According to Ryan Cooper at WaPo’s Plum Line, one of the two key senators behind a new attempt to do something about our badly decaying national infrastructure is none other than our own Roy Blunt. Guess he’s getting a little tired of trotting out the same ol’, same ol’ Obamacare scare stories that GOP congress people are obligated to regurgitate at regular intervals, or figuring out how to give his big donors, such as Monsanto, for instance, another lucrative sign of his appreciation, so he’s finally decided to sign on to something important – and, make no mistake, for Congress to begin making bipartisan noises about addressing our dire infrastructure challenges in any fashion at all is a major biggie during this period of cockamaime, mostly GOP-imposed austerity. As Cooper notes “We’ve got ancient water mains, leaky gas pipes, crumbling roads and bridges,” and if we continue to do nothing, they’ll only get worse, fast.
No matter how anyone spins it, though, Senator Blunt, deserves some credit. He, together with Democratic Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, is actually taking the lead in the Senate to introduce legislation complementary to that put forward in the House last year by Maryland’s Democratic Rep. John Delaney.
The legislation seeks to address infrastructure problems in the face of the near bankruptcy of the Highway Trust Fund which traditionally funds such projects, and which has been bankrolled by an increasingly inadequate gas-tax of 18.4 cents a gallon. That number hasn’t changed since 1993, and, given the make-up of the House of Representatives, it won’t increase anytime too soon. At the same time, the U.S. loses revenue from big corporations that stash their earnings overseas. The proposed legislation addresses both areas of revenue shortfall:
Delaney’s plan would create a $50 billion federal fund to bankroll loans and leverage private investment for transportation and other infrastructure. The money would come from bonds bought by companies who want a tax break if they bring cash earned abroad back to the United States.
Of course, this plan is not the end-all and be-all in terms of a solution to funding infrastructure maintenance. Think for a few minutes about the idea of a hefty tax break for corportions and you’ll begin to understand just why Senator “Big Bucks” Blunt might find this plan attractive. But it’s also true that, as Cooper notes, this sort of approach is perhaps the only way we’ll manage to get action to address a problem that can’t wait much longer:
Of course these corporations will pocket their tax break, and busily continue piling up their overseas Smaug-like hoards so they can start whining for another one (that’s what they did last time), but as a stopgap measure until we get a less-insane Congress, this is not totally horrible. I fear that right now, that’s as good as we’re going to get.
Maybe Blunt should get some points for bucking the do-nothing GOP plan of non-action. Of course, the best thing for the rest of us to do would be to get to work to get rid of a congress that, again in Cooper’s words, has created an environment in which “our national discussion is so captured by the austerian/anti-tax death grip, we have to come up with Rube Goldberg policy schemes to pretend like we’re not spending money.”