President Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer recently agreed on a $2 trillion infrastructure package. All that remains, apart from actual details, is a little thing called how to pay for it. Good luck with that!
Given the (lack of) seriousness with which this “proposal” was crafted and announced, policy analysts ought to respond with equally serious proposals for how to pay for it. Here are five that come to mind.
- Couches. According to the Census Bureau, the United States consists of 127,586,000 households. Presumably, each of those households owns one or more couches. Couches, of course, are notorious for accumulating errant potato chips, paper clips, Lego pieces, and most importantly, spare change. If every American household were to check their couches and send in the change they find, the $2 trillion infrastructure price tag could be covered easily. That is, if the average household could just find $15,676 in change, problem solved.
- The Tooth Fairy. According to the American Dental Association, “While each child’s teeth fall out at different rates … kids lose about two teeth per year between ages five and twelve.” Spend any time in Washington, D.C., and you’ll soon come to view the loss of a tooth as a taxable event. Do the math. There are approximately 33 million kids in the United States aged 5-12. If each child in that age range loses two teeth a year as estimated, that’s approximately 528 million teeth over eight years. A paltry tax of $3,787 per tooth would easily cover the proposed $2 trillion bill. It’s about time the tooth fairy pulled her own weight and collected a few bucks for Uncle Sam!
- Italy. Italy’s annual economic output totals approximately $2 trillion. Absorbing Italy and diverting every dime of its gross domestic product would — on a static scoring basis — roughly cover the proposed $2 trillion infrastructure plan. (That’s one spicy meat-a-ball!)
- Rob the Rich. This proposal comes from my 17-year-old daughter. According to the IRS, the top 1 percent of taxpayers collected adjusted gross income of $2.003 trillion in 2016 (the latest year for which the data are available). Confiscate all $2 trillion — never-mind that it would collapse the economy — and the infrastructure proposal is fully paid for. Then “the rich” can work for us!! Huzzah!
- Borrow more! If none of the previous four proposals meets with your approval, the federal government could borrow to cover the $2 trillion price tag. Why not? Under current law, the federal budget is projected to run a cumulative deficit of $11.4 trillion over the next 10 years (FY 2020-29). Borrowing to cover the full $2 trillion would increase that total by a mere 17.5 percent, not including debt service. What’s $2 trillion among friends? And what a boon to the bond market!
The bottom line? The $2 trillion infrastructure plan unveiled last month is political fantasy. It died moments after the press releases were issued.
Trump, Pelosi and Schumer are absolutely right to push for a major national infrastructure initiative. The U.S. needs to invest far more on infrastructure. That’s clear. However, there’s absolutely no national consensus — these nonsensical proposals aside — on how to pay for it.
As Dr. Seuss once observed, “Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.” Obviously, there’s a good reason Dr. Seuss was never elected to Congress!
James Carter served as the head of tax policy implementation on President Trump’s transition team. Previously, he was a deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury and deputy undersecretary of labor under President George W. Bush.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.