Trump Promises To Double Clinton’s Infrastructure Spending, Can’t Say How He’d Pay For It

A view of a tunnel in Seattle. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/TED S. WARREN
A view of a tunnel in Seattle. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/TED S. WARREN

Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump claimed that he would “at least double” whatever Hillary Clinton plans to spend on repairing infrastructure in an August 2 appearance on Fox Business, but failed to coherently answer how he would implement and pay for his plan.

Although he has exaggerated the scope of the issue, Trump is correct that infrastructure in the United States is in need of repair. He may also have a point that Clinton’s plan might not allocate enough money to the problem. But being able to identify the problem is not the same as being able to fix it, and when he was asked basic questions about his plan during the Fox Business interview, Trump struggled to answer them.

For example, when asked about financing his infrastructure spending proposal, which would cost $550 billion if he doubled Clinton’s $275 billion dollar plan, Trump could come up with little more than asserting that he’d make good deals.

“We’re going to have to go out with a fund, we’ll get a fund,” Trump said. “We’ll make a phenomenal deal with a low interest rate. And we’re going to have to rebuild our infrastructure. We have no choice.” But when pressed on who would put money into the fund, Trump was vague, saying that “people, investors, citizens would put money into the fund and we will rebuild our infrastructure with that fund.” He also ignored the fact that the government’s ability to build roads and bridges has very little to do with getting good financing.

I was not entirely clear how he would make this happen… There wasn’t a lot of clarity

What can be gleaned from Trump’s response is that he would use tax dollars to pay for repairing the country’s infrastructure. But in the same interview, he pledged to slash taxes. He has also promised to cut the national debt and raise military spending, throwing into question how he would fund spending on infrastructure.

Paul Lewis, vice president of policy and finance at the Eno Center for Transportation, told ThinkProgress that under the current rules, for Trump to get his infrastructure plan through Congress without an increase in revenue, he would need to find something else in the budget to cut. But to date, Trump hasn’t offered any specifics.

Lewis added that he found Trump’s remarks on infrastructure hard to follow. “I was not entirely clear how he would make this happen on either end,” he said. “And there wasn’t a lot of clarity there. I think he mentioned they would be sold as infrastructure bonds or something to that effect, so I think that obviously we need a little clarity as to what this actually means and what plan he may actually have.”

But it wasn’t just Tuesday’s Fox Business interview that revealed Trump’s lack of expertise regarding the specifics of the infrastructure issues facing the country. His website doesn’t feature a plan for repairing infrastructure, unlike Clinton’s, and the amount he has proposed to spend on it has varied, from $4 trillion to his current proposal of at least doubling Clinton’s plan of $275 billion to $550 billion.

While Trump has claimed that his experience as a real estate businessman makes him “the best builder,” his signature building project proposal is a wall between the U.S. and Mexico that he claims Mexico will pay for, which it won’t. Trump has also declared bankruptcy on four separate occasions while running real estate businesses.

Trump has also falsely expanded the scope of the infrastructure crisis in the U.S. For example, he claimed that a staggering 61 percent of bridges were in trouble. But according to City Lab, the percentage of structurally deficient bridges is actually about 10 percent, or 24 percent if bridges that are functionally obsolete are included.

So, while Trump has successfully identified a pressing national issue in need of fixing, his plan to address it amounts to little more at this point than stating the number of dollars he wants to throw at the problem. Where those dollars would come from remains anybody’s guess.

Evan Popp is an intern at ThinkProgress.