Obama's New Spending Proposal: An Infrastructure Slush Fund

Lurita Doan

8/15/2011 12:01:00 AM - Lurita Doan

With the U.S. economy in disarray, it is becoming increasingly obvious that Team Obama has no new ideas to help spark economic growth. The various rounds of stimulus had little positive effect and left the nation with an additional $5 trillion in debt. So, it should come as no surprise that the president’s “best” idea is another round of “infrastructure spending”. Here we go again.

Obama’s latest, pathetic prattling about infrastructure and a third (or fourth by my count) stimulus shows that Obama has learned nothing during his thirty months in office. Only recently, Obama admitted he had learned the painful lesson that many of the proposed “shovel ready” projects weren’t shovel ready.

Obama seemed to understand that the $787 billion dollar stimulus bill that he had pushed with wild conviction did not have the intended impact. Unemployment rates have remained high. While small and mid- sized construction firms never experienced the promised building boom, but, instead, went out of business or were forced to cut additional workers. In short, Obama’s plan failed.

Yet, a scant two months later, Obama is spouting the same gibberish, the same hollow promises and the same band-aid solutions to our nation’s economic problems. Obama’s latest attempt, at re-gifting the American people with tempting platitudes of infrastructure spending as a way to create jobs, comes with a new twist. Democrats in congress are offering American businesses with an international presence a chance to repatriate their overseas profits without confiscatory taxes.

Obama is now proposing to allow some of our most successful American companies repatriate profits earned overseas without forcing them to pay double taxes. It is a lot of money too, somewhere between $800 billion and 1 trillion. But here is the catch. Team Obama wants all of that money deposited into an Infrastructure Fund.

First, let’s call the “infrastructure account” what it is—a slush fund for Democrat spending, a personal piggy bank for politicians to dole out largesse to favorites. Top Obama priorities are old standby Democrat hobbyhorses such as green energy, high speed rail and wind farms.

Obama hopes that few will remember what happened with the $787 billion in stimulus that had similar goals. Those taxpayer dollars funded a whole slate of dubious pet projects such as the “Save the Harvest Marsh Mouse” in Pelosi’s district, as well construction of tennis courts and water parks.

Does anyone have any doubts that a new slush fund might be squandered in a similar fashion?

The proposal to create an Infrastructure Fund reveals all too clearly that President Obama has learned nothing from his last, failed effort. More taxpayer dollars is not what is needed to get infrastructure projects going and create a building boom in the United States. What is needed is regulatory reform.

At any time, should he desire, President Obama could unleash a building boom across the nation that would create millions of jobs and spark genuine economic growth. All Obama need do is roll back the thicket of burdensome regulations and stifling bureaucracy that has tangled federal construction efforts.

More often than not, it’s regulatory issues that restrict and delay construction and repairs of badly needed infrastructure across the country.

Power and electricity-generating plants that could be built quickly and with the latest technology remain on the drawing boards because of an inability to successfully navigate the maze of regulatory requirements.

Ditto oil wells and refineries. In fact, much to the dismay of anyone advocating the construction of new infrastructure, building projects routinely require years of regulatory review before construction can ever begin.

Small and mid-sized construction companies with the skills and idle workers that could be used to build new roads, repair bridges, expand ports, and erect new government buildings, face additional regulatory burdens, such as the archaic Davis-Bacon Act. This legislative monstrosity was first passed in 1931 with the goal of preventing blacks and other minorities from working on construction projects.

Unfortunately, the Davis Bacon Act has been fully embraced by Democrats and Team Obama as a fail-safe scheme to reward union supporters by requiring union participation in all governmental projects. This results in ballooning costs, to the tune of some $1 billion a year, while small and mid-sized companies are frozen out.

Davis-Bacon is just one of many regulatory issues that hinder honest infrastructure development.

Currently, it takes the government an average of 7 years to construct a new federal building. EPA requirements and environmental concerns have morphed into an array of stupidity that slows construction without considering costs and benefits in proportion to the environmental issue.

Federal construction projects, such as federal office buildings, federal court houses and land border ports of entry are ways to create jobs in local communities throughout the United States, since most of these types of projects would utilize local labor, local, skilled craftsmen and local, licensed construction professionals, many of whom are small and minority businesses.

These projects don’t need more money; they need more understanding of the federal construction process and its bottlenecks, as well as leadership willing to remove those bottlenecks. Most Americans are commonsense, practical people who understand legitimate oversight and regulatory reviews to safeguard our wildlife and environment. But that regulatory system has gotten wildly out of control and is now one of the core problems preventing the construction of badly needed infrastructure.

President Obama could, with the sweep of a pen, order regulatory relief. He would also find kindred spirits in congress to, once and for all, eliminate problematic barriers to construction such as the Davis-Bacon Act. Put another way, it is within the President’s power to create a real building boom and put thousands of small and mid-sized construction firms back to work.

But don’t hold your breath. Either Obama doesn’t know how, or does not want, to put millions of workers in small and mid-sized companies back to work in America. Instead, Team Obama plans to resurrect the “shovel ready” zombie.