When Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently announced that his state would scale back its failing high-speed rail project, President Trump demanded that California return the $2.5 billion in federal funds already provided.

The president also said the Transportation Department would terminate a $929 million federal grant supporting the project. Originally projected to cost $40 billion, the high-speed rail was more recently projected at $37 billion over budget, at least four years delayed in sections and had already cost taxpayers $4 billion. Whether the federal government will be able to recoup money it pledged for the project is unclear, but that question misses the broader point: I fear America is unable to do anything big.

What happened in California is just the latest example of our inability to complete big economic projects. Last year, a multiyear effort to build a nuclear power plant in South Carolina was abandoned, declaring an end to what The New York Times described as “a project that was once expected to showcase advanced nuclear technology but has since been plagued by delays and cost overruns.” Construction on the plant was shut down with less than 40 percent built at a cost of roughly $9 billion, and overruns led to an eventual projected cost of up to $25 billion to complete the project, over twice the initial estimate.

In 2017, work on the Port of Savannah in Georgia came to a halt when it was discovered that deepening the port to accommodate newer, larger vessels coming through the Panama Canal would cost “38 percent more and take two years longer to complete than initially expected,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Our politicians talk about imports and exports, but we can’t even have our ports keep pace with the size of ships that are facilitating trade around the world.

And don’t even get me started about the private sector’s plight in trying to overcome all the nails that can be thrown in their path – mostly by Democratic politicians and activists. How do Democrats reconcile the Green New Deal’s call for “guaranteeing a job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security” while some opposed the 25,000 new jobs that Amazon would have brought to New York City? Exactly what kind of jobs and what kind of pay are Democrats guaranteeing for everyone? Where will everyone work? (Amazon’s founder and chief executive, Jeff Bezos, also owns The Washington Post.)

Just last week, former Vice President Al Gore suggested that Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam could atone for having worn blackface in the 1980s by fighting to oppose the $7.5 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Really? Somehow, Virginians will feel better about Northam or Northam will feel better about himself if this megaproject is disrupted? What will Northam’s absolution cost the commonwealth? (Disclosure: My firm represents interests in the fossil-fuel industry.)

Democrats claim to support infrastructure, but they are responsible for crafting the regulations and encouraging nongovernmental organizations and activists that derail those investments, which lead to higher costs and the further erosion of the United States’ economic potential. The result? We are spending more than ever, but we are not building assets. Natural gas shortages are plaguing New York. Significant vulnerabilities are emerging for New England’s electric grid. We are creating self-induced chokepoints for our exports at U.S. ports.

Beyond a list of giveaways – including everything from free college to a growing call for reparations – Democrats do not have a serious economic message. Maybe they can start by defining what infrastructure they would, in fact, support.


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