Remember the Trump administration’s infrastructure plan? The one that promised America job-boosting projects for gleaming highways and bridges? Well, so far the Trump-branded New Deal has fallen by the wayside; the job-creation program of year one involved boasting about employment rates that have little to do with his policies, deregulating federal agencies, and saber rattling about trade wars with China. But now he’s poised to follow his monstrous tax cuts with a stimulus plan that will actually fork over more public assets to corporate executives.
The draft outline of the zombie infrastructure program has resurfaced again with a leak to Axios—and confirms what many feared: The White House hopes to privatize areas of government at a discount, opening up more public services to abuse at the hands of corporations. Trump plans to expand private-activity bonds for infrastructure construction, “to benefit the public,” with a definition of “public benefit” that’s more solid-gold toilet than Hoover Dam. Exhibit A is the plan to expand private management of our waterways, including efforts to mitigate pollution and environmental harm that tends to result from the same private-sector control. In other words, laundering public money to help corporate America break stuff and then buy it. There’s a heavy focus on funding privately managed road and bridge projects, and goodies like highway-rest-stop commercialization and encouraging private leasing of infrastructure.
But Trump’s agenda goes well beyond the “shovel ready” bridge-and-tunnel infrastructure initiatives of the past. The resources of a federal environmental stewardship program that was previously off-limits to corporations will also be handed over: The Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) will be open for business for private firms to both manage and repair water infrastructure at taxpayer’s expense. In addition, a credit scheme under the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act would provide more opportunity to private investors, by eliminating existing requirements that WIFIA funds be used for “Community Water Systems.”
These provisions could open the floodgates to private-financing schemes for critical environmental infrastructure projects, including estuary-conservation programs, wastewater-treatment systems, management of long-term industrial pollution, and energy-efficiency initiatives. (Currently, Drinking Water revolving funds are available for private providers, though lawmakers have sought to also limit funds to community systems).