Some of the $1.2 trillion to be spent pursuant to the bipartisan infrastructure bill will be devoted to true infrastructure. That portion of the money presumably would have been appropriated had Donald Trump ever gotten around to presenting, and been able to enact, an infrastructure bill.
But a goodly portion of the $1.2 trillion is pork. That money will be directed to groups favored by Democrats and in many cases will have little to do with actual infrastructure.
John Fund identifies one aspect of this problem in an article called “Pete Buttigieg’s new slush fund.” He writes:
The $1.2 trillion “infrastructure” bill rammed through the House last Friday includes a gigantic multi-billion-dollar slush fund that will allow the Biden Transportation Department to bypass the states. The Feds will be able to use it to fund efforts to combat climate change and what it claims are “inequities caused by past transportation projects.”
But what does that mean?
Fund answers his own question:
Using the cover of a branch of critical race theory, I have no doubt that Secretary Buttigieg will find excuses to use his slush fund to benefit unions and other favored political players whom the Biden administration wants to court. Spending billions upon billions on political projects that are a form of reparations for murky actions that are 70 or more years old is no way to conduct public policy.
The reference to “critical race theory” has to do, I assume, with the view that “past transportation projects” caused “inequities.” Spending money to combat these inequities is a form of reparations.
Buttigieg supports his claim of past inequities at least in part by citing Robert Caro’s biography of Robert Moses:
Buttigieg has endlessly repeated a story from Robert Caro’s book The Power Broker, which describes how New York City urban planner Robert Moses is said to have kept poor blacks and Puerto Ricans from taking buses to Long Island’s Jones Beach.
But according to Fund, this story is a myth. He cites Thomas Campanella, who wrote:
Contrary to a claim in The Power Broker, Moses clearly meant buses to serve his “little Jones Beach” in the Rockaways — Jacob Riis Park. While oriented mainly toward motorists (the parking lot was once the largest in the world), it is simply not true that New Yorkers without cars were excluded.
The original site plan included bus drop-off zones, and photographs from the era plainly show buses loading and unloading passengers. “Bus connections with the B.M.T. and I.R.T. in Brooklyn,” reported the Brooklyn Eagle when the vast seaside playground opened 80 years ago this summer, “make the park easily accessible to non-motorists.”
I don’t doubt that there were cases in the 1950s in which low income neighborhoods, some of them Black, were designated for destruction or serious alteration by highway planners because they were easy targets. But, as Fund says, that doesn’t mean the transportation system is built on widely racist terms.
Moreover, how will Buttigieg’s slush fund repair whatever inequities might have resulted from past transportation projects? Assume that Moses had harmed Blacks in New York by not providing bus service to the Rockaways. Do Blacks have a problem getting there now, almost 70 years later? Or is Buttigieg just trying to compensate modern-day Blacks for days at the beach their ancestors, or those who simply share their skin color, may have missed?
Suppose a federally funded highway did wreck a particular black neighborhood in the 1950s. The victims mostly are no longer with us. Their children and grandchildren are not necessarily worse off than they would have been had their ancestors’ neighborhoods not been targeted. Indeed, how would one quantify even the harm the direct victims suffered in the 1950s?
It looks to me like the notion of “past transportations inequities” is just an excuse to spend a disproportionate amount of “infrastructure” money to benefit one racial group — Blacks. And I’m pretty sure that Buttigieg, who was unable to gain any traction with African-American voters in 2019-20, will use the fund aggressively and discriminatorily, in the hope of improving his image with these voters in case he runs for office again.