Top Stories
Top Stories

Can Trump save our infrastructure?

Clarence Schwab @schwab_clarence
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

I followed with excitement Congress' efforts to pass legislation in 2008 and 2010 to maintain and upgrade the crumbling U.S. infrastructure. Such infrastructure investment would have generated needed jobs while assisting economic activity for many years to come. But Congress failed to pass that legislation. This greatly disappointed me and many others in the business and investing world, because such investments are critical to supporting a healthy and expanding economy.

Some may have objected to such funding because they equate it with "stimulus spending;" considering it to offer no sustainable benefit and to increase the federal deficit. But infrastructure investment—unlike stimulus spending, which gives benefits only during the time during which funds are spent—would generate, every year for decades, increased economic activity, higher incomes, and greater tax revenues. That revenue would be sufficient to not only pay back the debt initially incurred with interest, but to also generate profit. Once begun, long-lived projects can also create expectations of more economic activity and buoy business and consumer confidence.

Thus, maintaining and upgrading our country's crumbling infrastructure should be among any candidate's highest domestic priorities—but which candidate in this presidential election has the best chance to make this happen? So far, only Hillary Clinton has offered a comprehensive proposal to address this critical issue. Only Mrs. Clinton has committed to submitting that proposal to Congress within the first hundred days in office. But here's the tougher question: which candidate is the best person to get the job done? Here are two key considerations to help us decide:

1) Which of the candidates would more likely fight against the wrongheaded Washington thinking that refuses to allow investment in maintaining our infrastructure, and insist on making such investment a cornerstone of domestic policy?

2) Which of the candidates, if president, would more likely work productively with Congress to enact legislation that supports infrastructure investment?

I do not yet support any candidate, and as a registered Independent in New York, I was not permitted to vote in either primary. However, I know that Mr. Trump has a successful track record building projects and that he mentions in speeches the need to upgrade our infrastructure even if he has not yet offered a written proposal.

Were Mr. Trump to develop a comprehensive proposal to address this critical domestic need, I believe he could, at the very least, challenge Mrs. Clinton on her infrastructure and job-creating credentials. He could even possibly hijack this key domestic policy issue from Mrs. Clinton and claim it as his own, because many voters may consider such a proposal from a builder like Mr. Trump to be even more credible.

Were Mr. Trump to also fight tenaciously for his proposal against anti-investment groups including Tea Party Republicans, he would, in my view, expand his overall appeal.

We in the U.S. have, in this election, an historic opportunity to help ensure greater job growth and higher incomes. We just have to identify and choose the candidate with the grit to make real growth happen.

Clarence Schwab is founder and managing partner of Schwab Capital Management, an investment and advisory firm focused on publicly traded and smaller privately held companies. His writings have appeared in the New York Times, the Financial Times, and The Hill. He earned a B.A. from Columbia University and a M.B.A. from The Harvard Business School.