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Trump’s Infrastructure Shell Game

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President Trump signs a memo outlining his plans to privatize air traffic control in a ceremony orchestrated to look like a major bill signing.
President Trump signs a memo outlining his plans to privatize air traffic control in a ceremony orchestrated to look like a major bill signing.

On the campaign trail, President Donald Trump boasted about a major infrastructure overhaul. He talked up a $1 trillion plan to revitalize America’s roads, bridges, schools, airports and more. On election night, he described an infrastructure vision that would be “second to none,” putting millions of Americans to work. 

However, the reality, like much of what Trump has promised, has proven quite different.

First, his newly-released, highly-touted infrastructure plan clocks in not at the auspicious $1 trillion mark, but rather a much more modest $200 billion investment.

On Monday, Trump convened a photo op to unveil his infrastructure proposal, but all he talked about was a misguided idea to privatize air traffic control operations.

AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders blasted that plan, calling the air-traffic privatization piece “one of the worst aspects of this scheme to cede control of our nation’s vital infrastructure to corporations and take power away from taxpayers.”

“The Trump infrastructure plan isn't an infrastructure plan at all,” Saunders said. “It’s a colossal $200 billion corporate handout, which will outsource good jobs to private interests at the expense of safety and accountability.”

Too Small, Too Shifty

But even the $200 billion number is misleading.

First, according to an Atlantic article, that number obscures the fact that many infrastructure programs will actually be cut. As Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) points out in this article from Politico, “the president’s $200 billion plan is more than wiped out by other cuts to key infrastructure programs.”

Second, the millions of people who’ll supposedly be put back to work won’t be the public service workers with the real expertise on how best to maintain complex infrastructure. Instead, the work of repairing America will go to private contractors, making the wealthy wealthier while stripping away accountability and forcing everyday citizens pay for basic services.

What’s worse, Trump’s plan aims to privatize many public assets such as airports, bridges and highway rest stops, according to The Washington Post. Of Trump’s agenda, the Post concludes: “Two driving themes are clear: Government practices are stalling the nation’s progress; and private companies should fund, build and run more of the basic infrastructure of American life.”

This article from The Huffington Post lays out Trump’s game plan clearly: “In a process called ‘asset recycling,’ cities, counties, and states would sell or lease assets like roads and water systems to private equity investors in exchange for cash to build new infrastructure.”

If that weren’t bad enough, this piece from The Intercept details exactly who stands to benefit from the arrangement: Saudi investors and Wall Street private equity groups. 

It Won’t Be Enough Anyway

Ironically, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), even if Trump invested the full $1 trillion he promised, it wouldn’t be enough. America’s infrastructure earned a D+ in ASCE’s most recent scoring. ASCE estimates that a $2 trillion, 10-year investment is required to upgrade our crumbling infrastructure.

At a recent event hosted by the Congressional Progressive Caucus, AFSCME Sec.-Treas. Elissa McBride, reiterated AFSCME’s support for “the basic principle that says public money should go toward the public good.”

“Trump’s proposal to sell off our infrastructure to the highest bidder so that wealthy private owners can charge higher fees to the rest of us for the rest of our lives is dead wrong,” she said.

AFSCME backs a proposal put forth by Senate Democrats that would keep public infrastructure in public hands. That’s the infrastructure blueprint America’s communities need, one that would create good jobs, sustain working families and keep America’s public service workers and their communities front and center.

(Dulles International Airport photo courtesy of Joe Ravi, Chicago Transit Authority photo courtesy of Daniel Schwen)