CNBC’s Kernen to Buttigieg on $2 Trillion Infrastructure Plan: ‘We Don’t Have the Money’

CNBC host Joe Kernen indicated that he was not impressed with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s sales job on the Biden administration’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal on Thursday’s broadcast of “Squawk Box.”

Kernen said, “Mr. Secretary, so you’re the transportation secretary now, so we’re proposing a usage for the term infrastructure that Republicans would say includes every wish list from the Democratic party going back 50 years. As a transportation secretary, do you now and be honest with me, do you now just wish that we had looked directly at what your domain is, roads, bridges, airports, throw in, you know, some internet and Wi-Fi. Let’s do $700-800 billion, do it with Republicans, get it done, give me my infrastructure, transportation, and do not try to do everything at once. Tell me that you believe that, but I know you won’t.”

Buttigieg said, “I’m the roads and bridges guy. The transportation part is the piece that I work on, but when I think about why roads and bridges matter, the fundamental reason they matter is they make it possible for Americans to live lives of their choosing. Whether there is a good road will determine if you can go to work or school. I think the same is true of the broader forms of infrastructure we’re talking about. They’re all part of the foundation that make it possible for us to live well.”

He added, “I don’t want to get bogged down in a semantic or philosophical argument over what to call something.”

Kernen said, “Mr. Secretary, come on. Mr. Secretary, you might as well just tell me, ‘You know, you need those roads to drive to free college and free childcare, and therefore I want to build them.’ I mean, come on. You can’t do all of it at once!”

Buttigieg said, “I think this all works together.”

Kernen added, “Then you can make that jump to everything under the sun, to everything under the sun is infrastructure. We should spend $100 trillion on infrastructure and give everything to everyone because that’s where their life is. We don’t have the money! We don’t have the wherewithal.”

Buttigieg said, “We do have the money. That’s the thing. Like, we abundantly do have the money because the bill is paid for.”

Follow Pam Key on Twitter @pamkeyNEN

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