Some days I wonder -- and you probably wonder too -- that if Donald Trump hadn't become the president last month, just what exactly would CNN, Fox, and MSNBC be covering 24 hours a day. Would there be 20 minutes about the giant panda at the top of every hour? Actually, a New York Times reporter just spent a week trying to only consume media that didn't mention Trump...and learned it was basically impossible.
Occasionally, though, other news breaks through, especially here in Philadelphia. For example, SEPTA seems to be cracking up (when its trains aren't actively colliding into one another); just a couple of weeks ago, the regional mass transit system took as many as 30-40 cars off the busy Market-Frankford line because they had significant cracks in their load-bearing beams, not very long after a similar problem wreaked havoc for thousands of suburban rail passengers for several months.
Indeed, the Philadelphia region's transportation has been going all Liberty Bell on us these days, with cracks all over the place. The Delaware River Bridge, which connects thousands of drivers going from the New Jersey Turnpike to the Pennsylvania Turnpike, shut down recently because of -- stop me if you've heard this one before -- a crack in a steel truss. But maybe we're lucky around these parts: At least we're not threatened with a flood of biblical proportions like the good people of Northern California living below the Oroville Dam, which remains dangerously close to failing in the wake of record rainfall out West.
Notice a trend here? America is slowly falling apart, just as experts -- alarmed at the lack of governmental attention to infrastructure repair in difficult fiscal times -- have been warning for many years. You didn't need to be a rocket scientist to see this crisis coming. In fact, you know who practically looks like an oracle right now?
During the campaign, Trump -- breaking sharply with conservative dogma -- promised voters an ambitious plan that aimed to spend $1 trillion on fixing roads, bridges and other crumbling infrastructure. How ambitious? It was double what reputed pinko socialist Hillary Clinton told voters that she would spend. "If there's ever a great time to do it, it's got to be now," Wilbur Ross, Trump's billionaire pal who's now nominated to become Commerce Secretary, told Yahoo Finance. "With interest rates so low, this has got to be the best time from a break-even point of view, from a societal point of view."
Whoa. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day...right? A couple of caveats here. Trump, of course, is a developer, and so -- just like every problem looks like a nail to a carpenter -- it makes sense that a President Trump would want to build things on a grand scale, and maybe put his name on a bridge, or at least a sewage treatment plant. Second, and more importantly, his October 2016 plan was actually flawed -- depending too heavily on tax credits and private development in a way that probably would enrich some of the folks who pal around with Trump and Ross at Mar-a-Lago.
Still, it could have been a jumping off point for negotiations with congressional Democrats who hugely support infrastructure spending; even liberal senators like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren said they'd be willing to work with their bête noire in the White House if he was serious about fixing roads and putting blue-collar folks to work.
But one month into his otherwise frenetic presidency, The Donald has given us nothing on infrastructure.
A cynic might say that repairing bridges simply isn't mean enough for a White House that seems to be working around the clock this week on creating Rwanda-style refugee camps in northern Mexico, on finding new ways to ban Muslims from coming here, and standing in the schoolhouse bathroom door for our transgender kids.
But the real issues are a) no one told Trump that he's a Republican now and GOPers hate government programs that put people back to work. "That's not a very Republican thing ― I didn't even know that, frankly," Trump told the New York Times -- after he was elected. And more importantly b) our new president is lazy and doesn't want to do the kind of nerdy stuff that Barack Obama might have done. Like, you know, draft legislation.
The Huffington Post noted in a sharp analysis this week: "In particular, Trump has no apparent patience for the boring, slow work of politics ― like developing detailed policy plans, or working them out with congressional leaders. And without that kind of unglamorous work, getting stuff done turns out to be awfully difficult." The article by Jonathan Cohn noted the arduous and detailed work that Obama had to do eight years ago to get his economic stimulus program through Congress.
Trump and his minions don't want to do that. They want to hold big rallies in airport hangars and wear their "Make America Great Again" hats. But you know what would actually make America great again? Bridges and subway cars that aren't cracking up. In his 33 days, Trump has made strides toward fulfilling his very worst campaign promises, like the Muslim ban and the "mass deportation force." But he's done absolutely nothing about the only campaign promise that was actually good.