President Trump has vowed that his one trillion dollar infrastructure plan won’t repeat Obama’s “shovel-ready” mistakes. We will see. Some believe his plans will fizzle. But even if he is able to get funding for these needed repairs, he will face a regulatory blockade that will make it hard to get much done quickly.
George Will’s column earlier this month talked about “America’s Endless Infrastructure Mess.” He quotes from Philip Howard who believes we must revamp the way infrastructure approvals are done. We used to get massive public works projects done quickly and efficiently. The nation built the Empire State Building in 410 days, and that was done during the Great Depression. We built the Pentagon in 16 months during wartime.
By contrast it has taken 5 years and 20,000 pages of environmental assessments and permitting to raise the roadway on a New Jersey bridge. Howard explains that there is “virtually no environmental impact (it uses existing foundations and right of way.” It took 14 years of environmental review merely to dredge the Port of Savannah, and this has been an ongoing process for almost 30 years.
Sometimes the environmental concerns being raised actually hurts the environment. Environmentalists litigate against modernizing our country’s electrical grid. Apparently the wasted electricity equals 16 percent of the coal-power generation and that is essentially the same as 200 average-sized coal-burning power plants.
One political scientist put it this way: America has become a “vetocracy” in which intense, well-organized factions block projects through regulation or litigation. President Obama found out the hard way that, “There’s no such thing as shovel-ready projects.” President Trump will soon find this out unless he can break through the regulatory blockade.