Regulation

Trump Is Right: Regulation Is Massively Slowing Down and Boosting the Costs of Modernizing Infrastructure

'Red tape is not the price of good government; it is the enemy of good government.'

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Winterling/Dreamstime

"The government-wide average for completing a full environmental impact statement .?.?. is just 4.6 years," whined Center for American Progress infrastructure specialist Kevin DeGood in the Washington Post. My immediate response was "just 4.6 years!" DeGood was reacting to President Donald Trump's dramatic gesture last week when he dropped binders of an environmental assessment report "costing $24,000 per page" that had been compiled in order to obtain approval for building a stretch of highway in Maryland.

"These binders on the stage could be replaced by just a few simple pages," Trump said. "These binders also make you do unnecessary things that cost millions and millions of dollars, and they actually make it worse."

Environmental reviews have dramatically slowed the creation and modernization of roads, bridges, energy production, water supply, and airports. For example, the Obama administration used environmental reviews by the State Department as an excuse to prevent for six years the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to transport oilsands crude to the U.S. Gulf Coast. (The Trump administration approved it in March.) Similarly, environmental reviews have delayed the building of the Cape Wind offshore wind energy project for 16 years and counting.

In a terrific Washington Post column, George Will cites a 2015 study by the the nonpartisan reform coalition Common Good headed by attorney Philip K. Howard. The Common Good "believes individual responsibility, not mindless bureaucracy, must be the organizing principle of government." The report, "Two Years Not Ten Years: Redesigning Infrastructure Approvals, asserts:

Red tape is not the price of good government; it is the enemy of good government. Time is money: America could modernize its infrastructure, at half the cost, while dramatically enhancing environmental benefits, with a two-year approval process. Our analysis shows that a six-year delay in starting construction on public projects costs the nation over $3.7 trillion, including the costs of prolonged inefficiencies and unnecessary pollution. This is more than double the $1.7 trillion needed through the end of this decade to modernize America's infrastructure.

Even if it the Common Good report's estimate were half of what it calculates, it would still represent an enormous amount drag on economic growth and job creation. President Trump's impulse to dramatically streamline the regulatory approval process is sound, but whether his administration can pull it off remains to be seen.

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21 responses to “Trump Is Right: Regulation Is Massively Slowing Down and Boosting the Costs of Modernizing Infrastructure

  1. Indexed for inflation, the cost of the Hoover dam was $700 million – less than a modern football stadium. Time to complete was 5 years. If they had to replace the dam today, it couldn’t get done for less than a trillion dollars and 25 years – if at all.

    1. It would be litigated indefinitely due to the environmental impact. Ground would never be broken.

  2. I’m often critical of Trump, and am willing to call him out when he does something stupid. But in this case, I think he’s getting this issue right. If his administration is successful in bringing back a level of sanity in the permit/regulatory process, this is a major win. And will allow us to get more “bang for our buck” on infrastructure dollars spent.

    1. Credit where credit is due.

  3. Imagine how much even more we could save without union kickbacks that force all infrastructure to be built by the most expensive and/or incompetent labor.

    1. An example:

      A State Dept employee I know was stationed in Africa for 2 years. When flying to the US for business, he was only permitted to fly Delta because of its union status. This turned a 20 hour, 3 connection flight into a 36 hour, 6 connection flight at double the cost of competing airlines.

      Another example: The same guy’s wife got a job in the embassy which required an extensive background check costing the taxpayers approximately 100k. After moving to a new country, she got the same job at the consulate there– and the State Dept reran the same background check at the same cost

      1. Another example– The same guy was put in charge of setting up defenses for the embassy in Iraq. He was given a budget of 40 million, but accomplished the task for under 5. Not only was he not recognized for saving the taxpayer money, he was berated by a superior for fucking up budget requisition requests for the future.

  4. Ronald, stop complaining. It could be 5 years to complete environmental impact reports.

    1. Only 5 years? Why do you hate the planet so much?

  5. I suppose you’ve heard that San Fran has a ‘housing crisis’ (more people want to live here than there are places to live). Well, the gov’t wants to ‘do things’ to help out.
    So an acquaintance is remodeling his home, all legal, and in spite of the delays for permits, he’s pretty chipper about it. Except:
    The dining room was a former-owner add-on. The ceiling is 3″ too low. The ceiling is fastened to the roof joists, meaning the roof must also be raised 3″.
    Well, that checks the “fuck you” box on the permit forms; return to “Public Comment Mailings”, do not collect $200.

    1. Think of the tall children!

    2. Argue that inches are a racist construct.

    3. Lay the ceiling drywall on top of the roof joists. Presto!

    4. 3″ too low for what?

  6. The government-wide average for completing a full environmental impact statement .?.?. is just 4.6 years,” whined Center for American Progress infrastructure specialist Kevin DeGood in the Washington Post.

    Logically, for Marxian DeGood, the better number of years to complete such statements should be one between 4.8 years and the end of the universe. My guess is that his preference tends towards the latter.

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  9. RE: Trump Is Right: Regulation Is Massively Slowing Down and Boosting the Costs of Modernizing Infrastructure
    ‘Red tape is not the price of good government; it is the enemy of good government.’

    But…but…but red tape helps feed the bloated and unnecessary number of bureaucrats we have in our beloved socialist slave state.
    I read in either Forbes or Fortune Magazine a couple of months ago that the Pentagon’s Acquisition Department has about 200,000 bureaucrats in it alone. Yet, according to the same article, the US has only about 160,000 Marines on active duty.
    I always find it fascinating where Washington places its priorities.

    1. Washington places it priorities on Washington.

      Government of, by, and for the Government.

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