Scene: POTUS’ office calling Jordan. Earlier POTUS asked Jordan for ideas how to convince politicians and the public that it would be a good idea to fund rebuilding US infrastructure by fixing the price for gas and diesel fuel. Original conversation with POTUS Entries #104, #105.
Jordan: “Hello, Jordan Abel here.”
Caller: “Mr. Abel, this is Harriet Breadsaker in POTUS’ office. He asked me to remind you that you owe him a draft of how he should propose the idea of a fixed price for gasoline and diesel fuel. When can we expect the draft, please?”
Jordan: “Part of its complete.”
Caller: “Mr. Abel. Maybe my question was not clear. When will you send the draft for POTUS to review?”
Jordan: “Give me another week.”
Caller: “I’ll tell him more like 10 days. Hope we don’t have to talk again. Goodbye Mr. Abel.”
Jordan (mumbling to himself): “I’ve got to get going on this project. POTUS is already on my case. What’s the next item I need to address?
(The balance of the entry is Jordan talking to himself.”
The next “P” is “perception”. How did I overlook perception? The issue of perception should be upfront. Calm down, Jordan, you are where you are. Just be diligent and plow through the balance of the “P’s” and you will make the deadline. Besides you told POTUS it would be a “working draft” and not a final recommendation.
“Perception.” I need to make sure as many people as possible understand the “extra” cost of fuel is really an investment in America…and not a tax. People should consider cost to rebuild infrastructure as an investment. Considering as an investment seems so obvious, but not everyone gets it.
I recall before the Revenge Revolution – sometime late 2014, early 2015 – just before the Republican Congress was sworn in, there was an article in the New York Times about the lack of support for increasing the gas tax. Some Republicans were resisting a Federal tax increase and wanted responsibility for roads transferred to the states. (15 01 04 NYT re Little Support for Gas Tax
I recall being dumbfounded anyone would think like that. Can you imagine having a highway system without national standards? No guarantee of consistency among the states for road quality, signage, bridges, etc. Talk about a potential negative impact on commerce. What were these Republicans thinking?
OK, there’s a few wackos still in Congress. Fortunately the public threw out most of them following the Revenge Revolution. POTUS still might need to throw the wackos a bone to avoid a fight or have the legislation stalled, especially in the Senate. What bone? Maybe consider allocating part of the revenue from the fixed fuel price to reduce the deficit.
Another head scratcher. Why do some Republicans think the US should pay down the Federal debt…and some even want a surplus. Why they think like that is beyond me. What I do know is no matter what I say or POTUS’ says, or any professional economist loaded with empirical data says, that group will never change its mind. Do these same guys really think commercial and investment banks have enough money to pay depositors or pay off their debts? Wall Street prints money every day.
OK, enough sidebars, back to the issue at hand. POTUS’ proposal needs to build a credible and well-understood argument that: (i) reinforces why repair to infrastructure is needed; (ii) emphasizes the benefits of a wide range of infrastructure projects, not just road and bridges; (iii) makes it clear the extra cost for fuel is really an investment, not a tax. Jordan, stop even considering the word “tax.” Take the word “tax” out of your vocabulary for this project. Repeat after me: the extra cost is an investment, the extra cost is an investment; the extra cost is an investment.
An unresolved issue is how to allocate the funds generated. To avoid the perception of partisanship, maybe the solution is to create a team of different key constituents – business leaders, academic, politicians and citizens. Need to keep the team small – ideally no more than say 9 members. Each team member could have a supporting workgroup. A team larger than 9 will get out of control and not provide real guidance. Recommendations from a highly respected smaller team will be more cohesive and more difficult for Congress to reject.
Just for fun, who could be on the team? I’ll make a list and then prune it after reviewing with some other people. For now, let’s include representatives from: (i) auto industry (ii) airline industry (iii) water transportation (iv) communications industry (v) municipal infrastructure – water, sewer, local roads (vi) environmental groups (vii) 2-3 academics – engineering (civil), business, maybe an anthropologist. That would make for an interesting group. (viii) electricity generation industry – need alternative energy also (ix) energy producers. Alright you are already over the limit…but a decent start.
Whew. Some progress. No go get some coffee and take a short break, then back to work. No more calls from old Harriet Breadsaker. Be nice to Ms. Breadsaker, Jordan.
(To be continued)