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Democrats Can’t Fight Trump and Make a Deal on Infrastructure at the Same Time

4:27 PM PST on January 30, 2017

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks during a ceremony where NASA transferred title and ownership of space shuttle Enterprise to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum on Sunday, Dec. 11, 2011 at the museum in New York City. The transfer is the first step toward Intrepid receiving Enterprise in the spring of 2012. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Yesterday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he will "claw, scrap, and fight with every fiber of my being" to overturn Donald Trump's executive order preventing refugees and residents of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the country. If that's the case, Schumer should abandon his strategy of dealmaking with Trump on a big infrastructure bill.

While Trump and Steve Bannon assault the Constitution, religious freedom, and basic humanitarian decency, Schumer and other Democrats have been searching for common ground on infrastructure. At the Transportist, David Levinson, a civil engineering professor at the University of Minnesota, says Democrats are making a big blunder, both in terms of politics and policy:

The Democrats under Chuck Schumer are proposing a big federal infrastructure bill. The Pretender in Chief is also proposing a big infrastructure program funded by tax credits. Both are quite different, aside from the word “infrastructure”, but they are similar in that they are both big programs and both bad policy and both will raise the national debt.

  1. Democrats are making a strategic error in trying to work with the administration. As the Republicans showed in the previous administration, the path to victory in divided America is through resistance to the administration, not cooperation. It is becoming more Parliamentary in that respect.
  2. If a Bill is somehow made law, and it is popular, the Pretender in Chief will get all the credit. Sure Schumer will get to attend the signing ceremony, and have one more photo with him and the least liked politician in America, but aside from his constituents, everyone else will say who is that old white man in the background. They will get no credit from the public.
  3. Massive investment in Infrastructure at this point in history is not only bad politics for the Democrats as a whole, it is bad policy.
    • We are moving to an era where maintenance outweighs new construction, politicians are all about new builds, not maintenance. Politically driven construction lists will not be those projects with the highest benefit/cost ratios, but simply new projects that grab ribbon-cutting headlines while old infrastructure continues it’s long path of deterioration.
    • We are moving to an era where we can use infrastructure more efficiently with autonomous vehicles.
    • The benefits are all local, the funding should be local as well to align interests.
    • It provides the federal government one more lever to use against New York if it doesn’t like some local policy (Sanctuary Cities anyone?). New York City should understand why it wants as much financial and political autonomy as it can get.

More recommended reading today: The Urbanist condemns Trump's Muslim ban and the temporary disruption of transit service to the Seattle airport during protests this weekend. And Straight Outta Suburbia makes the case for full representation of DC in Congress.

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