors, but use the public knowledge base to manage those projects a lot better than they are managed now.

          Yes, you can argue that “connected” individuals will get those jobs, and again, to a certain extent that is true, but as long as those individuals are qualified to do the job and oversight is proper, worrying about that is not worth the effort. The money will be spent locally, there will be transparency. How many connected individuals are on the Suffolk payroll, hired because Suffolk is connected to government? We’ll never know because their books are private. How much waste is in their projects? Again, we’ll never know because their books are private. I can find out that John Fish, their CEO, is worth $425 million. Money basically provided to him from our taxes. Can you even imagine allowing a public employee to build such a net worth?

  4. I predict this will happen

    Because we need infrastructure and jobs and the Republicans knew the lack of both would blamed on Obama if they blocked it and know it will be credited to President Trump when they inevitably approve it now.

    • I agree

      But like the last time, it will not have the economic effect on the unconnected workers in the economy.

      But, on the plus side, some automotive production has already been moved from Mexico to Ohio – a move that will likely have a larger ripple effect as it is private sector overall.

      • Wait, what?

        Your two sentences are in direct conflict with each other.

        Why is it that when the government hires a largish private firm to do work, it’s impacts are limited — but when a massive company hires some factory workers, the impact ripples?

        Seems like a willful disconnect.

  5. China

    I’m somewhat surprised that Trump mentioned China in a complimentary way. I hadn’t ever heard that he had actually been there, as his statement seems to imply.

    Looking at the huge gulf between the few cities that have had exceptional economic growth in the Obama years and the rest of the US, it seems like we either need to figure out a way to share the wealth, become a looser confederation, or secede from the union. Better transportation might be a good way to start rebuilding ties to the swing states the Democrats lost. For instance, Beijing to Shanghai is about 750 miles and the high-speed rail trip between them takes about 5 hours (all according to Google maps). Imagine if we could travel that quickly from Boston to Columbus, Roanoke, or Morgantown.

    • I don't doubt that Trump's been to China

      I’d be shocked if Trump hasn’t been to China. But I’d bet it was much like when some Dubai investor visits Mr. Trump.

      Land at intentional airport in private plane.
      Take a black car (or stretch) directly to fancy hotel, likely garage or other secure area.
      Use hotel facilities.
      Take a black car (or stretch) directly to high end country club.
      Use country club facilities.
      Take a black car (or stretch) directly to fancy hotel, likely garage or other secure area.
      Rinse, repeat.

      I guarantee you that Mr. Trump hasn’t seen the urban China that I have.

    • Or Korea

      I had the good fortune of visiting that country en route to Manila and they had already built their bullet train from the airport to the 2018 Olympic site ahead of schedule. Comparing that train to the MBTA was one of the many ways I knew we were in over our heads with the Olympic bid. And it’s not an issue unique to Boston-our infrastructure is lousy across the country.

  6. Do you think...

    He hates wonkieness, but Donald Trump loves a good building project. He loves to break ground, he loves to stand in the middle of a construction site, he loves to cut ribbons. And that’s a good thing. As Barack Obama looked to bring us out of the Bush financial crash, the Republicans fought against a strategy of funding significant infrastructure improvements. WIth intense needs, and interest rates at or about zero, it was a great time to invest in America, but the Republicans preferred obstruction over infrastructure.

    … That this is, at all, realistic? Between Paul Ryan’s desire to privatize the pavement beneath our feet, Mitch McConnell already saying infrastructure won’t be a priority for the Senate and Trumps’ campaign promise to freeze government hiring on day one… what gives you any kind of hope that any infrastructure spending won’t be tepid, half-measures with a distinctly corruption-tinged free market bias…? The Senate is going to be the key, and Mitch McConnell is married to Elaine Chao who went from being a merely feckless Deputy Transportation Secretary under the First Bush to being viciously inept as Secretary of Labor under the second Bush. That’s the level of ‘expertise’ (sic) they’re comfortable with on key infrastructure components like transportation and labor.

    I think the appointment of Reince Priebus readily demonstrates how easily Trump can be rolled. Priebus is Paul Ryans’ twin who died in the womb and was resurrected in an unholy voodoo ritual involving 13 unused private school vouchers, chicken blood and Milton Friedmans dentures. That’s how close are Ryan and Priebus. So, I think Ryan will be two steps ahead of Trump on everything (not a particularly difficult task anyways..) and the only things that Trump wants to do that will get done are those which align neatly with Republican orthodoxy and that’s about it.

    I admire your willingness to look on the bright side, but the plain fact is that It’s going to suck. It’s going to hurt. Maybe this’ll finally be the rock-bottom of the abusive relationship that has existed between the GOP and the electorate, but who knows… I thought George Dubya Bush letting an entire city drown woulda done it. That was 11 years ago.

    If you want to think strategic then we just have to let them suck. And we can’t be afraid to say it. They’re going to indulge the worst parts of of their ideology and we should be ready to point out how bad that will be. We should also be ready to suffer in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who voted Trump but, like those who work for Trump and don’t get paid, are going to be the last to get satisfaction. Then, in 2018, we have to ask them, straight up, is this what you wanted? That’s the only strategy we got.

    • Realistic?

      I have no idea. petr makes the comment that Trump is easily rolled, so why shouldn’t we do the rolling? This could be the wedge issue that splits Trump and Ryan, splits the Republicans in Congress, and frays the GOP electoral base. Or maybe not. I think it’s worth a try, and probably the best strategy we have to deal with this administration.

      • Agreed-the Warren/Sanders both/and strategy makes the most sense

        Work with Trump and use his narcissism and inexperience as a weapon against him. Our President has already done this to some extent on preserving Obamacare. It’s an effort that is worth it on a public works jobs program. America has desperately needed this kind of spending for the last 8 years, the GOP didn’t give it to President Obama since they knew it would help him politically and they wouldn’t score any points for cooperation.

        The Democrats won’t score any points either, but what they will do is put millions of Americans back to work rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure. This is a great wedge issue to split Trump from Ryan and McConnell.

        And the AND part is where Democrats can embrace a progressive agenda on infrastructure and trade from the Trump administration while strongly opposing in the boldest way possible his social and cultural agenda. And frankly his racist and misogynist policies.

        • They will score points

          The Democrats won’t score any points either, but what they will do is put millions of Americans back to work rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure. This is a great wedge issue to split Trump from Ryan and McConnell.

          It seems to me that what may well have cost the Democrats the election was the economic insecurity of non-college educated voters in the 18-65 age group. Perhaps had those voters not felt so insecure about the economic future of their own family they might have voted on higher ideals like not electing an -ist to the White House.

          If broad investment in infrastructure puts the men and women from these families back to work making good wages, perhaps they won’t feel quite so insecure about their futures four years from now. Perhaps then they’ll throw their votes behind the Democrats who want to enact policies for a better future.

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Sat 25 Mar 11:39 AM