President Obama’s proposal for jump starting the economy with an infrastructure plan seeded by $50 billion of federal government funds was more strategy than substance. It was an operation in triangulation minus any anesthesia that Bill Clinton would have used. Throw in some small business tax cuts and research and development credits and you have a recipe for more finger pointing and less economic development.
To say that the United States does not need additional infrastructure spending would be a mistake. The impacts are long term within a framework of delays based on the need to negotiate contracts, secure rights-of-way, and hire manpower. The size and complexity of certain projects also make impact long term. (Just ask northern Virginians about their experiences with the Wilson Bridge).
What is questionable here is, why now? Why wasn’t this need for infrastructure spending overly emphasized in the first stimulus package? Could it be that the idea of infrastructure spending was simply to supply-side for the president’s economic advisors to digest? Maybe the Democrats wanted to place too much emphasis on their social justice agenda, one that apparently carries greater debt but with none of the promised improvement in health care and job development.
One thing the president may get is a the quick move to the middle that some of us true centrists have been looking for. Democrats do not want to be saddled with the burden of having to explain another stimulus package. Republicans do not want to be seen as supporting Mr. Obama’s efforts even though an infrastructure policy may be what supply-siders dream of. So much for GOP alignment with the fiscal policies of the Great Communicator, Ronald Reagan.
If Mr. Obama plays his cards right with Republicans winning the majority in the House and a few extra seats in the Senate, he can be seen as the Great Coordinator come 2012, a man whose rationale and cool approach is needed to keep a Democratic Senate and a Republican House in check.