Saturday, December 17, 2016

No Need For Cheerleading, Senator Rounds

     Our U.S. Senator Mike Rounds is brimming with enthusiasm about the prospects for our "new president" and "reinvigorated Congress" to get to work next year.  Published last week in
Senator Rounds
Rubber Stamp?  We'll See
the RCJ, his glowing projections  for the newly installed Trump administration's commitment to "moving infrastructure into the fast lane" reflected some politically mandatory enthusiasm for the Republican-controlled federal government and its plans for "investing in infrastructure across America." Actually, I'd guess most Americans are plenty gung-ho about infrastructure investment, though Trump's proposal to make private financing the cornerstone of the plan should raise a few questions.  Rounds himself stood by while one of the largest public-private projects he endorsed during his administration as South Dakota's governor a few years back, the failed beef plant in Aberdeen, blew up into the EB-5 scandal.  That fiasco 
directly cost South Dakota $2-$3 million, probably more when you add in lost local and state taxes that bankrupt investors didn't pay.
     If that venture didn't make Rounds a bit more circumspect about his unabashed enthusiasm for Trump's public-private concept, the rest of us should be paying attention.  An analysis of the Trump plan by the conservative free-market thinkers at the American Action Forum uses words like "fantasy on steroids . . . nonsense . . . there is no infrastructure Genie" to lambaste Trump's supposedly revenue neutral plan for providing investors with tax breaks that will be offset by taxes on wages of new construction workers, along with corporate profits earned by builders and contractors. Meanwhile, the vastly more liberally-oriented Washington Post calls it a "trap . . . a tax cut plan for utility investors . . . that doesn't directly fund infrastructure" and could provide tax breaks for "investors in previously planned projects."
     The American Society of Civil Engineers has identified (in 2013) numerous infrastructure projects that need repairs and upgrades in South Dakota.  The total bill over the next couple of
Troubled Bridge
Over SD Waters
decades is in the hundreds of millions, and given the numerous bridge, road and water projects, among others identified by ASCE, that are crucial to our state's economy, getting a workable infrastructure program going under the Trump administration is high priority stuff for our state's Congressional delegation.  The traditional approach of direct government investment and oversight can be tailored by our elected officials to avoid excessive red tape, which is where the deliberative energy should be focused.  I hope Mike Rounds will show some more independence and analysis on this before going along with whatever the Trump administration hands him as his marching orders.  


  1. Talking Points Memorandum reports (12 December) that Senator McConnell "voiced skepticism that a multi-trillion dollar infrastructure bill was a good idea or use of the GOP's time and resources." This might be an indication that old saw that president's propose, but Congress dispose is again in play.

    1. No question, Jerry. Rounds should have the same circumspection as his majority leader before diving headlong into supporting it.