Commentary: The Central Importance of Infrastructure

After I’d chastised him repeatedly for being the spoiler in the November 2020 battle between Republican David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff to represent Georgia in the U.S. Senate, Shane Hazel invited me to debate him on his podcast.

During our lengthy discussion, Hazel demonstrated a thorough knowledge of the U.S. Constitution, and we found ourselves in agreement on many if not most of the critical issues, starting with the First and Second Amendments. One topic I wish we could have spent more time discussing was the issue of infrastructure. As it was, I got nowhere with Hazel on that question.

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Buttigieg Touts New Tucson Bridge in Video About Infrastructure

A former Democrat candidate for president and the current Secretary of Transportation posted a video touting a bridge in Tucson as a successful example of the Biden administration’s infrastructure spending package. 

“The 22nd Street Bridge project in Tucson, Arizona is an example of what infrastructure investment looks like in practice — helping people connect to the places and things they need to reach affordably, efficiently, and safely,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said, attaching a video message on Twitter. 

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Phoenix to Receive $25 Million Grant to Construct Pedestrian Bridge

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego revealed that the city will receive a $25 million grant to construct the long-proposed Rio Salado Bike/Pedestrian Bridge.

She joined Pete Buttigieg, U.S. secretary of transportation, and other community officials at the Rio Salado Audubon Center, according to a news release from the city. The funding comes from a Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grant.

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Arizona Creates Task Force to Address Infrastructure, Utilize Federal Funding

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey on Thursday launched a new task force to address the state’s infrastructure needs and appropriate federal funding administered to the state through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The legislation, which was approved on a bipartisan basis, will allocate $1.2 trillion to states to repair and upgrade critical infrastructure needs, like roads and bridges.

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Biden-Buttigieg DOT to Tap Infrastructure Spending to Promote Speed Cameras Nationwide

Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s “National Roadway Safety Strategy” includes promoting the use of speed cameras in cities and towns as a “proven safety countermeasure.”

DOT received $6 billion to issue grants to “help cities and towns” with road safety, which was part of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that Congress passed.

“That law creates a new Safe Streets and Roads for All program, providing $6 billion to help cities and towns deliver new, comprehensive safety strategies, as well as accelerate existing, successful safety initiatives,” said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg during a speech on Thursday about the launch of DOT’s National Roadway Safety Strategy.

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Commentary: Pramila Jayapal, the Loser of the Year

For three months, as the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Rep. Pramila Jayapal was firm in her threat: “We will agree to the bipartisan [infrastructure] bill if, and only if, we also pass the reconciliation bill first.” She was the driving force and the public face behind progressives’ mission to use the infrastructure bill as a cudgel to force Sen. Joe Manchin, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, and other centrist Democrats into passing Build Back Better. She repeatedly appeared on “The Rachel Maddow Show” to give attention to her strongarm tactics.

Time and time again in August, September, and October, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was forced to back down from votes on infrastructure because of Jayapal. When a reporter told Jayapal that some people believed she was “bluffing,” Jayapal, who has nearly 100 members in her caucus, said, “Try us.”

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Manchin Says He Won’t Vote for Mass Spending, Climate Bill, Dealing Blow to Biden

Senator Joe Manchin speaking

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., declared Sunday he won’t vote for President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Act, saying he feared the bill’s mass spending and climate provisions may worsen inflation.

“This is a no,” Manchin told Fox News Sunday, “I have tried everything I know to do.”

The West Virginia Democrat’s decision all but dooms Biden’s signature legislation in an evenly divided Senate.

Manchin said he was concerned about the continuing effects of the pandemic, inflation, and geopolitical unrest. His decision came after an intense lobbying campaign by the president and fellow Democrats failed to change his mind.

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Commentary: Democrat Spending Bill Taxes the Rich and the Poor

“No one got everything they wanted, including me, but that’s what compromise is. That’s consensus. And that’s what I ran on.”

That was President Joe Biden on Oct. 28 unveiling his latest $1.75 trillion spending bill—watered down from $3.5 trillion after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) refused to budge on the topline number—that Congress is expected to vote on this week.

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Some Arizona Municipalities Looking for More Money in Off-Year Election

Voters in some Arizona cities are due to see whether their taxes or costs of government are going to increase in the coming years.

Although many cities in the state have moved to all mail-in voting for off-year elections, Tuesday at 7 p.m. is the deadline for ballots to be received by Maricopa County.

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Biden’s Approval Hits New Low in FiveThirtyEight Tracker

Joe Biden

President Joe Biden’s approval rating hit a new low of just over 43% in FiveThirtyEight’s polling tracker as he confronts multiple economic and legislative headwinds.

Biden’s approval stood at 43.5%, and has steadily declined since July. His disapproval stood at 50.6%, the highest of his presidency.

Biden’s slide has coincided with another spike in coronavirus cases, a messy Afghanistan withdrawal and economic challenges ranging from supply chain issues to inflation. He has also pinned much of his domestic agenda on the bipartisan infrastructure bill and his sweeping budget, but left-wing and moderate Democrats have yet to agree on a compromise that would give both the votes needed to pass the House, where they hold just a three-vote margin, and the 50-50 Senate.

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Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Stokes ‘Hyperinflation’ Fears

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey

 Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey stirred up more fears around inflation with his comments over the weekend saying that hyperinflation is “happening.”

“Hyperinflation is going to change everything,” the tech leader posted on Twitter. “It’s happening.”

The post sparked a flurry of responses. Replying to comments on his post, Dorsey added, “It will happen in the US soon, and so the world.”

Hyperinflation is defined by Investopedia as “rapid, excessive, and out-of-control general price increases in an economy.”

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Democrats Cut ‘Human Infrastructure’ Spending Plan, But Compromise Still out of Reach So Far

Senator Joe Manchin speaking

Tense negotiations have continued for months on Democrats’ proposed several trillion dollars in federal spending, leading to major changes for the plan. Notably, Democrats now say the $3.5 trillion “human infrastructure”plan will likely end up closer to $2 trillion, though that figure still remains too high for many lawmakers. 

At the same time, President Joe Biden has still been unable to rally Congress around a method to actually pay for the proposal, which Biden claims will add nothing to the national debt.

Democrats’ separate, roughly $1 trillion infrastructure bill appeared set to pass in recent weeks, but some progressive Democrats withheld their support fearing that giving up their votes would cost them leverage in making sure the larger reconciliation bill is passed and signed into law.

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Flooding Could Wipe Out 25 Percent of Critical Infrastructure: Report

About 25% of critical infrastructure in the U.S., or 36,000 facilities, is at serious risk of being rendered inoperable as a result of flooding over the next three decades, according to an industry report released Monday.

American infrastructure such as police stations, airports, hospitals, wastewater treatment facilities, churches and schools were all considered in the analysis, according to First Street Foundation, the group that published the first-of-its-kind report. The U.S. is “ill-prepared” for a scenario where major flooding events become more commonplace, the report concluded.

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‘We Will Use the Full Range of Tools’: Trade Representative Says U.S. Will Enforce Phase One Trade Deal with China

President Donald J. Trump, joined by Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, sign the U.S. China Phase One Trade Agreement Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020, in the East Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said the Biden administration would enforce the Phase One trade agreement negotiated by the Trump administration with China while giving a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Monday.

“For too long, China’s lack of adherence to global trading norms has undercut the prosperity of Americans and others around the world,” Tai said in prepared remarks. “China made commitments that benefit certain American industries, including agriculture, that we must enforce.”

China has fallen short on the purchase totals it agreed to as part of the agreement, increasing its purchases by only 69% as of July 2021, according to the non-partisan Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE).

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Progressive Group Stalks, Harasses Sinema Around Phoenix

LUCHA Arizona protesting outside during the day about the filibuster

A progressive group spent its weekend haranguing Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) over what they see as the moderate Democrat Senator’s unwillingness to further the progressive cause. 

Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA), which describes itself as a group “led by community members fighting for social, racial & economic transformation,” protested Sinema at several different locations in Arizona over the weekend.

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Commentary: President Biden and His ‘Build Back Better’ … Nonsense

The winding road to American utopia is dotted with potholes, buckling bridges, leaking canals, and lit by flickering lights. To repave America’s highways, shore up her bridges, repair her waterways, and reinforce her power grid, the Democrats’ left-wing insists Congress must first pass a $3.5 trillion bill to fund the federal government and remake large swaths of society along the way. 

So the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, first scheduled for a vote in the House of Representatives on Monday, then punted to Thursday, might not get a vote before the weekend as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) redoubles her efforts to wrangle her fractious caucus into supporting the whole stinking mess.

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After Meeting with House Democrats About Economic Agenda, Biden Declares ‘We’re Gonna Get This Done’

President Joe Biden told reporters Friday that he was in no rush to see his bipartisan infrastructure bill and budget pass Congress as Democratic divisions over the two slow their path to becoming law.

“We’re gonna get this done,” Biden said after meeting with the House Democratic caucus on Capitol Hill Friday. “It doesn’t matter when. It doesn’t matter whether it’s six minutes, six days or six weeks. We’re gonna get it done.”

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Progressive Group Continues to Beat Up Arizona Sen. Sinema, This Time over Infrastructure Bill

Progress Arizona, which played a role in electing Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) to the U.S. Senate, is once again attacking the moderate Democrat, who won’t budget on her party’s proposed $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill. 

“This is our moment to deliver on all of the promises that we made,” Emily Kirkland, executive director of the nonprofit, reportedly said. “She is just absolutely standing in the way of that, without making clear what she wants.”

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Manchin Reportedly Calls on Democrats to Push Budget Back to 2022

Joe Manchin

Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin reportedly said in private that the “strategic pause” he has pushed for regarding his party’s budget should last through the end of the year.

Manchin’s remarks, first reported by Axios, would mean a sharp departure from Democrats’ long-stated goals, which include passing both the budget and the bipartisan infrastructure bills before the end of September.

His remarks align both with a Wall Street Journal op-ed he wrote earlier this month and recent comments he made calling for a “pause” on the budget as Congress addressed other priorities ranging from a messy Afghanistan withdrawal to multiple natural disasters.

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Public May Not See Net Benefit of Infrastructure Bill That Could Expand Rail in Northeastern Pennsylvania

Much fanfare surrounding infrastructure legislation in Congress focuses on road and bridge improvements, but the bill’s implications for relatively costly rail transit in northeastern Pennsylvania and elsewhere have gotten far less attention.

The current proposal to spend $66 billion on Amtrak would be the largest federal expenditure on passenger rail since the creation of the transit agency.

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Sinema Still Bucking Democrats on $3.5 Trillion Infrastructure Deal

Kyrsten Sinema

An Arizona Senator is holding firm on her commitment to vote against a $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill pushed by her more progressive colleagues. 

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) remains opposed to the deal, despite intense pressure from the far-left elements of the Democrat Party. 

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Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction Says 20 Year Effort is Marked by ‘Too Many Failures’

Special IG for Afghanistan ReconstructionFollow Inspector General John F. Sopko Testifies before Congress

The special inspector general for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) is calling the two-decade effort to rebuild the country a failure. The August 2021 report details the areas in which the American effort to rebuild the country came up far short of the initial goal.

“The extraordinary costs were meant to serve a purpose – though the definition of that purpose evolved over time,” reads the 140-page report, alluding the United States’ changing goals in the region over the course of its 20-year military presence in Afghanistan.

“After 13 years of oversight, the cumulative list of systemic challenges SIGAR and other oversight bodies have identified is staggering,” reads the report.

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Infrastructure Bill Features Per-Mile User Fee Pilot Program

Highway Traffic

The recently passed U.S. Senate infrastructure bill includes controversial provisions such as a vehicle per-mile user fee pilot program as the bill faces uncertainty in the U.S. House.

The $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, which includes $550 billion of new spending, passed in the Senate on Tuesday by a 69-30 vote. The bill authorizes spending for improvements to roads, bridges, rail, transit and broadband, among other forms of infrastructure. 

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Commentary: Inflation Hits 5.3 Percent in July as $1.2 Trillion Infrastructure Bill Easily Passes with $3.5 Trillion Stimulus Expected in September

The unadjusted consumer price index as measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics was 5.28 percent for the month of July, slightly lower than June at 5.32 percent, but still measuring the highest inflation on record since July 2008, when it hit nearly 5.5 percent.

The latest numbers come as Congress has easily passed another gargantuan $1.2 trillion infrastructure spending plan that included $550 billion of new spending. Interest rates have already reacted as 10-year treasuries came off a near-term low of 1.17 percent on Aug. 2 to 1.36 percent as of Aug. 12, slightly increasing inflation expectations.

The $1.2 trillion spendathon was just the latest in a long line of spending that has added $5.25 trillion to the national debt since Jan. 2020 in response to the Covid pandemic all the way to the current $28.5 trillion: the $2.2 trillion CARES Act and the $900 billion phase four under former President Donald Trump, and then the $1.9 trillion stimulus under President Joe Biden. It’s been a bipartisan affair.

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Moses Sanchez Announces Campaign for Phoenix City Council to Replace Term Limited Sal DiCiccio

With popular conservative Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio term limited, local activist and professor Moses Sanchez, a Republican, announced he is running for the District 6 slot based in Ahwatukee. He ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Phoenix in 2018, a difficult race for Republicans since Phoenix has more Democrats, but District 6 leans Republican. 

“I’m proud to call Ahwatukee home,” he said in a statement on August 11. “I’ve raised my family in Phoenix, served on our local school board, run for Mayor, and worked to grow a small business. I’m running for Phoenix City Council to provide the same opportunities this city has given me and stand up for the most overlooked community in Phoenix.”

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Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg to Visit Arizona on Thursday

Pete Buttigieg

U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Pete Buttigieg will visit Phoenix on Thursday to discuss the Biden Administration’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan. The Arizona Sun Times inquired with the DOT for further details of Buttigieg’s visit. They didn’t respond by press time.

Buttigieg is scheduled to host a press conference at 10 am MST. During the press conference, Buttigieg is expected to address the infrastructure plan’s impact on tribal communities. In April, Buttigieg promised that tribal communities would benefit from the infrastructure plan’s investments into roads, broadband, water, higher education, and transportation.

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Commentary: The Right Way to Modernize Infrastructure

Everything these days seems to count as infrastructure. Child care is infrastructure. Elder care is infrastructure. Even court-packing is infrastructure. But in a world where everything is infrastructure, nothing is infrastructure, and our existing infrastructure suffers as a result. Take, for example, President Biden’s recently revised American Jobs Plan, a $2 trillion boondoggle that prioritizes pretty much everything except for the roads, bridges, ports, and waterways that constitute actual infrastructure. The plan comes after we already appropriated $605 billion for infrastructure and transportation in the last three COVID-19 relief bills. 

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Critics of Biden’s Proposed Oil-and-Gas Industry Taxes Fueled by Gas Shortages

Gas shortage "out of service" stickers

Gas shortages on the East Coast have helped rally Congressional opposition to the portions of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan that would force oil and gas companies to pay more in taxes.

House Republicans sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., calling on Democrats to oppose Biden’s plan to “eliminate tax preferences for fossil fuels.”

The letter, signed by 55 Republicans, came after a cyber attack of Colonial Pipeline shut down a major pipeline on the East Coast and led to fear-driven gasoline shortages. The attack also raised questions about the nation’s energy infrastructure and vulnerability to attack.

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Senate GOP Counters Biden with $568 Billion Infrastructure Plan

Joe Biden

A group of Republican U.S. senators have unveiled a $568 billion plan that would look to rebuild and expand infrastructure nationwide and counter a more expensive proposal by President Joe Biden.

The GOP plan includes $299 billion for roads and bridges, $61 billion for public transit systems and $65 billion for broadband infrastructure. Also included in the plan is $20 billion for rail, $35 billion for drinking water and wastewater, $13 billion for safety, $17 billion in ports and inland waterways, $44 billion for airports and $14 billion for water storage.

Emphasized in the bill is the expediting of projects through regulatory processes and several measures to minimize new spending. The plan calls for repurposing federal COVID-19 relief funds that have remained unused, along with ensuring the federal debt is not increased.

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