Kahn Job on Trump
Welcome to the HLCpocast for August 2, 2016. It’s the Kahn Job on Trump edition. In this podcast we’ll discuss the effect of Khizr Kahn’s speech before the Democratic Convention, the great “Roads and Bridges” hustle, and a new push from the Clinton campaign for amnesty.
Find us online at HarvardLunchClub.com and follow us on Twitter @HLCpodcast. Mike’s twitter handle is @MikeStopaMA and Todd’s is @toddtalk.
Here are our topics:
1) Khizr Kahn is the talk of the land after having given a riveting attack on Donald Trump at Hillary’s convention last week. But who is he, and how fair is the attack. And how odd is it that Trump can’t seem to learn the lesson that talking about bad narratives for him only helps the other side put more wind in the sails of those stories.
2) We hear from both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump about how the nation’s infrastructure is in disasterous condition and how we need big federal spending to reverse the situation. However, instead of listening to anectdotal evidence or union drivel, for those who believe in science we offer a data driven perspective that says the condition of roads and bridges has been improving for a long time and took a big jump from 2000-2009.
3) Tim Kaine says it’s time to make legal those who are in the U.S. unlawfully and that the Clinton administration will pursue such legislation during the first 100 days of a Hillary administration. Which makes one wonder why they think pandering to folks who can’t vote carries such a big payoff.
We’ll have our Shower Thoughts and for our Hidden Gem we offer A Hard Day’s Night from the Beatles, which this week in 1964 became the fifth consecutive song to go to Number One, making 17 weeks they ruled.
Michael Sargent Monday, August 01, 2016
They may not agree on much, but Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are of one mind when it comes to the state of the nation’s infrastructure.
In his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, Trump opined, “Our roads and bridges are falling apart, our airports are in Third World condition.” The rhetoric jibes with that of the Clinton campaign, which has promoted a video of Clinton during her secretary of state days declaring, “Our roads and bridges are potholed and crumbling. … Our airports are a mess.”
Another striking similarity: Both are wrong. Or, at the very least, they exaggerate the problem and propose the same wrongheaded solution.
The myth of “crumbling roads and bridges” is one of the most enduring in American politics. While there’s lots of maintenance and rebuilding to be done, “sky-is-falling” rhetoric is not backed up by data.
Take the state of the nation’s bridges, for example. The percentage of U.S. bridges rated as structurally deficient (i.e., not necessarily unsafe, but in need of extensive maintenance) has fallen by more than half since 1992, from 22 percent to under 10 percent in 2015.
Data assessing pavement conditions paint a similar picture. The Federal Highway Administration notes that pavement quality is not deteriorating; it’s improving. The agency’s comprehensive report found that the percentage of vehicle miles traveled on the national highway system with “good” ride quality increased from 48 percent in 2000 to 60 percent in 2010, while the share with “acceptable” ride quality grew from 91 percent to 93 percent. Similarly, a Reason Foundation study of state-owned highways concluded that “the overall condition … appears to be improving, and has possibly never been in better shape. In short, the U.S. highway infrastructure is not ‘crumbling.’ ”
The characterization of the nation’s airports as “Third World” is likewise exaggerated. But there is a striking difference between U.S. airports and the airports of Europe. The vast majority (nearly three-quarters) of European air traffic flows through airports that are privately owned, either wholly or in part. In the United States, not a single major airport is under private stewardship. Instead, they are owned by local governments, and everything from the airport layout to the fees they can assess is micromanaged by the feds, to boot.
The candidates’ proposed solutions are just as wrongheaded as their overblown claims. Clinton has called for $275 billion in additional federal infrastructure spending. While Trump’s campaign has not released any detailed plans, his rhetoric positions him to follow suit.
But taxpayers can no longer afford the rampant inefficiency in federal transportation spending, much less jack it up further. Of the roughly $55 billion spent annually out of the federal Highway Trust Fund, less than half goes to actual construction or rehabilitation of highway and bridge projects. Nearly 30 percent is diverted to unrelated projects like streetcars, bike paths and recreational trails. States and localities are happy to build bridges to nowhere when they are handed other people’s money.
And to debunk another worn-out trope: Infrastructure spending is not particularly well-suited to creating the short-term jobs promised by politicians. Infrastructure construction employs relatively few people and requires a high degree of technical skills and training. Such workers are scarce among the ranks of the unemployed.
Furthermore, infrastructure projects require a great deal of planning, often taking years before actual pick-and-shovel work can begin. As President Obama learned from the so-called stimulus spending, “Shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected.”
This is not to trivialize the very real problems facing our transportation systems and our economy. But these problems require innovative solutions, not more of the same tired rhetoric about crumbling bridges and jobs aplenty.
Michael Sargent is a research associate in the Heritage Foundation’s Roe Institute of Economic Policy Studies, headquartered in Washington, D.C.