The Republican Infrastructure Con Game

[ Posted Thursday, May 27th, 2021 – 16:21 UTC ]

The Senate Republicans who are trying to appear as if they are negotiating an infrastructure plan in good faith with President Joe Biden are, in reality, trying to con both the media and the public into thinking their plan can be directly compared to the White House's offer. I say this not because of all the bickering over what really and truly constitutes "infrastructure," but instead over the numbers themselves. Because comparing Biden's plan to the GOP's plan is like comparing apples to peanuts.

The Republicans have been at least partially successful at this con job, mostly because journalists in general and even political journalists who report on budgetary matters (who really should know better -- they should be on the alert for just such an attempt at pulling the wool over their eyes, in other words) are just not all that good at math. Sad but true.

You may have heard the media report that Joe Biden's initial offer for his American Jobs Plan infrastructure bill was $2.25 trillion and then his counteroffer dropped to $1.7 trillion. And you may have heard that the Republicans were initially offering $568 billion and have now come all the way up to $928 billion, in an honest effort to meet somewhere in the middle. But that's just not true.

Here is the heart of the con: the Republicans are adding in a whole bunch of budgetary spending that is almost certainly going to happen anyway. Biden is not -- Biden's offers have all been for additional spending, not overall spending. Republicans are adding in spending that will happen no matter what, because of the fact that Congress is just never going to actually zero the yearly budget out when it comes to roads and bridges and other infrastructure spending. Biden doesn't add that in to his numbers -- all his spending is new spending, on top of what the yearly "baseline" spending will be. The Republicans, however, do include the baseline spending. Because it makes them look more reasonable -- if you buy into their con.

But if you remove all the smoke and mirrors from the Republican plan, what you come up with is much more starkly different. When you truly compare apples to apples, you can see how enormous a gulf still exists between the two sides. Biden's numbers don't change -- he initially proposed $2.25 trillion and then came down $550 billion to only $1.7 trillion. The Republicans, however, started out by offering a measly $189 billion, which they have magnanimously now upped to the whopping sum of $257 billion.

That's an enormous difference than the numbers they would much prefer the media talk about, for obvious reasons -- which is why I used legumes and not citrus fruit in my "apples and peanuts" metaphor, earlier. When you look at the actual numbers, the GOP's offer is really no more than peanuts. Here is an easy way to see this con job in all its glory:

The top (blue) line is the movement between Biden's two offers. The middle (orange) line shows how the GOP is trying to hoodwink the media by claiming baseline spending as some sort of new thing they are generously offering (which is not actually true). The red line way down at the bottom shows how pathetically small their offer really is, after the baseline spending is removed. Once again: Biden's numbers do not include baseline spending, so the proper comparison is with the bottom line on that graph and not the middle one.

You can also see how much farther apart the two sides actually are, in reality. The difference between Biden's first offer and the GOP's first offer was $2.06 trillion. The difference between both sides' second offers is $1.44 trillion. The lion's share of that change -- $550 billion of it -- was because Biden came down so far. The GOP increased their bid by only $68 billion (in new spending), for comparison.

But very few media outlets are reporting this correctly. Most of them are lazily taking the Republicans' word for what their offer actually contains. I did notice in the interim (between when Biden made his second offer and the GOP made theirs), many in the media were using the correct "the two sides are still $1.5 trillion apart," which you get by subtracting $189 billion from Biden's $1.7 trillion. Perhaps the White House put out a media sheet with this talking point featured prominently, because I heard it repeated by more than one media outlet. But few of them bothered to use the correct figure of only $189 billion in GOP spending, most of them reported it along the lines of: "Republicans have offered $568 billion while the White House dropped their offer to $1.7 trillion, but the two sides are still $1.5 trillion apart." Not only can't most journalists do math, they also think that most of their audience can't, either (which, it pains me to say, is probably a pretty accurate assumption).

This isn't just a battle of partisan talking points. These are real numbers -- concrete budget proposals. One side in the negotiations has been negotiating in good faith with both the other side of the table and with the American people. The other negotiating party, however, is doing nothing short of running a con job. To date (with today's counteroffer), the magnitude of the GOP con job has risen to a whopping $671 billion -- or over 72 percent of the number they'd prefer everyone use. That is the measure of how much of their plan is smoke and mirrors, and how much of it ($257 billion, or less than 28 percent of what they misleadingly say it is) is nothing short of a con.

Don't be fooled. Do your own math, if the media won't do it properly for us all.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


13 Comments on “The Republican Infrastructure Con Game”

  1. [1] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    I'm not sure if it's intentional, in fact I'd wager that he likely doesn't even know he's doing it, but Biden has found a way to do something that Trump tried and failed utterly to accomplish, that being a way to tax the Chinese.

    Moronic asshole that the man was, Trump thought that his import tariff taxes were going to be paid by the Chinese. Of course, he was totally wrong, Trumps import tariff taxes were paid by Americans shopping at Walmart or at Harbor Freight.

    Biden, on the other hand, has figured out a way (or maybe more likely unintentionally stumbled on a way) to successfully tax the Chinese.

    The Chinese own way over a trillion U.S. dollars (their "trade surplus with us, or our trade deficit with them, same thing). Biden's "infrastructure" budget financing system will seriously reduce the value (purchasing power) of each and every single one of all those one trillion-plus dollars, amounting to a tax on China.

    There will be other consequences to Biden's sneaky 'China tax', most of them far less beneficial to Americans, but WTF, you gotta take the bad with the good.

  2. [2] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Not only can't most journalists do math, they also think that most of their audience can't, either (which, it pains me to say, is probably a pretty accurate assumption).

    This this verifies that there are mediocre and worse in every profession, including in the media.

  3. [3] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    I dunno, CRS. That's a clever observation but it appears to rely on the Conventional Wisdom that more government spending depreciates the value of that government's currency.

    After 40 years of governmental borrowing to make the rich richer I can't remember the last time inflation was as high as 3%.

  4. [4] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    that's because the rich mostly save their wealth up. money that isn't in circulation can't easily devalue itself.


  5. [5] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    basically, the consumer price index is used to measure inflation, and most of the excess american money is sitting somewhere and not impacting the CPI. so a large part of the real inflation is hidden by the amount of money that's out there but not being used.

  6. [6] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:


    When it comes to Economics, the "conventional wisdom" is often wrong.

    Gov't spending doesn't depreciate the currency (aka price inflation) when it's financed by taxation or by borrowing from individuals or foreign govt's, only when it's financed by raising the ratio of money in circulation to goods and services in the marketplace (aka currency inflation).


    It's true that the inevitable price inflation that always follows currency inflation isn't always instantaneous. How quick it shows up is a function of the so-called 'velocity of money'.

    The CPI is not always a true indicator of inflation, because it's subject to tinkering for political reasons. Calculating the 'cost of living' excluding food, fuel and housing is like calculating the 'cost of farming' excluding seed and fertilizer.

  7. [7] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:


    The rich "saving up their money" doesn't usually consist of hiding it in their mattress. Even money deposited offshore or wherever is usually invested in some economy somewhere

  8. [8] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    well yeah, it's somewhere. but not having much impact on the domestic cpi. in a global economy money just doesn't move that fast.

  9. [9] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    or rather it doesn't move that fast when so much of it is lodged in the same few places.

  10. [10] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Good work down here in Weigantia, Guys & Gals! I learned stuff this evening.

    Shout out to Kick, my BFF lost both his parents to pancreatic cancer.

    May you handle the situation with the same love and compassion that is required. I'm thinking about you & ur hubby(?)

  11. [11] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    Or is it wife? Out here in California we don't presume...

  12. [12] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    LOL, pretty soon there won't be any post left, it'll be all slogan. the cakecrats and repastrycans are showing their colors.

    cream pie. dream pie.

    cherry pie. berry pie.

    peach pie. quiche pie.

    meat pie. sheet pie.

    pot pie.

    got pie?

    get edible.

  13. [13] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    you're just jealous you didn't think of pie as a political solution.

Comments for this article are closed.