The $1.5 trillion dollar infrastructure plan proposed by the Trump Administration looks to force the privatization of infrastructure development; leaving taxpayers footing the bill via tolls for access to everything from highways and internet services to water and power.
With only $200 billion dollars coming from the federal government the plan leaves cities and states to fend for themselves in generating revenue for any improvements to new or existing projects through bonds and private funding.
For Cities and States to generate such massive revenues they must make these proposals attractive to taxpayers and private entities. The only way to do so is to show profits in order to make such investments attractive. How will they do that?
“Authorizing the Federal Government and third party service providers to impose and retain fees under the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) to use or defray costs associated with carrying out a project would enable effective infrastructure partnerships.” — Water Infrastructure Resources Part 2, Section 2, Sub-chapter D
While that may seem like a sound investment for the private sector, tolls disproportionately affect the poorest Americans. This is noted by looking at how toll roads operate. Those who can afford to travel via toll road benefit from lighter traffic and convenience, while those who can’t afford it are stuck dealing with congestion and smog generated by every vehicle on the road.
After seeing the largest tax cuts in American history along with a huge bump in federal spending; both of which benefit the wealthiest among us and the military industrial complex respectively, the poor and middle class see minimal reward. In other words, the poor and middle class reap limited benefits for just the first few years of the tax plan.
This infrastructure proposal adds to the financial burden implemented by Republican tax cuts. This deal will certainly stress the middle-class financially and the poor will bear the brunt of the burden via limited access to the infrastructure advancements in this proposal and associated tolls.
Raising the cost of living is unsustainable for many Americans and will only contribute to widening the wealth gap.
The Push for Privatization
Trump’s plan is a major push towards the privatization of American infrastructure. Not just our nation’s bridges and highways, but everything from water, electricity, internet access, the VA, National Parks, and more. It’s a proposal that opens the door for private companies to take control of just about everything while wielding unrelenting power over the entire population.
We have seen such abuse all over the country.
For instance, in Central Texas, there are large stretches of toll roads that have gone bankrupt. These bankruptcies come at the expense of the taxpayers. In addition, the billing systems in use (developed by Xerox) are extremely flawed in that they consistently overcharge drivers and delay billings resulting in massive late fees added to already high toll bills.
In every case of privatization, when a private entity gets into financial trouble it comes at the expense of the taxpayer who is already burdened by paying additional access fees. In these situations, we are being taxed multiple times. We use taxpayer dollars to help fund these systems, private entities then charge us fees to use them, then expect a bailout when they get into financial trouble.
The burden on taxpayers is far too much.
The potential burden is much worse. Including that of rural communities.
“Under this program, States would be incentivized to partner with local and private investments for completion and operation of rural infrastructure projects.” — Rural Infrastructure Program Part 1, Section 2
“This provision would establish a Rural Infrastructure Program to improve the condition and capability of rural infrastructure through capital improvements and outcomes-driven planning efforts that enhance private sector productivity, modernize existing infrastructure systems, and prioritize projects essential for efficiency and safety” — Rural Infrastructure Program Part 1, Section 2, Subchapter A
Again, this plan will allow for tolls to be implemented for all types of infrastructure.
“Eligible asset classes under the Rural Infrastructure Program would include:
* Transportation: roads, bridges, public transit, rail, airports, and maritime and inland waterway ports.
* Broadband (and other high-speed data and communication conduits).
* Water and Waste: drinking water, wastewater, stormwater, land revitalization and Brownfields.
* Power and Electric: governmental generation, transmission and distribution facilities.
* Water Resources: flood risk management, water supply, and waterways.
This program only would apply to the specified asset classes and to other infrastructure assets directly attributable to, and essential to, the operation of those assets.” — Rural Infrastructure Program Part 1, Section 2, Subchapter B
How it’s Being Received
Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio, the top Democrat on the Transportation Committee, said in an address Friday that Trump’s plan would “slash the federal commitment to a national infrastructure network. This is not a real infrastructure plan — it’s simply another scam, an attempt by this administration to privatize critical government functions, and create windfalls for their buddies on Wall Street. This fake proposal will not address the serious infrastructure needs facing this country, so our potholed roads will get worse, our bridges and transit systems will become more dangerous, and our tolls will become higher.”
Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the top Democrat on the Finance Committee, called the plan “another broken promise to rebuild America’s aging infrastructure. $200 billion is a drop in the bucket compared to the $1.5 trillion Republicans in Congress just spent to slash taxes for multinational corporations and the donor class.”
Some Republicans such as Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania, House Transportation Chairman, are pushing for a hike in the federal gasoline tax that pays for the ailing Highway Trust Fund
The Natural Resources Defense Council denounced the plan Sunday as a “disaster” and an “unacceptable corporate giveaway,” saying the proposal to speed up environmental reviews “would leave local residents all-but voiceless when it comes to the massive projects that will reshape their communities.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wrote in an op-ed that “hedge funds and wealthy investors will want projects that generate a profit by charging middle-class Americans hundreds of dollars a year in tolls, taxes and fees. Our nation’s roads, bridges and tunnels would become tools for wealthy investors to profit off the middle class rather than the job-creating public assets they ought to be.” He also warned that drivers could soon be paying “Trump tolls” because of the plan’s incentives for communities to seek money from private investors.
The Trump Administration is pushing this privatization agenda while providing trillions in tax cuts for the nation’s wealthiest Americans. Republicans who spent 8 years claiming to be fiscally conservative in blocking Obama’s agenda, now see fit to spend away while handing our infrastructure over to their biggest donors, the Koch Industries.
Coupled with the White House’s budget proposal for 2019, which includes proposals to cut deficits by $3 trillion dollars in cuts over a decade and lower debt levels as a percentage of the gross domestic product but does not balance by doing away with annual deficits, then you have a very happy donor class.
Read the entire infrastructure plan here.