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Senate Democrats Cite Bogus Jobs Figures on 'Infrastructure' Plan

Yesterday, Senate Democrats unveiled a $1 trillion infrastructure blueprint, claiming the eventual legislation would create 15 million jobs over 10 years. The plan stretches the meaning of infrastructure so far—it includes around $100 billion for non-infrastructure such as schools, health care facilities, and national park buildings—that one ought to be far more concerned about crumbling definitions of “infrastructure” than of crumbling roads and bridges.

In reality, the plan is a slush-fund pipedream that is dead on arrival in the Senate. As I noted in a statement yesterday, what the plan really shows is that Senate Democrats are not serious about addressing the real top national infrastructure priority: reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration. The current FAA authorization expires September 30 and there is much to do in terms of reforming air traffic control, airport financing, and safety regulations.

The $1 trillion proposal is clearly designed to push President Donald Trump to move faster on his infrastructure promises, which also involve a $1 trillion figure. But the Eno Center for Transportation’s Jeff Davis posted an interesting graphic yesterday comparing the Senate Democrats’ blueprint with Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) $1 trillion infrastructure campaign pledge. Even though Sen. Sanders proposed what amounts to an infrastructure money pit, at least it was largely focused on what is generally considered to be infrastructure.

But making matters worse for Senate Democrats is their claim that this $1 trillion plan would create 15 million jobs over the next decade. Where did they get this figure? From a much-criticized 2011 estimate by President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers. CEA then claimed that 13,000 one-year jobs would be created for every $1 billion in infrastructure spending.

But to the CEA’s credit, they constrained their definition of infrastructure not only to things that are actually infrastructure, but specifically to highways and mass transit. Schools, Indian Country clinics, veterans’ homes, park nature centers, and whatever else the Senate Democrats can repurpose as “infrastructure” were not included in the $1 billion/13,000 job-year claim.

And as Politico reporter Danny Vinik noted, “It’s unclear where the extra 200,000 jobs per year come from — likely generous rounding.” It’s time to go back to the drawing board, Sen. Schumer.

For more on the dueling $1 trillion infrastructure plans, see Cato’s Randal O’Toole.