By Phil Butler 1-26-17
The Great Trump Wall may be the one project that helps make America the greatest again.
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President Donald Trump’s border wall construction is cause for the mainstream media in America to reel and spin, and for the liberals in congress to lose their heads too. The man who started day-one fulfilling campaign promises now has his opposition off balance and punch drunk. Amid all the political mechanics, what if those infrastructure plans he’s touted really can make America the greatest?
The US-Mexico border is 1,933 miles long. In contrast, the Great Wall of China is over 5,500 miles long. Donald Trump wants to secure America’s southern border in the 21st century by undertaking a monumental construction project many say is foolhardy or impossible. Interestingly, most of the Great Wall of China was built during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) when the machine of construction was a strong back. In fairness, it seems a look at President Trump’s wall is best undertaken by looking at past US projects, potential future ones, and their effects short and long term.
Infrastructure – A Trump New Deal?
Before I launch into Trump Wall comparatives, this report from the Economic Policy Institute makes part of the argument for Trump’s wall and other infrastructure projects for us. Essentially the report tells of the positive role increased infrastructure investments can have for solving several pressing challenges that the American economy faces today. Reading through it, I am wondering if Mr. Trump was not ahead of me in studying the role of construction in the US. This excerpt from the report is a good lead into our Great Trump Wall prospectus, author Josh Bivens writes:
“In the longer term, the most pressing economic challenges for the U.S. economy concern how to provide satisfactory living standards growth for the vast majority of people. Such growth requires two components: rapid overall productivity growth, and a stabilization (or even reversal) of the large rise in income inequality that occurred in the three decades before the Great Recession, a rise in inequality that kept overall productivity growth from translating into living standards growth for most Americans.”
© AFP 2016/ ALFREDO ESTRELLA
Mexican President Says His Country Will Not Pay for Wall
The report goes deep into the micro-macro economic impacts of various levels of infrastructure investment, but the takeaway no matter which model is chosen is millions of higher paying jobs. It is the undervalued American who elected Donald Trump in the first place, if we recall. Obama’s income inequality mess is not so obscured. Now to how a Great Wall will help fix this.
When President Franklin D. Roosevelt launched his “New Deal” programs to restart the American economy after the Great Depression, many politicians and bankers said he was crazy. History shows now, the massive economic and social impact FDR’s policies had. In 1933 25 percent of Americans were unemployed, some 4,000 banks failed, and over 32,000 businesses went broke in that year alone. The lives of the people from this era of American history were changed inextricably, the average American of this generation lived their entire life in fear of losing everything they had. This one aspect governed decades of work, art, family, education, and life overall.
FDR’s New Deal had far reaching effects both positive and negative. Most of the negative effects came about because Roosevelt believed in big government and addressing social welfare concerns, more so than creating a Keynesian-style macroeconomic stimulus model. Donald Trump’s infrastructure (and wall) plans lean toward this macroeconomic model. But let’s first look at a few large scale FDR projects for comparison.
Just A Wall You Say?
This report at the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) frames the New Deal properly, and especially where the restructuring of government agencies are concerned. Within the article projects like the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) are spotlighted.
© AFP 2016/ Benjamin Fathers
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The CCC was a public work relief program that operated from 1933 to 1942 in the United States for unemployed, unmarried men from relief families as part of the New Deal. The far-reaching effects of this popular work program can never be fully gauged, but during the time of the CCC, enrollees planted some 3 billion trees, constructed trails, lodges and related facilities in more than 800 parks nationwide and upgraded most state parks, updated forest fire fighting methods, and built a network of service buildings and public roadways in remote areas that are still in use today. But the CCC was considered an “emergency” relief program.
The Public Works Administration (PWA) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA) employed workers, both skilled and unskilled, to create public buildings and roads, and to bring essential utilities to Americans. The Rural Electricity Administration (REA) was one agency, the effects of which every American feels to this day. Before the REA, only a very few farms in the US had electricity (11%). The REA caused public works in America to boom, and the integral steps taken then helped development today’s infrastructural and agricultural landscape. The impact of the PWA is best seen via the 34,000 construction projects including airports, large electricity-generating dams, warships for the Navy, and bridges built under the program.
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