The question is funding. And none of the answers there are pleasant. Will the GOP raise taxes? Or add more tolls and user fees? (Technically the Federal Reserve could just print the money to fund the government’s borrowing, but the GOP certainly wouldn’t support it.)
“Cynically speaking it really seems like politicians tend to say we’re going to leverage private capital for this because they don’t want to say exactly where the funding will come from,” Blair told The Week.
Funding is where the problem of redistribution raises its head. If you want to build a highway or public transit system for, say, a poor rural community — giving residents greater access to job opportunities, for instance — you can’t just tax them to build it. They’re poor! They can’t provide the tax revenue themselves. You’ll have to tax other people too, then use the money to build that specific project. In this sense, traditional infrastructure projects — where the government hires a contractor but handles ownership, operations, funding, and financing itself — are inherently and unavoidably redistributive.
Enticing private companies to build infrastructure won’t work either. If you’ve got a poor community that needs a new road or subway, the community itself can’t afford the tolls and fees. Trump’s tax credit won’t matter, either, because it just affects the financing — investors pay less tax on their returns on the backend. It doesn’t affect how much money the community itself has to spend. So Trump’s infrastructure plan will likely ignore poor and working-class communities entirely.