Congress’ ‘infrastructure’ spending proposals are grossly irresponsible
Only a few months ago, members of Congress decided that for some reason, and immediately, the federal government needed to spend trillions of dollars on America’s infrastructure which, they insisted, was “crumbling.”
Floridians can be forgiven for wondering why this project became so urgent, so quickly, so seemingly without cause — and expensive, to boot.
But looking through the two “infrastructure” packages Congress has proposed reveals the answer: These proposals have little to do with roads and bridges — the projects most Americans would recognize as infrastructure — and much more to do with the partisan pet projects so many lawmakers want to pass every other day of the year.
This is grossly irresponsible behavior.
Take the $1.2 trillion “hard infrastructure” package, for example. Beyond the glossy bipartisan veneer, the proposal spends less than 10 percent on roads and bridges. The follow-up proposal, spearheaded by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), is even worse.
The senator’s plan calls for $3.5 trillion in spending for “human infrastructure,” the ludicrously elastic term for any pet project lawmakers can dream up. But the real cost of the plan, absent Congress’ typical legislative gimmicks, is over $5 trillion.
This proposal, too, has almost nothing to do with maintaining or building roads and bridges. These lawmakers know this, which is why they’re attempting to pass the plan through budget reconciliation on a party-line vote.
These legislative shenanigans conceal lawmakers’ true motive: to spend a lot of your money and boast that they “brought back” some of it to your district.
To some extent, Florida suffers from these same problems, although to a much lesser extent. Over 13 percent of our gas tax funds are diverted for projects only somewhat related to infrastructure, including schools and mass transit.
But that’s nothing compared to the habitual raiding of federal funds intended to maintain our infrastructure.
Nevertheless, this is not a simple issue of misused taxpayer dollars. The proposal would insert the power of the federal government ever deeper into our personal lives, from health care to energy, and beyond.
For example, Sanders’ plan would pressure states into expanding Medicaid by allowing working-age, able-bodied adults to join its rolls. Not only is this unnecessary, it would be extraordinarily costly to implement and would likely result in states raising taxes or cutting other essential programs.
It also wouldn’t fix any of Medicaid’s many problems, among them its staggering improper payment rate: 21 percent in 2020, amounting to $143 billion, or enough to cover 24 million adults for an entire year.
The senator has similar plans for Medicare, a program absolutely crucial for Florida’s large retirement population.
Supporters of the package have suggested lowering the program’s eligibility age to 60 from 65, straining a safety net that is expected to go broke as soon as 2026. That would result in the rationing of care, or a decline in the quality of services, for seniors and Americans with disabilities.
The plan also calls for a costly national cap-and-trade system, which would cause energy prices to rise. This would be disastrous for low-income Americans and, as anyone who has ever visited Florida can tell you, those who rely on air conditioning.
That would be a hefty cost for a program that, as history shows, has extremely limited efficacy.
In short, this proposal would be particularly harmful to America’s “human infrastructure,” and that’s before lawmakers raise taxes to fund it. President Joe Biden suggests raising the federal corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent, bringing Florida’s combined state-federal rate to 31.2 percent, killing jobs and opportunity for millions.
We urge lawmakers to reject these intrusive, costly, and destructive proposals with the same urgency with which they were proposed. Floridians do not need another partisan spending spree — indeed, we need precisely the opposite: Responsible leadership from Congress.
Byron Donalds serves as the U.S. representative for Florida’s 19th District. Skylar Zander is state director of Americans for Prosperity-Florida.
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