It seems that Gov. Mike Huckabee is the latest conservative on Team Trump to fall victim to the Keynesian delusion that infrastructure spending is the way to revitalize the economy. A tweet by Fox News yesterday quoted Huckabee as saying, “The most effective way to put people on a job is to do infrastructure jobs b/c it’s the one thing you cannot outsource.”
The tweet does not offer a link to a clip of the segment, so Huckabee’s comment cannot be viewed in full context, but the statement comes after other members of the Trump transition team, including the president-elect himself, have signaled that infrastructure spending, most likely financed by debt, will be a top priority in the new administration.
While Huckabee is technically correct that construction jobs cannot be exported to foreign countries, the construction industry is a major employer of illegal immigrants. In 2012, four years into the unemployment crisis brought on by the Great Recession, Pew Research found that about 15 percent of construction and extraction jobs were held by illegal aliens.
During the campaign, it was pointed that Donald Trump had even used illegal aliens in the construction of the Trump Tower in the 1980s. The Washington Post reported that Trump was also using illegal workers in the construction of his new hotel in Washington, DC, a charge that he denied.
Even without possibility of government infrastructure money going to illegal workers, Huckabee’s infrastructure comment shows a lack of deep thinking on the issue of jobs. Government spending on infrastructure can create jobs in the short term, but what happens when those projects are finished? Government projects often run behind schedule and over budget, but eventually they come to an end. If the underlying problems with the economy are not fixed the result will be a country with a lot of nice, new roads and bridges, a lot more debt and a chronic high unemployment rate.
The key to revitalizing the economy is to create a climate in which American companies can create things that people in the rest of the world want to buy. Tax and regulatory reform would allow American businesses to build things at prices that are competitive with the rest of the world.
When the federal government takes on more debt, it needs more tax money to pay back what is borrowed. Higher taxes and more government spending make the US less competitive. Neither families nor countries can borrow their way to prosperity.
The infrastructure stimulus has been tried and has failed numerous times. Most famously, President Roosevelt’s “New Deal” created the Works Progress Administration, an entire government agency whose purpose was to create infrastructure jobs for unskilled laborers. The WPA was responsible for many roads, bridges, parks, and post offices, but what it did not do was end the unemployment crisis.
More recently, President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009 spent $787 billion on “shovel-ready” infrastructure jobs. The success of Obama’s program can be judged by the fact that unemployment is still a problem eight years later.
One conservative critic of Obama’s stimulus said at the time, Republicans in Congress “were elected to represent their constituents, but they can’t hardly do that and vote to pile on unimaginable debt on their grandchildren.” He continued, “If you think future generations of Americans can afford a congressional version of ‘shop-til-you-drop,’ then just remain silent, but I don’t plan to.”
Who was that outspoken critic of Obama’s stimulus boondoggle? It was Mike Huckabee.
When did borrowing money to create jobs paid for by the government become a conservative policy, governor?
Originally published on The Resurgent