President Trump delivers his first State-of-the-Union address to Congress, the nation and world tonight. It should be interesting.
But then, just about anything Donald Trump does is interesting, in one way or another. Skills honed on reality TV all but ensure the interesting factor.
The president will likely congratulate the nation — and himself — for the U.S. economy humming along in fine fashion. Most folks realize the policies that create a robust economy generally are years in the making, but the fact is, Trump has bragging rights because he is the person in charge at this moment of success — just as he is blamed when something goes wrong. It’s on his watch that things are happening, and he can take some credit or blame.
If Trump sticks to the script his staff has prepared for tonight’s event, Americans will be treated to a repeat of what the president spoke about at the economic summit in Davos. The theme of that talk was, America is back, stronger and ready to lead.
And America is stronger, in many ways. The financial markets are going crazy, which tends to worry economists — who tend to worry about everything, good and bad. Unemployment figures are down, job opportunities are increasing, as is consumer confidence.
It’s what comes after the president’s speech tonight that bears watching. For example, the recent government shutdown that lasted only a few days may soon be repeated, but with longer-lasting potential. The same issues are hanging around, and there doesn’t seem to be much bipartisan energy to find an acceptable middle ground on immigration reform.
Trump is likely to reference his strategy on rebuilding America in tonight’s address. The nation’s aging — and in some cases crumbling — infrastructure is a trillion-dollar disaster just waiting to happen.
Details of Trump’s infrastructure repair strategy were made public last week, and the heart of his plan seems to be to incentivize state and local governments to carry much of the burden, with help from the private sector. Experts reckon that could work, but would likely cover only about 20 percent of the necessary repairs and their costs.
Infrastructure is one of those things most Americans will nod their heads and agree to fix, but end up doing nothing about. Such ennui will not fix nearly 60,000 highway bridges, many of which are unsafe. Nor will it repair the 14,000 dams, all of which protect downstream communities from catastrophe.
Then there are America’s roads, many of which are filled with potholes. Traffic congestion and bad roads cost the average U.S. driver $1,400 a year in added transportation costs. Of the industrialized nations, the United States ranks a dismal 13th in road quality. For a nation that prides itself on leadership and accomplishment, the miserable road conditions are unacceptable.
California roads are some of the worst in the nation. Our gasoline prices are the second-highest, behind only Hawaii. When it comes to overall road quality, California ranks a distressing 43rd out of 50 states.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration has spent the first year in power mostly putting out fires, many of them ignited by the president’s Twitter habits, or his surrogates’ tendencies to take social policies back to the 1950s.
That may have been a preferable era for many, but this is a far different America today. We should never be willing to go in reverse. The way to go is forward.
Trump and members of both parties in Congress could provide some forward momentum. In fact, that is their job as leaders of this great nation.