Washington Post: GOP Infrastructure Talking Points are ‘Baloney’

April 5, 2021
Blog
‘[Republican] math only works by ignoring hundreds of billions of dollars in rail, water, electric and broadband investments’

After publicly admitting that they failed to dent the overwhelming popularity of the bipartisan American Rescue Plan, Republicans are resorting to demonstrable falsehoods to combat the American Jobs Plan and the 15 million jobs it will create for working Americans.

On Monday, the Washington Post fact-checked Republicans' favorite talking point about the American Jobs Plan after hearing a former Trump Administration official mislead the American people on national television. 

Washington Post:

[Republicans are] not even counting items that Trump and his administration considered infrastructure, such as rail and water systems.  Last we checked, commuters and travelers were still using railways, and pipes were still a necessity for running water.

[Republican] math only works by ignoring hundreds of billions of dollars in rail, water, electric and broadband investments.

...

In one sense, [Republicans] slicing the baloney awfully thin.  In another sense, boy, is this a lot of baloney. 

...

...to say that Biden’s plan would devote only 5 to 7 percent of its $2.3 trillion cost toward “real infrastructure” is highly misleading, the kind of talking point that tries to erase recent history and parts of the English language as a battle begins to heat up in Congress. 

Republicans are already spreading falsehoods about the American Jobs Plan and its 'big boost for blue-collar America'.  They’d probably love to fast-forward to the part where they start taking credit for its benefits

 

Key points from the Washington Post fact check

The GOP claim that only 5 to 7 percent of Biden’s plan is for ‘real infrastructure’

Salvador Rizzo

  • Republicans are trying to brand President Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan with a new talking point, claiming there is barely any infrastructure in it.
  • Different variations of this GOP claim have begun to surface since Biden unveiled his proposal last week.  Vought, who served as director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Donald Trump, pushes the criticism to misleading extremes by saying that only 5 to 7 percent “is actual roads and bridges and ports and things that you and I would say is real infrastructure.”
  • But Vought is not even counting items that Trump and his administration considered infrastructure, such as rail and water systems.  Last we checked, commuters and travelers were still using railways, and pipes were still a necessity for running water.
  • Biden proposes to spend $2.3 trillion on an eclectic mix of programs over 10 years.  From roads, bridges and airports to railways, ports, water systems, the electric grid and high-speed broadband, about one-quarter to half of the plan is dedicated to transportation and utilities, depending on how you count.
  • The American Jobs Plan also includes hundreds of billions of dollars for disaster resilience and pandemic preparedness, job training and small-business incubators, manufacturing investments and various types of research funding, public housing and upgrades to child-care centers, community colleges, VA hospitals and federal buildings, and other items.
  • But in English common usage, the definition of “infrastructure,” or at least “public infrastructure,” has grown over time to encompass new inventions such as electricity, railways and, more recently, broadband pipes and fibers.  Although newer, these are still concrete-and-steel structures for transportation, and wires and pipes for utilities. 
  • However, it’s clear that Vought’s math only works by ignoring hundreds of billions of dollars in rail, water, electric and broadband investments.  Let’s say you don’t count one or two of those as infrastructure.  His math still doesn’t add up.
  • “Replacing water pipes, laying fiber, building new housing, repairing our schools and our child-care facilities and our community colleges and our federal buildings, including VA hospitals — you would have to have an extremely narrow and indefensible definition of infrastructure not to include those elements,” a senior White House economic policy adviser told us.
  • Looking at concrete-and-steel structures for transportation, and wires and pipes for utilities, the combined spending would be $548 billion, or 24 percent of the $2.3 trillion pie.  Here we are counting roads and bridges ($115 billion), passenger and freight rail ($80 billion), airports ($25 billion), waterways and ports ($17 billion), high-speed broadband ($100 billion), electric-grid and clean-energy investments ($100 billion), water systems ($66 billion) and eliminating lead pipes, which can be poisonous ($45 billion).
  • Adding those expenses to the other categories the White House adviser mentioned (housing, schools and community colleges, child-care facilities, federal buildings and VA hospitals) lifts the total to $926 billion, or 40 percent of the plan.
  • Biden’s plan includes a total $621 billion in transportation spending writ large, not just the structures mentioned above, but also electric-vehicle funds, road-safety initiatives and related items.  That would be 27 percent of the plan’s $2.3 trillion price tag, not counting any utilities.
  • In 2018, the Trump White House was promoting federal grants specifically for rail and water system investments as part of its own, $200 billion infrastructure proposal.  The plan was to spur an additional $1.3 trillion in state, local and private investment with those funds.
  • “The train accident that just occurred in DuPont, WA shows more than ever why our soon to be submitted infrastructure plan must be approved quickly,” Trump tweeted in December 2017.  “Seven trillion dollars spent in the Middle East while our roads, bridges, tunnels, railways (and more) crumble! Not for long!” (Reminder: The $7 trillion supposedly spent on the Middle East was wrong, but that’s another story.)
  • The Trump administration touted a bus-and-rail project in Nashville as a model of what localities could do in partnership with the federal government.  “The President’s plan will also widen local, state, and private entities’ access to capital to fund their infrastructure projects,” the Trump White House document adds.  “The federal government lending programs currently include TIFIA (for transportation), WIFIA (for water), and RRIF (for rail).”
  • Why are those items not “real infrastructure” now that Biden is president?
  • Rail is a mode of transportation.  Why did it fall off the list? What about water systems, which were specifically in Trump’s proposal? Quoting from a KPMG analysis of Trump’s plan, Semmel said that only a portion of $20 billion would have been “dedicated to funding ambitious, exploratory or groundbreaking projects proposed among key areas such as transportation, drinking water, energy, commercial space and broadband sectors.” Energy, you say? Biden has billions of dollars in there for the electric grid. 
  • In one sense, Vought is slicing the baloney awfully thin.  In another sense, boy, is this a lot of baloney.
  • From one administration to the next, railways, water systems, electric-grid upgrades, broadband and other investments that were once considered “real infrastructure” have been reduced to something less and crossed off the list.
  • But to say that Biden’s plan would devote only 5 to 7 percent of its $2.3 trillion cost toward “real infrastructure” is highly misleading, the kind of talking point that tries to erase recent history and parts of the English language as a battle begins to heat up in Congress.
  • Rail is transportation.  Water pipes are infrastructure.  Two plus two equals four.  Vought earns Three Pinocchios.