Sprinkles from the Left

A majority of Democrats believe it is more important that Biden’s infrastructure plan be passed with support from both Democrats and Republicans, as opposed to being passed as quickly as possible. (85%; The Hill/HarrisX May 19)

Perhaps it’s useful at this point to think about some of the objectives that various players have, which may not be closely aligned with what they say they want. So what are the goals?

Passing a bill. President Joe Biden certainly wants something to pass. His reputation for getting stuff done is on the line, and he certainly wants a bill-signing ceremony. It’s likely that Democratic leaders in Congress want the same. That includes policy leaders (generally committee chairs, but others too). Republicans? Not so much. In fact, preventing a bill from passing could be the top goal for Republican leaders.

Policy gains. A separate but overlapping question involves the substance of the bill. Biden probably wants the actual policies embedded in his proposal — such as spending on roads and bridges, or support for manufacturing — even more than he wants a signing ceremony, especially if he thinks they’ll provide an economic boost that would help Democrats in 2022 and 2024. Thus he might turn down a bill that could get him a “win” if it doesn’t fulfill his substantive objectives; how to balance these priorities is perhaps the biggest question for the White House. Democrats in Congress should care about this too. Republicans, on the other hand, may have mixed feelings, since they may want specific benefits for their constituents but aren’t enthusiastic about short-term economic advantages for the in-party.

Reputation for bipartisanship. Yup, this is a Biden goal as well, although surely it’s less important to him than the substance. It’s also a goal for the legislators in both chambers who are now negotiating. But there are complications. Some lawmakers may care more about bolstering such a reputation than about actually getting anything done; they may feel they’ve achieved enough just by getting some publicity for bargaining, whether or not they reach a deal…

How all this will sort out isn’t obvious. But looking at it through the incentives and goals of the various politicians involved is usually the first step to understanding what’s going on.

Jonathan Bernstein, Bloomberg

So what’s the deal with bipartisan negotiations that never seem to end? Is Joe Biden really Charlie Brown running up to the football held by Lucy, hoping against hope that this time she won’t yank it away?…

It’s possible; one of the big complaints about Biden before he became the 2020 Democratic nominee was that his “theory of change” depended too much on his personal sway with Republicans. But an important examination of public opinion on bipartisanship by Geoffrey Skelley at FiveThirtyEight suggests another possibility: Joe Biden is doing what the American people want before he moves on to enact as much legislation as he can, probably via the same kind of partisan power play that he utilized on the American Rescue Plan…

In other words, when the public craves bipartisanship, they want to see some visible wheeling and dealing in Washington. Obviously, the much-reported negotiations between the White House and Senate Republicans scratch that itch. Is Biden raising expectations he can’t reach? Possibly. As Skelley observes, though, Americans of both parties say they value bipartisanship, but what they really want is to enact the (largely partisan) priorities they prefer…

I am aware that this defense of Biden amounts to saying that the incoherence of public opinion on bipartisanship justifies an insincere effort to reach a deal on infrastructure with a reciprocally insincere opposition party. It all seems depressingly cynical. But as the saying goes, you can’t take the politics out of politics. And whatever else he is, Uncle Joe is a politician who is perhaps craftier than he sometimes appears.

Ed Kilgore, NY Magazine

Sprinkles from the Right

A vast majority of Republicans believe it is more important that Biden’s infrastructure plan be passed with support from both Democrats and Republicans, as opposed to being passed as quickly as possible. (85%; The Hill/HarrisX May 19)

Senate Republicans have been trying to persuade President Joe Biden to accept a scaled-down version of his new spending plans. Given the tax hikes he intends to go along with them, a new report suggests that scaling the Biden “infrastructure” plan down to zero might be the best outcome for U.S. workers…

The White House doesn’t seem to understand that most productivity-enhancing infrastructure is built by business, and when corporate taxes rise, businesses have an incentive to build less of it. The Tax Foundation explains that government spending giveth less investment than the new taxes would taketh away:

‘We estimate the infrastructure spending would increase long-run GDP by 0.3 percent, but this positive economic effect is entirely offset by the increase in corporate taxation, resulting in less corporate investment which reduces GDP by 0.5 percent in the long run, reduces wages by 0.5 percent, and eliminates 101,000 full-time equivalent jobs.”

James Freeman, Wall Street Journal

The Biden White House is furiously trying to cajole congressional Republicans into signing off on his $2 trillion “infrastructure bill.” So far, they’ve held firm in saying not just no but “hell, no” to new taxes and spending to pay for all this.

It turns out that a bill to fix our roads and bridges, modernize our water and sewer systems, and upgrade ports and airports doesn’t require $1 of new spending. West Virginia Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, who has been negotiating with the Biden team on a public works bill, has been slyer than the foxes in the Biden administration. She points out correctly that there’s enough money already appropriated by Biden that can be “reprogrammed” for real infrastructure.

If we take out the $1 trillion-plus spending in the Biden plan for fake infrastructure — I’m speaking of the deluge of subsidies for wind, solar and electric vehicle manufacturers — then it’s easy to pay for road repairs and fixing bridges and modernizing internet access services with about $600 billion…

Biden has said that upgrading our infrastructure and the safety of our bridges is a top national priority. He is right. But what isn’t a national priority is the $22 trillion in debt spending he wants to pay for it. If Republicans cave into the progressive agenda that Biden has laid out, they will be coconspirators in the bankrupting of America.

Stephen Moore is a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and an economic consultant with FreedomWorks. (Published in the Daily Journal)

LIBERTARIAN VIEW (separate from the right,appearing here due to current format restraints):

Biden started with a plan that would cost about $2.3 trillion, give or take. After Republicans said the topline figure was too high, he released a follow-up offer that brought the total down to around $1.7 trillion. Republicans started with a $568 billion proposal, and yesterday released a counteroffer for $928 billion in infrastructure spending.

Even the Republican counterproposals are massive sums by any measure, but for Biden they are still not enough. Shortly after Republicans released their plan yesterday, the Biden administration responded by complaining that it did not represent enough new spending, because much of it would be paid for by redirecting unspent funds from previous COVID relief bills…

Of the $928 billion, Axios reports, about $257 billion would come from new spending; the rest would come from repurposed funds, such as earlier pandemic relief bills where the money has not been fully spent.

Republicans, in other words, not only proposed nearly $1 trillion in spending on a constellation of projects that Biden says are a priority; they found ways to offset the cost of much of it by redirecting unused money. You might think Biden would be interested in backing that, since it funds his priorities in a way that required less federal funding. Yet his administration complains that the proposal doesn’t have enough new spending.

The spending is the point, almost entirely apart from how the money is spent or what projects it produces. The president is not just concerned about obtaining funding for specific infrastructure projects or programs; he wants to spend money just to have spent it.

Peter Suderman, Reason