President Donald Trump shied away from a lengthy laundry list of promises on the economy in his inaugural speech on Friday, instead delivering sweeping pronouncements about making America great again and vastly improving the fortunes of a “forgotten” middle class.
“From this day forward it’s going to be only America first, America first,” Trump said during his 20-minute address on the West Front of the Capitol. “Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families.”
One notable exception to that was the billionaire businessman’s determined effort to foster $1 trillion or more of major infrastructure spending in the coming years to complement his tax cut and other economic policies for creating more jobs.
“For many decades we have enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry, subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for a very sad depletion of our military,” Trump said. “We’ve defended other nations’ borders while refusing to defend our own. And spent trillions and trillions of dollars overseas while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay.”
“We will build new roads and highways and bridges and airports and tunnels and railways all across our wonderful nation,” he pledged. “We will get our people off of welfare and back to work, rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor,” he added.
Trump promised during the 2016 presidential campaign to at least double Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s infrastructure investment target. His detailed proposal depends heavily on private investors, with the federal government encouraging investment by providing highly generous federal tax credits.
However, that plan has encountered resistance on Capitol Hill from both Republicans who are concerned about adding to the debt and Democrats like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) who argue it won’t do enough to spur economic growth.
Notably, 66 percent of Americans oppose Trump’s plan that would offer nearly $140 billion in federal tax credits to private investors that back transportation projects, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Trump has not yet provided a more definitive outline of his infrastructure initiative, although he has promised to unveil it within the first 100 days of his administration. Two of his economic advisers, Peter Navarro, a University of California-Irvine business professor and Wilbur Ross, a billionaire private-equity investor who has been nominated to head the Commerce Department, contend that the offer of $137 billion of tax credits to private firms could unleash a total of $1 trillion of new investments in transportation projects.
But critics say the plan is highly unconventional and will only attract investors to projects that can recoup their investment costs through revenue streams, such as tolls or user fees, according to The Hill.
Liberal Democrats are keen on developing an infrastructure program that goes well beyond the renewed federal highway authorization legislation approved last year, but favor increased spending or taxes to finance it.
Pelosi told reporters last week that she and other Democrats would be willing to negotiate with the Trump administration on a compromise measure, “as long as it’s a real infrastructure bill that rebuilds the infrastructure of America, creates good-paying jobs, increase the paycheck of American workers and is not a tax break at the high end, disguised as an infrastructure bill.”