Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Is Trump's Infrastructure Plan Just An Excuse For A Privatization Agenda?


You might not know it from Señor Trumpanzee's demented early morning tweet storms since Monday, but this is what the Regime dubbed "Infrastructure Week." Not counting all the deranged distractions, he kicked off Infrastructure Week with an announcement that he's going to try to privatize U.S. air traffic control. Señor signed a memo and letter to Congress outlining his a plan written by a lobbyist who the airline industry gifted to the chair of the filthy-corrupt House Transportation Committee, Bill Shuster (who also received $148,499 in airline industry bribes last year alone). Trumpanzee then handed out pens and reveled in several rounds of applause from invited sycophants. Like most of his nonsensical signings, the announcement had no binding effect, and normal people quickly denounced the proposal.

Bill Nelson, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee: "The safety of the flying public should not be for sale. Handing air traffic control over to a private entity partly governed by the airlines is both a risk and liability we can't afford to take." House Transportation ranking Democrat Peter DeFazio said turning air traffic control operations over to a non-governmental entity "was a bad idea when it was proposed in the last Congress, and it remains a bad idea today despite President Trump's support," noting that opponents on both sides of the aisle "have raised serious concerns about whether it would guarantee safety, protect national security, expedite new technology and keep our aviation system solvent." It isn't the kind of infrastructure people eager to see a boost to the economy were looking for. Last week we talked about a real plan-- the one Ted Lieu penned on behalf of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Yesterday, a statement from Lieu, along with CPC co-cahirs Raul Grijalva and Mark Pocan emphasized that "Trump’s attempt to shift public attention away from his Russia troubles by rolling out an infrastructure privatization scheme only exposes his Administration’s radical agenda to sell off the highways, bridges, and clean water we all rely on to benefit foreign corporations and Wall Street investors. President Trump’s push today to dismantle the Federal Aviation Administration and put it under private control is just the first step of a larger scheme that appears to cut existing infrastructure spending while forcing taxpayers to subsidize the construction of border walls and private prisons. If this administration was serious about putting people to work and addressing our infrastructure needs they would be touting something very different. The Congressional Progressive Caucus has a real solution. Our 21st Century New Deal for Jobs is a bold vision that puts 2.5 million people to work in revitalizing our schools, parks, bridges, roads and drinking water, while laying the foundations of a 21st-century economy through clean energy, high-speed rail, and lightning-fast internet for all. Rather than selling off public assets to the highest bidder, as Trump intends to do, our $2 trillion plan makes big corporations pay their fair share. Over the past week, over 30 House Democrats have rallied behind our resolution, which lays out clear principles for an infrastructure plan that creates millions of good jobs while preventing Trump and the Republicans in Congress from selling off and privatizing our public roads, bridges, and ports. Public money must serve the public good. Americans don’t want to pay for a Trump corporate giveaway, and his feeble attempt at an infrastructure plan will fall flat, while the CPC’s New Deal for Jobs will continue to gain momentum across the country."

The handover of about 300 airport towers and other flight tracking centers would be one of the largest transfers of U.S. government assets. About 35,000 workers, including 14,000 controllers and 6,000 technicians, would be affected. Small airports fear it would result in higher fees and less service. Kansas Republican Jerry Moran: "Proposals to privatize air traffic control threaten the reliable transportation options provided by small airports and the general aviation community for millions of Americans. All but our largest airports nationwide stand to be hurt by this proposal. Privatization eliminates the chance for Congress and the American people to provide oversight, creates uncertainty in the marketplace and is likely to raise costs for consumers."

Writing for The Atlantic, Russell Berman went into some detail about why Trump is trying to privatize air traffic control. It's cheap, easy and ideologically pure enough to serve as red meat for some conservatives, though not the radicals like the House Freedom Caucus. The orange-hued baboon "pitched the proposal as transformative, spicing up air-traffic control with plenty of Trump-ian flourishes at a White House ceremony." To a normal person he sounds... like an orange-hued baboon who has learned a few words of English. To his followers, he sounds like the president they've been waiting for to put them out of their misery.
He described the status quo in dire terms-- “an ancient, broken, antiquated, horrible system that doesn’t work,” he said. (“Other than that, it’s quite good,” Trump added for laughs.) And he said the principles he was endorsing would fix just about every complaint that Americans have with flying today. “We’re proposing reduced wait times, increased route efficiency, and far fewer delays,” the president promised. “Our plan will get you where you need to go more quickly, more reliably, more affordably and, yes-- for the first time in a long time-- on time. We will launch this air travel revolution by modernizing the outdated system of air traffic control. It’s about time.”

All those things sound nice, but to skeptics of the proposal, converting the air-traffic control system into a not-for-profit cooperative isn’t necessary to achieve them. The key to reducing delays and increasing efficiency, they say, is not a bureaucratic overhaul but the full implementation of technology known as NextGen that is shifting air-traffic control to a satellite, GPS-based system. The shift has been slow and costly, which has led Republicans to call for getting the government out of the way. But air-traffic control, per se, isn’t the problem, and despite the outdated technology, the system’s safety record remains strong. “If something isn’t broken, why fix it?” asked Paul Hudson, a member of an FAA advisory committee and the president of a passenger advocacy group called

...In a victory for conservatives, the president is no longer touting new public investments on a grand scale; the $1 trillion he once promised has fallen to just $200 billion in direct federal spending. Instead, he’s relying on ideas Republicans have already proposed to incentivize private development and reduce the federal role in infrastructure altogether. The president plans to promote his infrastructure plans on the road in Cincinnati on Wednesday and again back in Washington later in the week, but he is expected to focus on permitting reform rather than new federal money.

In part, that’s a political calculation. Trump has already seen the two issues Republicans most prized-- health care and taxes-- stall on Capitol Hill. Conservatives were never particularly excited about infrastructure to begin with, and Democrats are loathe to cooperate with Trump on anything. The president needs something-- anything-- to pass Congress, and if nothing else, privatizing air-traffic control was an idea that had already gotten off the ground, so to speak.

It was a priority of Representative Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania, an early Trump supporter who is chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and will be key to enacting the administration’s other infrastructure proposals. Shuster said he pitched his plan to Trump back in the winter of 2014, before he even became a candidate, and the White House based its principles largely on legislation the chairman introduced last year. “It seemed like naturally low-hanging fruit from a policy perspective,”  Gribbin told reporters on Monday in explaining why the president chose to lead off with air-traffic control.

Yet in the current legislative environment, even the lowest-hanging fruit have long odds of making it into law. Shuster’s bill never made it to the House floor last year, suggesting that even Republicans were not fully onboard. The proposal ran into turf battles with the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over tax policy, and it is likely to draw opposition from lawmakers representing rural districts that rely more on government support.

Its path through the Senate is even rockier, since Democrats who have the power to block the measure are opposed to privatization. A lukewarm statement from Senator John Thune of South Dakota, a top Republican who leads the Commerce Committee, sent an ominous signal on Monday. “As we move forward in discussing potential reforms, getting a bill to President Trump’s desk will require bipartisan support as well as a consensus among the aviation community on a way forward,” Thune said. Another Republican, Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas, panned the proposal altogether, saying it would “threaten reliable transportation options provided by small airports and general aviation for millions of Americans.”

...On Monday afternoon, the president made a show of putting his signature on the statement of principles he would be sending to Congress. This wasn’t a bill-signing, of course, but with no infrastructure legislation before him and obstacles looming even for his pared-down privatization plan, it might be the closest Trump is going to get.

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At 6:23 AM, Anonymous Hone said...

Let's hope that this does not go through. Make no mistake: Trump's plans are modeled directly from Putin - to sell off everything in government to private corporations and individuals so they can enrich themselves at the cost of the American taxpayer. National parks will be next.

When the hell will we get rid of him already? Order an extra large orange jumpsuit immediately! He stands for corruption, criminality and treason with a hefty dose of mental disturbance and incompetence. It is so obvious!! And the Republican National Committee is putting forth efforts to support him. The Republicans are just as bad.

At 6:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Plan? He had no plan. He had only a campaign slogan. Stupid people are the only ones who thought he had a plan, and that his plan would help anyone making less than 8 figures per. I mean colossally stupid people -- the 62 million who voted for him and there are probably 30 million more.

Profitization is nothing new to the right and left. Rumsfeld profitized war during cheney's Iraq (and afghan) adventures making both of them at least millions if not billions. Erik Prince is stinking rich because of war profitizing. Hundreds of actual soldiers are dead because of war profitizing (google: contractor electrocuted soldiers in showers).

If you want to see multiples of mid-air crashes and other ground crashes (not involving Harrison Ford), just turn over the FAA to the lowest bidder meme.

What, you think minimum-wage air traffic controllers will give a shit?

There used to be an old saying that made a lot of sense, not that anyone these days is capable of understanding anything more complex than "me hungry":
You get what you pay for.

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At 6:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Hone,

You've got it backwards.

As one of our anonymous commenters states correctly, above, what we see now is simply the outcome of the GOP strategy for at least 85 years.

The factors that make this situation APPEAR unique is complete GOP control of the 3 branches of government and a chief executive who lacks the desire and ability to, in any way, "civilly" hide the actual program.

If you don't like Putin that you need to confront those who squealed and stomped their political feet, for decades, insisting that the USSR break up and "be like us." Privatization is a GOP obsession that Russia/Putin were saddled with when our "good" capitalists went into the remnants of the atomized USSR as "economic advisers."

Remember: be careful what you ask for.

John Puma

At 8:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good point, JP. And remember which us prez sent those "Chicago boys" in to "help" then president Yeltsin to "Americanize" their kleptocracy. Then remember how their economy was destroyed (for all but the oligarchy) leaving store shelves bare and making people wait for days in line for bread.

And, as I like to do, connect the dots. Yeltsin's corruption in doing as Clinton advised resulted in the rise of Putin.

At 7:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes. Next question?


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