As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump promised to spend $1 trillion to modernize America's infrastructure. There were no specifics. As economist Brad DeLong put it, Trump only offered "plans to have plans."
Now Trump has released a budget outline, and the plans to have plans turned out to be a plan to have no plan at all. Trump's "America First" budget delivers the opposite of his campaign promises, and it should come as no surprise that when it comes to infrastructure, the rubber doesn't meet the road.
Transportation Funding Gutted
Trump's budget guts transportation infrastructure funding, eliminating funding for many popular programs like mass transit funding for cities, Amtrak long-distance trains, and rural air service. It forces privatization of the Air Traffic Control system. According to the Washington Post,
Despite Trump’s push for new spending on transportation and other infrastructure, his $16.2 billion proposed Transportation Department budget represents a 13 percent decline from current funding. A host of rural and urban communities nationwide would lose popular programs.
StreetsBlog explains that, "In keeping with the budget’s general hostility to cities, transit would be hit especially hard."
How hard? The budget zeros out the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts program. StreetsBlog explains how this would impact dozens of transit initiatives,
Many cities have lined up local funding for rail and bus rapid transit projects under the assumption that it would be complemented by federal support. Without the New Starts funding, these projects will be in jeopardy as cities and transit agencies fend for themselves, either raising taxes, cutting other local priorities, or abandoning the expansion projects altogether to compensate.
The budget also eliminates the $500 million TIGER program that helps cities get federal transportation funds for walking, biking, and transit projects. A crucial rural infrastructure program is also eliminated.
The budget calls for privatizing the entire Federal Aviation Administration's Air Traffic Control system. This would mean 14,000 federal controllers would become "contractors" -- obviously so corporations can "save money" through low pay and few benefits.
The budget also eliminates funding for Amtrak's long-distance service. It eliminates funding for "Essential Air Service" to rural-areas.
Trump's budget doesn't help get you from here to there.
Water And Other Infrastructure
Trump's budget proposal doesn't just gut transportation infrastructure. It also guts other infrastructure programs.
Trump's budget eliminates a $500 million-per-year rural Water and Wastewater loan and grant program that helps towns with fewer than 5,000 people get loans to upgrade water, wastewater treatment, and stormwater systems.
The budget eliminates the Community Development Block Grant program which had provided around $280 million a year for infrastructure improvements in low-income neighborhoods. it eliminates the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation.
It eliminates a $221-million-a-year Commerce Department grant program for infrastructure projects, to support manufacturing.
It eliminates the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Chesapeake Bay cleanup funding, and other regional programs.
It cuts $1 billion from the Army Corps of Engineers.
If you consider the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to be infrastructure, it eliminates that, too.
You get the idea. Government bad.
Budget director Mick Mulvaney acknowledged that the preliminary budget might appear to contradict Trump's statements as a candidate and as president vowing more infrastructure spending. "That was done intentionally," Mulvaney told reporters Wednesday.
Mulvaney said the White House is targeting "inefficient programs" and will shift funds into "more efficient infrastructure programs later on."
When a Republican talks about "efficiency" it means something is going to be "reformed" so that someone who is already rich is going to get a lot richer - at the public's expense. Because government (democracy and decision-making by We the People) is "inefficient" and "the private sector" (decision-making by rich people) always "does things better."
Trump's people have "plans to have plans." The infrastructure cuts in this budget proposal are designed to clear the way for a 'privatization initiative' which may be the new name for a "scam," that is expected to come later from the Trump administration.
Privatization means public investment in public infrastructure will be replaced by public money for private infrastructure development. Public assets that we all own together and everyone can use and benefit from will be transferred to a few already-wealthy people for them to charge us to use.
Privatization means private. All the benefits that We the People now enjoy from our investment in public infrastructure, schools, parks, etc. will instead go to the private owners for their benefit. The great public wealth of the United States will instead become private wealth under the control of a few oligarchs.
With privatization government employees, who generally get good wages and benefits become contractors, who generally get low pay and few or no benefits. And, of course, people who don't make much won't be able to afford to use the once-public infrastructure.
Don't Kid Yourself
Don't kid yourself, this is the Trump/Republican/conservative/libertarian plan. It has been for a long time and with Trump's election the plan is coming to fruition.
Call your member of Congress and your Senators and tell them you insist that they continue to fund public infrastructure, public schools, public libraries, public parks, public police departments (and prisons), public hospitals, public fire departments and other "public structures" that We the People have build since the country's founding. Tell them you understand that privatization is nothing more than looting, and tell them you will not stand for it.