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Back when there was a Republican president and Republicans controlled both houses of Congress, Republicans supported infrastructure investment—to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars. Now, when President Obama proposes relatively modest federal expenditures on infrastructure with a major focus on encouraging private investment, this is the Republican response:
Republicans responded by saying they also wanted to upgrade American roads, bridges and other infrastructure, but only if it could be paid for. SpeakerJohn A. Boehner’s office distributed comments he made last month after Mr. Obama’s State of the Union address.

“It’s easy to go out there and be Santa Claus and talk about all the things you want to give away,” Mr. Boehner said. “But at some point, somebody has to pay the bill.”

First, remember that private investment is a central part of Obama's proposal:
Partnering with the Private Sector to Create Jobs and Invest in the Projects We Need Most. To leverage private and public capital for infrastructure projects showing the greatest merit, the President is continuing to call for the investment of $10 billion to create and capitalize an independent National Infrastructure Bank (NIB), based on a model that has won bipartisan support from the Senate in the past. Each dollar of Federal funding can leverage up to $20 in total infrastructure investment, mainly from partners in the private sector and State and local government.
Second, who does Boehner think is going to pay the greatly increased bills when bridges start collapsing, taking lives with them? For that matter, what does he think is going to happen to an economy where goods can't easily be transported from one city or state to another because the nation's rail and roads and bridges aren't up to the task? There's a reason the Chamber of Commerce and unions agree on the importance of infrastructure investment: It's incredibly important not just for job creation but for private profits. Aging, inadequate infrastructure is costing the economy hundreds of billions of dollars a year.

Steve Benen describes Obama's plan as a "moderate approach intended to garner broader support." And Republicans used to support far, far more extensive infrastructure spending. But now? They're more interested in hurting Obama than helping the nation.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 12:07 PM PDT.

Also republished by ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  "partners"? (12+ / 0-)

    Egad, I hate that term.  Government does not "partner" with private industry.  A private company does work for the government as a contractor, not a partner.  The government is a res publica, a thing of the people.  It is not a member of a firm.

    Dammit, why can't we stop using the right's terms?

    "Too much sanity may be madness. And maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be.” ― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

    by penguins4peace on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 12:13:58 PM PDT

  •  Well, I'm glad the Repubs are obstinate. (11+ / 0-)

    Can't say I'd look forward to bridges and roads being owned by private industries and paying tolls on them.  PPIs are a dumb idea when the government can borrow at a negative real interest rate.

    •  I fully understand your reservations... (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      webranding, TJ, elwior, marina, Oaktown Girl

      ...about PPIs. They should never be the basis of most infrastructure projects. If we can get a paltry number of certain projects authorized that way, I will hold my nose and accept them.

      The bulk of what we need will never fit in a PPI format.

      When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative. --Martin Luther King Jr.

      by Egalitare on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 12:27:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •   (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      webranding, elwior

      that one sit and breath.

    •  It's a terrible idea. Robert Reich has warned of (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      marina

      the hardship that will be mposed upon poor, working- and lower-middle classes.

      Here's what he says about PPP (Public-Private Investments), same as PPI.

      Here's a comment from one of Reich's blogs, and a link to it.

      Not even Democrats any longer use the phrase "the public good." Public goods are now, at best, "public investments."

      Public institutions have morphed into "public-private partnerships;"
      or, for Republicans, simply "vouchers."
      We desperately need infrastructure upgrades, but just not carried out by 'public-private partnerships,' which is what the Administration is suggesting.

      And yes, it was a Republican idea--and a lousy one, at that, LOL!

      Heck, read this comment from Pete Peterson's Q&A.  

      Exactly what is being proposed by the Administration is on Peterson's 'neoliberal wishlist.'

      Especially, since the Administration is looking to finance these projects with only a little 'federal seed money, and mostly with 'private money.'

      Pete Peterson Q&A:

      Why did you start the Peter G. Peterson Foundation?

      . . . This will require investments in areas such as education, research and development, and infrastructure that give rise to innovation and new jobs.

      We also need to maintain a strong social safety net for those who need it, including Social Security and Medicare.

      Does anyone believe that the 'Peterson's Of The World' and corporations, in general, won't demand their pound of flesh in return for funding these projects?
      So we get austerity imposed on us, and wealthy Americans like Peterson get their 'wish list' for projects which further enrich them?

      While this funding mechanism leaves the 'average Joe' with the bill for decades to come, in the form of 'tolls.'

      No thanks.  We can do better than that.

      First, forget the idea of an overhaul of the federal tax code to drop marginal tax rates for the wealthy and corporations.  

      Then fund the infrastructure projects along the lines that the US employed when our interstate highways were first built.

      That's the way to garner support for these projects.  Not imposing tolls on the American populace.

      Mollie

      "Only he who can see the invisible, can do the impossible."-- Frank L. Gaines


      hiddennplainsight

      by musiccitymollie on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 03:01:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Hear, hear, TJ. N/T (0+ / 0-)

      Mollie

      "Only he who can see the invisible, can do the impossible."-- Frank L. Gaines


      hiddennplainsight

      by musiccitymollie on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 03:11:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The decline of America (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    webranding, elwior, maryabein

    is in full swing.  Bridges will collapse, roads won't be repaired, f&*k airports and trains.  Let's all just go down with the ship.  The wealthy will blow this taco joint when the going gets rougher than it is now, so who cares?  Support Obama and do what's right for your fellow Americans?  Not on your life.

    Fasten your seat belts everyone - it's going to be a bumpy ride (in more ways than one).

    being mindful and keepin' it real

    by Raggedy Ann on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 12:24:06 PM PDT

    •  Next Month My Dad Will Go To His 50th (6+ / 0-)

      high school reunion. One of his class mates has lived in Mexico City for about 40 of those years. The reunion is in Florida. It is yearly.

      A few years ago, and the guy has more money then you can spend in a lifetime, he came here. Didn't drive. Didn't rent a car. He just figured he'd get around on a bus or rail. Found he couldn't get around at all.

      He said to my dad that when Americans joke about "third world" nations we ought to look in the mirror!

      When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

      by webranding on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 12:31:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I've lived and studied in Mexico. Their economy (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        marina, Egalitare

        is definitely on the upswing.

        And Mr. Mollie has to travel there, intermittently. He says that you hardly see a vehicle that doesn't appear to be new.  Including many, many very expensive foreign exports.

        His assessment is that 'somebody's sure as heck is making out in that country.'

        [BTW, we love Mexico and the people.  So my comment is not meant to be disparaging.  ;-)]

        Mollie

        "Only he who can see the invisible, can do the impossible."-- Frank L. Gaines


        hiddennplainsight

        by musiccitymollie on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 03:09:21 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  change vs decline (0+ / 0-)

      Having less stuff is not necessarily a decline.  Having more stuff than you parents is not the sole measure of increased lifestyle.  I would not say I have more stuff, but I do have nicer stuff.

      The thing we really need to look at in terms of roads is the one size fits all category, especially with more efficient cars, heavier cars, and the redirecting of the fuel tax from roads to deficit reduction.

      Although there is a debate of how more damage a heavier car does to the road than a lighter car, it is believed by some that part of the problem is heavier cars doing an order or magnitude more damage.  And cars are heavier.  For instance the Falcon my family drove it, fit five comfortably, was around 2500 lbs.  The Escape and PT cruiser is well over 3000 lbs.  The escalade is 5500 lbs, much greater than anything a family might have driven 30 years ago.

      If we want to fix roads, we have to tax in terms of distance driving and mass.  This can be done at yearly inspections.  Get rid of the gas tax and just charge a penny or two per mile per ton.  For some this would mean about what is paid now in gas taxes, while for others it will mean a great increase.  Obviously some are happy externalizing costs to the tax payer, so this proposal would be unpopular.

  •  Here we goooooo... (4+ / 0-)

    More federal funds funneled to private companies! It has got to stop! Put people directly on the public payroll to do the job...not some private company.

  •  It Just Makes No Sense (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jan4insight, ferg, elwior

    Many years ago. 30's and 40s my great, great grandfather had a construction company. Built bridges. Became rich doing it. Even to this day I can go over a bridge where I live and it is one my family built. He was so proud of his work he'd put a bronze medallion on each thing he built with his initials (mine BTW - TRY).

    Now he loved his work, but it is like 80 or 90s years since he built these darn things, maybe we upgrade. I don't know, just saying.

    When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

    by webranding on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 12:26:14 PM PDT

  •  I don't understand the concept at all (4+ / 0-)

    If a government bridge needs to be repaired, the government needs to pay for it.

    How or why would a private investor or a "bank" be involved at all? (Other than the usual buying of government bonds.)

    •  The concept is simple (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      aliasalias, musiccitymollie

      People like Obama, Dick Cheney, and other conservatives don't believe in government. They believe, apparently, that the markets are more efficient and that big contractors who make big profits can do a better job than government.

    •  It's called 'neoliberalism.' And it R us, now. NT (0+ / 0-)

      Mollie

      "Only he who can see the invisible, can do the impossible."-- Frank L. Gaines


      hiddennplainsight

      by musiccitymollie on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 03:13:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The private partner fronts the money (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      musiccitymollie, KJG52, Odysseus

      The payback is tolls, or dedicated tax revenues. It's a bond held by a private firm, skip the intermediary, but it's called a "partnership"

      Sometimes, the PPP thing can be good, e.g., joint development of surplus land. WMATA has made a bundle from partnering with private developers for the stuff on top of Metro stations. Sometimes this kind of thing can involve the private partner building a public facility as part of the development.

      But all too free, governments get swindled, see the Chicago parking meter case.

      We can safely abandon the doctrine of the eighties, namely that the rich were not working because they had too little money, the poor because they had too much. JK Galbraith, 1991

      by Urban Owl on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 07:18:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I understand that, UO. But major projects like (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        marina, Odysseus, magnetics

        repairing and rebuilding infrastructure should be paid for by imposing very progressive taxes.

        The hardship that would be imposed on the poor and working poor would be ridiculous (and obviously unnecessary).

        Quit 'empire building' and raise taxes on the wealthy and the corporations.  

        This, of course, is the opposite of what is getting ready to happen with the Administration's new 'tax overhaul.'

        That's why I'm bring it up.  Many folks who haven't read The Moment Of Truth, are under the impression that taxes are going to be raised on the wealthy.

        Yet, the Fiscal Commission's own recommendations mainly include closing tax loopholes that apply to lower and middle income Americans.

        And, of course, 'lowering the [marginal] tax rates, and broadening the base.'  Don't won't to forget that one!  ;-)

        Mollie

        "Only he who can see the invisible, can do the impossible."-- Frank L. Gaines


        hiddennplainsight

        by musiccitymollie on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 07:36:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  We need to bring back earmarks because... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ferg, FG

    they help to buy votes and punish those that stand in the way. They never represented a great deal of $$$ but they are a necessary legislative tool and since we do not have them the legislative process has suffered.

    Plato's " The Cave" taught me to question reality.

    by CTDemoFarmer on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 01:02:48 PM PDT

  •  No PPI (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    musiccitymollie

    Just take the damn money from the wealthy and corporations and call it the taxpayers' revenge. The private sphere shouldn't end up ruling the public, nor naming everything Monsanto or Citibank or whatever. Dammit.

  •  I'm not as opposed to PPPs as most are, evidently (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marina

    While there is certainly the potential for corruption, properly done public-private partnerships could work (note: I work for a firm that gets involved in these from time to time).

    For example, Bechtel (not my employer) and the Portland (Oregon) area's regional transit authority did a PPP to extend the east side light rail line to the Portland International Airport (PDX).

    This website summarizes the MAX Red Line. Tragically, it went into service on September 10, 2001; the day before the 9/11 attack that shut down civilian aviation in the U.S. for a few days.

    From the website:

    Highlights

    Connects airport with key destinations such as the Oregon Convention Center and Portland City Center

    First train-to-plane transit service on the West Coast

    Built through a unique public-private partnership

    Funded by TriMet general fund (36%),
    Bechtel/CascadeStation Development Company, LLC (23%), Port of Portland (23%), and the City of Portland (18%): no federal dollars or new local taxes needed

    Used existing transit right-of-way along I-205

    Completed on schedule and within budget

    The transit agency TriMet describes the PPP this way:

    (warning: pdf)

    A unique public/private partnership

    In 1997 Bechtel Enterprises approached the region with a proposal to design and build a MAX extension to the airport under an innovative public/private partnership. Bechtel would contribute about a quarter of the project’s funding and contract to build the light rail extension. In return, Bechtel would receive development rights to a 120-acre mixed-use commercial site near the entrance to the airport, owned by the Port of Portland.This cost-sharing venture, the first of its kind, meant no federal appropriations, state general funds or additional property taxes were needed to build the line.

    While the development (Cascade Station shopping center, FBI offices, other miscellaneous commercial occupants, and associated hotels) is still coming to fruition, it has made considerable progress, if you like big box shopping centers (which, while inconsistent with the Portland City Center, is similar to other developments that far out of downtown).
    •  selling (or leasing) development rights (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TJ, Urban Owl, marina

      At least that makes more sense. The government is selling/leasing its property rights to fund infrastructure.

      San Francisco is discussing a similar project for a basketball arena, which would be build on Port of SF land (and therefore leased to the team.) The developers would pay part of the lease by repairing the port (it's basically falling into the bay.)

      That's a pretty specific scenario, though.

      So the idea is to only repair infrastructure if some developer can make a profit off it.

  •  Obama (0+ / 0-)

    Last time I looked, Obama is still black and Boehner
    is white.

  •  They've never wanted to help the nation (0+ / 0-)

    They only believe in helping themselves. Screw everyone else.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 06:46:29 PM PDT

  •  A Republican proposal (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KJG52, MeToo

    shot down by a protofascist Congress.

    Yawn.

    Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

    by corvo on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 06:52:45 PM PDT

  •  My my how far we've come (0+ / 0-)

    The party of Jefferson is now the party of Hamilton, and vice-versa.

    As the revolutionary era song went, it's a world turned upside down.

    And yes, I realize that I've taken a few liberties with history. Sue me. :-)

    "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

    by kovie on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 06:53:03 PM PDT

  •  Look here Mr. Obama (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MeToo

    The job of government is to hand money to rich people. Unless you are handing money directly to rich people, you are a socialist. It's that simple. Only someone born in Kenya couldn't get it at this point.

  •  The Dems should get OMB to calculate how much (0+ / 0-)

    taxes would be generated from the jobs created by the infrastructure projects, including the jobs created by leveraging of government money.  I bet the amount of extra tax revenue would be shocking.  

    We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately. B. Franklin

    by Observerinvancouver on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 07:16:54 PM PDT

  •  Do you suppose he'll ever be allowed to govern? (0+ / 0-)
    nah.

    "Life is short, but long enough to get what's coming to you." --John Alton

    by Palafox on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 07:22:14 PM PDT

    •  If THIS is a sample of what we get (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Buddha Badger, aliasalias

      When Obama is allowed to govern, no thanks.  The whole thing is republican , neoliberal bilge.  In case I was unclear, it's a very bad idea to "partner" with private investors.  It is simply privatizing profits and socializing losses.
      This whole post is clap-trap, trying to gin up outrage at the Republicans for refusing to go along with Obama simply because he's Obama.  Well, how about some outrage at Obama for proposing yet another republican idea?!  This is straight out of the Halliburton play book.

  •  But when Santa went to Afghanistan... (0+ / 0-)

    and Santa Claus went to Iraq...

    How cool was that?

    Reps are asshats.

    “It’s easy to go out there and be Santa Claus and talk about all the things you want to give away,” Mr. Boehner said. “But at some point, somebody has to pay the bill.”
    I want a planeload of cash for Christmas fer Christsakes!

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/...

    The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution. Paul Cezanne

    by MeToo on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 07:53:25 PM PDT

  •  Does anyone have a description of how Public (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mike101

    Private differs from just government financed projects?

    From what I see this is accounting manipulation.  Instead of borrowing $210 billion in Treasuries for projects, the Federal government borrows $10 billion to fund its part in the PP partnership that then borrows $200 billion (with Federal guarantees).  In both cases $210 billion is borrowed, except the PP partnership pays a higher interest rate.  In both cases the same is spent on projects, and the Federal government is responsible for paying all the debt service.

    The difference however is that with government accounting in the first case $210 billion in government spending is reported, but in the second only $10 billion is reported.  If Treasury issues $200 billion in Treasury debt the national debt increases by $200 billion.  But if $200 billion in the ""PP Bank" is guarantted, this does not show up as increased federal debt.

    So the whole purpose is to game government accounting at a cost of higher higher interest payments with public funds to private investors.

    The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

    by nextstep on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 08:00:52 PM PDT

    •  Private enterprises don't invest in projects (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Buddha Badger, aliasalias

      Without the reasonable expectation of profits to be made.  They're in it for the money, not for the betterment of the country.  So the difference here is a very deliberate privatizing of profits, and socializing of losses.

      •  Not really (0+ / 0-)

        Read my comment of the Portland, Oregon airport light rail. If you click on the link identified as a pdf, you can see it was not the City or the regional transit agency who suffered the losses.  It was the private party Bechtel:

        Station area development

        Bechtel’s effort to develop the 120-parcel near the
        airport and served by two Red Line stations did not
        occur as planned. The cooling economy brought on by
        the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack, which occurred
        one day after the line opened, delayed the financing of
        an intensely developed jobs and hospitality center as
        originally proposed. Bechtel ultimately sold its interest in
        the property to national developer Trammell Crow, which
        repositioned the development as a retail center called
        Cascade Station. Ikea, several other retailers and hotels
        have since opened on the site.

        PPPs, in my opinion, are not automatically a bad deal for government, but they can be if not appropriately structured. I see the knee-jerk opposition to them as misguided.
  •  This sequester (0+ / 0-)

    halted the construction of an overpass on the highway I commute on after it was halfway to completion.  There were anywhere from 50-100 people working on this project & on Mar. 1 it came to a screeching halt.  Where are these people working now, or are they?  I sure was looking forward to having an overpass there.

  •  Yeah. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Buddha Badger

    And I love how I can pay .25 cents a mile now if I want to drive in the fast lane on a freeway. Note the "free"way that my tax monies built (both state and federal). So those partners will be putting up scanning cameras for crossing bridges?

    Why am I not loving this idea.

    utahgirl

  •  One has to wonder . . . (0+ / 0-)

    At the time in 2008, I was not a big Hillary Clinton supporter.

    But, now after 5 years of total, knee jerk opposition to anything and everything Obama proposes or does - EVEN when it is agreeing with rebublican positions - one has to wonder if Hillary would have had a different result.

    True, she had and has plenty of animus from the "great right wing conspiracy".  

    However, could the right wing have maintained total opposition and obstruction solely on the basis of Hillary being a woman?  Would that have lasted when they had to go home at night to their wives, daughters and mothers?

    They would obstruct, sure, but there is no way it could be so relentless and complete as it is with Obama.

    One has to wonder . . .

  •  Media, media, media (0+ / 0-)

    The reason why nothing ever challenges the Beltway obstruction that prevents change from proceeding when clear majorities are polling in favor of it is that the media are part of the obstruction. Think about it. No, really think about it. The NYT, the WP? CNN, NBC, CBS? With friends like those, who needs Fox News and WSJ? What the people of the country who believe they know what the "other side" are up to haven't taken to heart is that this is a fight. A real fight. And we're losing. We're losing because we're not fighting. Not really. At least the other side has a plan and they're sticking to it. It's killing the planet and their descendants' welfare but they're committed to their plan. In order to counter that kind of fanaticism you have to fight fire with fire.  A critical mass of people today are way too comfortable and afraid to rock the boat. The planet's cooking but we want to take the SUV up to the mountains this weekend so we'll get serious later. Later never happens. Believe it. As long as the corporate media are the only game in town and nobody else can cut through the noise on the Peoples' Airwaves, the game is lost. It's now or never. Occupy The Media. To paraphrase Leonard Cohen:

    First we take the Old Gray Lady
    Then we take CNN

  •  Boehner actually said "Santa Claus?" (0+ / 0-)

    That's a dead giveaway as to what they are trying to do - run that long con to take the money pooled together by the working people to help each other in the form of SS and Medicare benefits, and give it to the wealthy, including themselves.

    Read all about it here:
    http://www.commondreams.org/...

    Women create the entire labor force. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sympathy is the strongest instinct in human nature. - Charles Darwin

    by splashy on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 03:51:45 AM PDT

  •  Public-private partnership = fraud (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    aliasalias

    Privatization of public commons is simply dressed up as a partnership. Why must we endure the same old neoliberal bs?

  •  Good Idea, Bad Plan (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    aliasalias

    Infrastructure repair and development is a good idea that could generate jobs, etc. Funding it through PPP (Public Private Partnerships) is not. PPP is a mechanism for primitive accumulation and a fairly standard tool of the neo-liberal project that seeks to privatize just about everything. That privatization can and has led to less efficient and certainly more expensive (for users) outcomes. More evidence, I suppose, that this administration is firmly grounded in a neo-liberal, not progressive, ideology.

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