*The following is an opinion column by R Muse*
This week there was a fair amount of noise over Trump’s infrastructure plan and most of that noise was criticism; not because repairing and rebuilding this country’s decrepit infrastructure is a bad idea. It certainly is not. In fact, economist Paul Krugman opined that listening to Trump’s Nazi (alt-right) chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, boast about “his idea” of spending a trillion dollars to rebuild and repair the infrastructure made it sound like progressives had finally found their champion in the new and improved Trump Republican Party.
However, Mr. Krugman didn’t opine too long on the “progressiveness” of Trump’s plan because he knew any plan from a bankruptcy king would include “cronyism and self-dealing [that] are going to be the central theme of this administration.” The economist also warned that any “people who value their own reputations should take care to avoid any kind of association with the scams ahead.”
The idea of repairing and rebuilding infrastructure is not any kind of scam in normal times, and it is exactly what the nation should be doing. With interest rates at near zero, the government can borrow “very cheaply” and start spending on everything from roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, sewage plants, levees, water treatment plants and mass transit. That course of action is something everyone from President Obama to renowned highly-respected conservative and liberal economists alike have called for over the past six years: simply borrow at those low, low interest rates, determine what most needs repairing and rebuilding, and then use those cheap funds raised to fix America so everyone wins.
However, the concept of everyone winning or benefitting is the farthest thing from dirty Don’s “infrastructure plan.” It is what drove the preponderance of the complaints and criticism this week that it is just a mammoth tax scam for the rich. But it is so much more according to Paul Krugman who describes it as a gift of ownership of America’s infrastructure to the rich in the ultimate privatization scam; and it is all at taxpayer expense.
It is true there has been acknowledgment that Trump’s infrastructure plan is an exercise in crony capitalism, but as Paul Krugman noted, it is also giving the rich total ownership of America’s infrastructure, or what Republicans and the Koch brothers have lusted after; private ownership of America’s infrastructure to increase the power, wealth, and authority of the rich over the rest of America. Under the Trump swindle, American taxpayers will not only pay for whichever infrastructure repairs make the rich the most money, they will be forced to pay a private entity to use the infrastructure their tax dollars repaired and rebuilt. If it is not the ultimate scam, it is certainly in the top five of all time and one Republicans will be happy to help put in place.
Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman exposed the scam in Trump’s plan that goes far beyond showering the rich with tax breaks. According to Krugman,
“Trump’s plan calls for huge tax credits: billions of dollars in checks written to private companies that invest in ‘approved’ projects, which they would end up owning. For example, imagine a private consortium building a toll road for $1 billion. Under the Trump plan, the consortium might borrow $800 million while putting up $200 million in equity [not cash] — but it would get a tax credit of 82 percent of that [$200 million] sum, so that its [consortium] actual outlays would only be $36 million.”
And, as Mr. Krugman rightly noted, as “the owners” of the infrastructure taxpayers paid to overhaul or restore, “all future revenue” and all future profit from tolls would go to the people who put up that $36 million in equity. That is $36 million out of the billion dollars the taxpayers paid to give away another piece of America. Imagine how much of America’s infrastructure will be handed over to private companies after being built and paid for by taxpayers spending a trillion dollars; only to have to pay to use that infrastructure.
There were questions among many in the punditry about whether Republicans in Congress would be willing to spend even a penny for Trump’s infrastructure con. After all, they have rejected each and every infrastructure plan submitted by President Obama. But the President’s plans never included monumental tax credits for corporations, or ownership of the infrastructure being rebuilt or repaired, and they never laid the burden on the taxpayers to fund a giant gift for private entities. Senator Sanders’ clever move to re-submit his infrastructure plan will never be considered by Republicans in either house of Congress, but it was brilliant in exposing the Republicans’ gross lack of interest in fixing America if it doesn’t give more of America, and taxpayer’s dollars, to the already rich and powerful.
One thing is certain, Republicans have never shied away from giving the uber-wealthy anything. They may resist spending a penny on anything that benefits the people or the country, but they will move heaven and Earth to advance and implement the idea of writing huge checks to private companies at taxpayer expense, and then extend ungodly tax breaks to further burden taxpayers who see their investment handed over to private ownership. It is also noteworthy, and something Mr. Krugman highlighted, that the only projects “approved” under Trump’s plan will be those that can turn a profit for the “new corporate” owners who will no doubt make up a special commission to choose the most profitable infrastructure projects.
A lot of angst among many Americans is founded on the already-evident conflicts of interest surrounding a Trump in the White House, and it is, frankly, well-founded and glaringly obvious. However, Americans have to remember that Donald J. Trump is a typical wealthy Republican and as prone as he is to business scams and swindles, he loves the idea of taxpayers heaping more wealth on the rich. It should surprise no-one with a pulse that a Trump infrastructure plan would not be a scam or not aid the rich in not paying taxes; that they get to own more of America is just a value-added bonus and a nod to the Koch brothers that dirty Don is their man in the White House; a piece of infrastructure likely for sale for the right price.