Public May Not See Net Benefit of Infrastructure Bill That Could Expand Rail in Northeastern Pennsylvania

Much fanfare surrounding infrastructure legislation in Congress focuses on road and bridge improvements, but the bill’s implications for relatively costly rail transit in northeastern Pennsylvania and elsewhere have gotten far less attention.

The current proposal to spend $66 billion on Amtrak would be the largest federal expenditure on passenger rail since the creation of the transit agency.

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Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction Says 20 Year Effort is Marked by ‘Too Many Failures’

Special IG for Afghanistan ReconstructionFollow Inspector General John F. Sopko Testifies before Congress

The special inspector general for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) is calling the two-decade effort to rebuild the country a failure. The August 2021 report details the areas in which the American effort to rebuild the country came up far short of the initial goal.

“The extraordinary costs were meant to serve a purpose – though the definition of that purpose evolved over time,” reads the 140-page report, alluding the United States’ changing goals in the region over the course of its 20-year military presence in Afghanistan.

“After 13 years of oversight, the cumulative list of systemic challenges SIGAR and other oversight bodies have identified is staggering,” reads the report.

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Infrastructure Bill Features Per-Mile User Fee Pilot Program

Highway Traffic

The recently passed U.S. Senate infrastructure bill includes controversial provisions such as a vehicle per-mile user fee pilot program as the bill faces uncertainty in the U.S. House.

The $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, which includes $550 billion of new spending, passed in the Senate on Tuesday by a 69-30 vote. The bill authorizes spending for improvements to roads, bridges, rail, transit and broadband, among other forms of infrastructure. 

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Commentary: Inflation Hits 5.3 Percent in July as $1.2 Trillion Infrastructure Bill Easily Passes with $3.5 Trillion Stimulus Expected in September

The unadjusted consumer price index as measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics was 5.28 percent for the month of July, slightly lower than June at 5.32 percent, but still measuring the highest inflation on record since July 2008, when it hit nearly 5.5 percent.

The latest numbers come as Congress has easily passed another gargantuan $1.2 trillion infrastructure spending plan that included $550 billion of new spending. Interest rates have already reacted as 10-year treasuries came off a near-term low of 1.17 percent on Aug. 2 to 1.36 percent as of Aug. 12, slightly increasing inflation expectations.

The $1.2 trillion spendathon was just the latest in a long line of spending that has added $5.25 trillion to the national debt since Jan. 2020 in response to the Covid pandemic all the way to the current $28.5 trillion: the $2.2 trillion CARES Act and the $900 billion phase four under former President Donald Trump, and then the $1.9 trillion stimulus under President Joe Biden. It’s been a bipartisan affair.

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Commentary: Only National Conservatism Can Unite the West and Contain China

Person waving flag outside of window

“Europe will be your revenge,” are the purported words of West German Chancellor Conrad Adenauer to French Prime Minister Guy Mollet in 1956. The quip was related to America’s siding with Egypt and the USSR during the Suez Canal Crisis against Great Britain, France and Israel. Regardless of Adenauer’s precise intention, the quote underscores the fact that the North Atlantic Alliance (NATO) has always suffered fissures, even if it held together long enough to win the Cold War and longer still, for NATO and the EU to expand into Central and Eastern Europe.

Whether the Suez Crisis in the 50s, Charles de Gaulle’s unilateral withdrawal of France from NATO’s high command structure in the 60s, Willy Brandt’s overtures to the East via Ostpolitik in the 70s, or Reagan’s placement of strategic intermediate range nuclear warheads in West Germany in the 80s against the wishes of the German left, European-American rivalries and conflicts of interest have always been part and parcel of the Atlantic Alliance. And yet the alliance remains important, because North America and Europe share indissoluble bonds that cut across religious, political and cultural history. Modern democracy — despite its relativization and ‘deconstruction’ by progressive historians — was incubated in the West. For this reason alone the alliance is of value: because Western nations share a common heritage. Commonality breeds loyalty and fosters cohesion, both of which are necessary for the preservation of norms and traditions. Europe and North America have a lot in common with one another, and therefore they share a collective interest in preserving what makes them unique within the vast panoply of human political arrangements.

During Trump’s presidency, left wing media wisdom dictated that Trump had sullied America’s relationship with the EU and NATO by calling the former out as a trade rival and the latter —Germany in particular — as a freeloader on American security guarantees. But as European political columnist Jorge Gallarza pointed out in Newsweek, the prospect of a Biden Presidency — and with it, Biden’s wisdom and appreciation of the true importance of the American relationship with Europe — does not appear to have tipped the geopolitical scales towards Anglo-European rapport. In January, the EU signed a trade deal with China that could have just as easily been postponed until Biden took office to allow for the president’s feedback. Likewise, well after Biden won the election, President Macron of France pontificated — in typical multilateral idealism fashion — about Europe’s future role in world affairs as one of “strategic autonomy.” The writing was on the wall: in a world in which China is on the rise and America appears to be sputtering, Europe will be largely neutral.

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Commentary: The Right Way to Modernize Infrastructure

Everything these days seems to count as infrastructure. Child care is infrastructure. Elder care is infrastructure. Even court-packing is infrastructure. But in a world where everything is infrastructure, nothing is infrastructure, and our existing infrastructure suffers as a result. Take, for example, President Biden’s recently revised American Jobs Plan, a $2 trillion boondoggle that prioritizes pretty much everything except for the roads, bridges, ports, and waterways that constitute actual infrastructure. The plan comes after we already appropriated $605 billion for infrastructure and transportation in the last three COVID-19 relief bills. 

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Critics of Biden’s Proposed Oil-and-Gas Industry Taxes Fueled by Gas Shortages

Gas shortage "out of service" stickers

Gas shortages on the East Coast have helped rally Congressional opposition to the portions of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan that would force oil and gas companies to pay more in taxes.

House Republicans sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., calling on Democrats to oppose Biden’s plan to “eliminate tax preferences for fossil fuels.”

The letter, signed by 55 Republicans, came after a cyber attack of Colonial Pipeline shut down a major pipeline on the East Coast and led to fear-driven gasoline shortages. The attack also raised questions about the nation’s energy infrastructure and vulnerability to attack.

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Senate GOP Counters Biden with $568 Billion Infrastructure Plan

Joe Biden

A group of Republican U.S. senators have unveiled a $568 billion plan that would look to rebuild and expand infrastructure nationwide and counter a more expensive proposal by President Joe Biden.

The GOP plan includes $299 billion for roads and bridges, $61 billion for public transit systems and $65 billion for broadband infrastructure. Also included in the plan is $20 billion for rail, $35 billion for drinking water and wastewater, $13 billion for safety, $17 billion in ports and inland waterways, $44 billion for airports and $14 billion for water storage.

Emphasized in the bill is the expediting of projects through regulatory processes and several measures to minimize new spending. The plan calls for repurposing federal COVID-19 relief funds that have remained unused, along with ensuring the federal debt is not increased.

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Democrats Could Potentially Pass Massive Infrastructure Bill Without a Single GOP Vote

Site Construction

Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough said Monday evening that Democrats can use budget reconciliation for a second time in fiscal year 2021, according to a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Democrats’ ability to use the legislative tool means that they could hypothetically pass President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill with a simple majority vote instead of the 60 votes required to override a filibuster. If reconciliation proceeds, then Democrats would have enough votes to pass Biden’s infrastructure and tax packages with Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote if every Senator in the party votes in favor.

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Biden to Meet with Union Leaders About Massive Infrastructure Plan

President Joe Biden will meet with labor leaders at the White House Wednesday to discuss infrastructure investment and clean energy jobs, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Sean McGarvey, president of North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU), Richard Trumka, president of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), and other union heads are expected to meet with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, according to The Wall Street Journal. The White House said the meeting will focus on infrastructure and Biden’s coronavirus relief bill currently making its way through Congress.

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Commentary: President Trump’s Overhaul of Stifling Environmental Regulations Clears the Way for Infrastructure Projects Nationwide

President Trump recently finalized an overhaul of one of the most important environmental laws in America. Credited by some as the “Magna Carta” of environmental legislation, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is one of America’s main legislative weapons in fighting climate change. It mandates an extensive review process, including the drafting of a lengthy Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and subsequent legal challenges, before the commencement of infrastructure projects. But Trump’s revision of the law through regulatory reinterpretation dramatically weakens the bill’s potency, greatly simplifying the procedure for getting federal approval on many infrastructure projects.

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Commentary: Deficits Are Secondary to What You’re Paying For

US Capitol

“I am not worried about the deficit,” Ronald Reagan famously said. “It is big enough to take care of itself.”

If you pay attention to the libertarian purists, President Reagan earns mixed reviews on his economic policies. After all, in 1983, the federal budget deficit exceeded 6 percent of GDP. But Reagan was untroubled by federal budget deficits for at least two reasons, and in both cases he has been vindicated by history.

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Pelosi, Schumer Say They’ve Reached Deal with Trump on $2 Trillion Infrastructure Bill

by Henry Rodgers   House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer say they have reached a deal with President Donald Trump in regards to a $2 trillion infrastructure bill after meeting with Trump Tuesday. While departing the West Wing after their meeting with the president, Pelosi and…

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Ohio Senate Breaks Even Further from Governor DeWine, Lowering Gas Tax to Six Cents

The Republican-held Ohio Senate joined Republicans in the House of Representatives in opposing Gov. Mike DeWine on his proposed gas-tax hike. House Bill 62 (HB 62), the 2020-21 Ohio transportation budget, first proposed by DeWine on Feb. 12, originally called for an 18 cent increase to the current gas tax. This was…

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DeWine Breaks from Republicans on Gas Tax

COLUMBUS, Ohio–In Tuesday’s State of the State Address, Ohio Republican Governor Mike DeWine made it very clear he would not back down on the 18 cent gas tax, leaving many state Republicans in a complicated position. In his Address, DeWine made it clear that, not only was the gas tax…

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Pence Promises Governors a ‘Historic’ Infrastructure Plan

by Fred Lucas   Vice President Mike Pence on Friday told a gathering of state governors that the Trump administration is working with Congress on what he called a “historic” infrastructure program that would both reduce red tape and provide more federal funding. Addressing the governors at the vice presidential…

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Ohio Department Of Transportation Introduces Comprehensive Gas Tax that Could Increase Every Year

Tennessee Star

Friday, Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jack Marchbanks formally introduced the proposed 2020-21 Biennial Budget. House Bill 62 (HB 62), the budget’s formal designation, includes an 18-cent gas tax increase. While lower than some reports have suggested, the proposed tax will give Ohio one of the highest gas tax rates in the country.…

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Ohio Governor DeWine to Announce Gas Tax Hike

At an annual forum sponsored by the Associated Press, Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine announced Wednesday he intends to formally recommend raising the current gas tax. The recommendation will come as he introduces his first two-year transportation budget on Friday. Despite appointing an Advisory Committee on Transportation Infrastructure Issues specifically to explore…

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Governor DeWine Accelerates Gas Tax Planning with No Limits Set

It’s safe to say that when Ohio Governor Mike DeWine appointed his “Governor’s Advisory Committee on Transportation” to develop solutions for paying for road and bridge repairs, citizens were hoping they’d come up was some creative answers. Instead, the committee reached a consensus last week that the primary means by which…

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DeWine Appointed Committee Recommends Gas Tax Hike for Ohio

After two meetings and two hours of public testimony, the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Transportation has, so far, agreed on only one thing to save Ohio’s roads and bridges: raise taxes. As previously reported, the committee was officially launched on January 31st. Hand-picked by Governor Mike DeWine, the bipartisan committee of industry…

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Ohio Governor Mike DeWine Launches Task Force to Address Critical State Infrastructure Needs

When it comes to infrastructure; all roads lead to Ohio. The Buckeye State’s infrastructure is among the most important in the entire country. According to Jobs Ohio: Ohio is geographically advantageous, sitting within a 600-mile radius of more than half of the U.S. and Canadian populations. Major cities including Chicago,…

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Former Congressman Jim Renacci Set to Launch ‘Ohio’s Future Foundation,’ a Non-Profit Focused on ‘Ohio First’ Policies

Former Congressman Jim Renacci, of Ohio’s 16th district, has announced that he will chair a new organization aimed at advancing Ohio forward. The group is called Ohio’s Future Foundation. Their goal, according to their announcement package is to launch “large scale and highly targeted voter education and advocacy campaign(s)” that are…

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Commentary: America’s Success Was Not Achieved by Government, But by Limiting Government

by  Gary Galles   Then-President Obama’s famous 2012 “you didn’t build that” rationalization for not only increasing taxes but also for increasingly progressive taxes has returned to public consciousness. Cato policy analyst Derek Bonett has focused attention back on the logic of his argument, as well as reminded us that Obama was…

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Chuck Schumer Demands Climate Concessions From Trump on Infrastructure Spending

by Michael Bastach   Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told President Donald Trump that Democrats won’t cut a deal with him on infrastructure spending unless it includes a slew of policies aimed at fighting global warming. Schumer, the Senate’s top Democrat, called for, among other things, making green energy and…

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Cyber Infrastructure Gets a Boost by Congress

by Natalia Castro   In the last year, both chambers of Congress have been working hard to improve our nation’s cyber security and cyber infrastructure. Last week, the Senate passed landmark legislation that will modernize U.S. cyber technology to combat growing threats around the world. On Oct. 4, 2018, the…

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