Five Things That Could Derail Infrastructure, and One Thing That Will Make It Great

Scott Paul

Scott Paul Director, AAM

It’s Infrastructure Week. Washington is doing its best, against incredible odds, to focus on the public foundations that make American commerce function: its nearly 47,000 miles of Interstate highways, its dozens of commercial ports, its more than 600,000 bridges.

There have been calls for a major federal infrastructure investment for years. President Barack Obama managed to sign a temporary boost into law as part of the recovery effort in 2009. Congress managed to pass another spending plan in 2015, worth $305 billion over five years. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton proposed a $500 billion investment during her 2016 campaign. Never one to be outdone, President Donald Trump doubled her up, suggesting a $1 trillion spending plan over a decade.

He’s since mentioned his desire to pursue an infrastructure plan on the night of his election victory, on inauguration day, and during his address to a joint session of Congress.

Estimates suggest infrastructure spending, if done right, could create millions of American jobs. And polling persistently shows an infrastructure plan would be extremely popular with the public.

Still, there are a number of reasons an infrastructure bill may not get done. Here are just five of them:

1. While infrastructure is a big deal, it’s poorly defined. What would be the parameters of such a plan look like? Bridges, roads, ports, and waterways? What about funding for transit projects, like light rail, street cars, and new bus lines? Or our energy grid and broadband networks? Clean water systems?

2. While the need is overwhelming — the American Society of Civil Engineers’ grade of U.S. infrastructure is an infamous D+ — the willingness to pay isn’t. Some suggest borrowing the money. Trump wants to raise the bulk of it from the private sector. Others favor a boost in the gasoline tax. We’re talking square pegs and round holes, here. How will they reconcile their completely opposing approaches?

3. Assuming the Republican vision wins out — they control Capitol Hill and the White House, after all — what will the private sector’s role look like? Public-private partnerships aren’t new; in the absence of federal help, they’ve often been used at the state and municipal level to fund infrastructure projects. If we’re to follow this practice in Washington, safeguards are needed so we’re not paying contractors for already completed projects — or those that won’t serve the public good. Moreover, the bulk of infrastructure needs aren’t well suited to private sector investment.

4. This is a fair, albeit brief, question: Is it possible for this White House and this Congress to work together now? It may have been fair to assume they would, only a few months ago; legislative possibilities abounded. Now, we have discussions about the size and shape of a Congressional investigation into details of the Trump presidency that are wholly unrelated to infrastructure spending. Meanwhile, the Justice Department just announced its own special investigation that will, at the very least, be a distraction. Pardon the pun, but will an infrastructure plan be derailed?

5. Lastly, has infrastructure been placed too far down the priorities list? The Senate is trying to turn to healthcare reform, which could lay the ground for a tax reform effort. Plus, a budget is due later this month and will need to be passed by Oct. 1. An increase in the debt limit is necessary as well. To say it’s unclear where infrastructure stands among these priorities is an understatement.

Dismayed at any infrastructure plan’s prospects? Don’t lose all hope; despite the significant distractions, there are those on Capitol Hill who still want to see it happen. Should optimism prevail, I have one suggestion:

Make sure any and all infrastructure spending Buys American.

Buy American preferences — which give domestic manufacturers and workers the first shot at government procurement contracts — have covered federal highway and transit spending since the 1980s. They existed in the 2009 infrastructure bill, where they proved cost-effective. Senate Democrats took pains to include them in their own infrastructure proposal this year, and Trump — who still says “I want to buy American and hire American” at his rallies — has signed executive orders expanding their reach.

They enjoy broad support among voters. And they’re probably the most surefire way to create the steelmaking jobs the president has championed.

At this point, Trump desperately needs a political win. If he manages to get as far as infrastructure spending, I hope he’ll do it the right way.

***

Reposted from Medium.

Posted In: Allied Approaches, From Alliance for American Manufacturing

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

More ...

There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work