Yesterday Trump announced two major initiatives -- his budget blueprint for 2019, and his ideas for an infrastructure package. Neither was particularly well-received amongst the public or on Capitol Hill, but both serve as baselines for upcoming debates over the direction our government -- indeed, our society -- will take during the coming years. Trump's infrastructure package, like his budget discussed yesterday, hits on several disheartening and even dangerous themes that are coming to mark his presidency: a disdain for the federal government's ability to solve problems; a tendency to preference the states (southern, midwestern) and regions (rural) that voted for him over the ones that didn't; a proclivity for turning government functions over to private businesses, despite the corruption likely to ensue; and an attitude toward "deal-making" that leaves someone other than himself responsible for his short-sightedness.
Trump's infrastructure plan calls for $200 billion in federal spending, most of which must be used as "seed money" to attract further investments from states, localities, and private business in order to build and repair roads, bridges, railways, power grids, ports and other physical needs. Yesterday's announcement included no suggestions of where that $200 billion will be found in the budget. (Indeed, considering that Trump's 2019 budget includes sharp cuts to the Department of Transportation, the Department of Energy and other infrastructure-related agencies, it's difficult to see how he imagines the government would administer such investments.) Trump did, however, suggest that major building and renewal projects will require an infusion of money from states that currently aren't fiscally prepared to provide it -- meaning that they would have to raise their own taxes to make up for his stinginess.
Trump’s plan also is likely to result in public assets being privatized -- already he has suggested selling Washington, DC's two publicly held major airports, National and Dulles -- which, in turn, will create higher costs for taxpayers through user fees and tolls. The plan incentivizes state and local governments to use private equity financing, which is more expensive than traditional public bond financing -- and will enable private financiers to benefit financially from new government projects.
Just as concerning are the plan's provisions for bypassing environmental safeguards. It's likely roll back standards and regulations in the name of “streamlining” processes for approval and completion of projects -- leading to dirtier air, dirtier water, and decimated ecosystems.
Our task in the coming weeks and months will be to show that the American people don't want our roads, waterways, power grid, and other essential elements of the public trust to be sold to the highest bidder so that Trump can avoid real public investments and can reward his rich friends in the building industries. We want a REAL infrastructure plan, with significant public investments that result in projects that are both technologically and fiscally efficient and that don't destroy our environment in the name of speed or profit.