Having said that, it must be admitted that Senate Republicans, especially Mitch McConnell, effectively blocked infrastructure spending even when Trump was in the White House. The main reason “infrastructure week” became a gag order was the Trump administration’s bad luck and lack of seriousness, its inability to formulate anything that looked like a cohesive plan. But McConnell’s passive-aggressive resistance also played a role.
So what was it all about? Since Reagan Republicans believe government is always the problem, never the solution – and, of course, taxes should always be lowered, never raised. They will not make exceptions for infrastructure. Indeed, the very fact that infrastructure spending is popular is not; they fear that this may help legitimize a broader role for government in general.
Finally, the modern Republican Party seems deeply allergic to any type of public program that does not give a large role to private for-profit actors, even if it is difficult to see what these private actors are used for. For example, unlike the rest of Medicare, drug coverage, introduced under George W. Bush, is only available through private insurance companies.
When Trump’s advisers unveiled their infrastructure “plan” (it was little more than a sketchy sketch), I immediately noticed that he carefully avoided suggesting that we could just, you know, build infrastructure as Eisenhower did. Instead, he proposed a complex and surely unworkable system of tax credits to private investors who hoped would build the infrastructure we needed.
If Trump’s folks had already crafted an infrastructure plan, it probably would have looked like the administration’s only investment program, the creation of “opportunity zones” meant to help Americans living in areas with no low income. What this program ultimately did was provide a godsend for wealthy investors, who used the tax break to build things like luxury housing.
In other words, the modern GOP simply will not make public programs unless they offer vast opportunities for profit.