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How Does the Washington Post Know that Trump’s Plan Really “Aims” to Pump $1.5 Trillion Into Infrastructure Projects?

This is an assertion in a major Post article on infrastructure, but it doesn’t fit with the evidence. Trump is actually only proposing to put up $200 billion (0.09 percent of GDP) over the next decade towards his infrastructure initiative.

The rest is supposed to come from state and local governments and private investors. As the piece notes, many are dubious whether anything like this amount will be forthcoming. Also, Trump is proposing large cuts to Amtrack and a wide range of other areas infrastructure spending, so his proposed increase in spending is far less this $200 billion figure.

While the Post wants to assure readers that Trump really expects that his proposal might lead to an increase in infrastructure spending of $1.5 trillion (0.7 percent of GDP) over the next decade, let me suggest an alternative possibility. Trump made big promises about infrastructure spending during the campaign. It is likely that many of his supporters took these promises seriously.

However, Trump really doesn’t give a damn about infrastructure and the Republicans in Congress are not willing to increase the deficit, give back part of their tax cut, or reduce military spending, to accommodate additional infrastructure spending. Therefore Trump goes out and touts a plan that everyone knows doesn’t add up, but allows him to pretend to be meeting his commitment to his base.

I have no idea that my alternative scenario is accurate, but I would argue that it is at least as plausible as the Post’s claim that Trump or anyone else actually expects this plan to produce $1.5 trillion in additional infrastructure spending. Since neither the Post nor I know what is in the heads of Trump and his top aides, how about they just report the plan and what Trump’s people say about it, and not claim to know anyone’s real “aims” are.

This column originally appeared Beat the Press.

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Dean Baker is the senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. 

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