In the infrastructure plan, which envisions leveraging $200 billion in federal funds into $1.5 trillion in investment, “the Trump administration is pushing federal officials to sell off, privatize, or otherwise dispose of a broad array of government assets,” The Washington Post reports, including Dulles and Reagan National airports, freeways, aqueducts, and electrical facilities in the South, West, and Pacific Northwest. The budget also sets aside $150 million to explore privatizing the International Space Station.
“The federal government owns and operates certain infrastructure that would be more appropriately owned by state, local, or private entities,” the Trump infrastructure plan says. Federal agencies would gain new “authority to divest of federal assets” and keep the proceeds of such sales, incentivizing the privatization of public property.
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao called this “a much more collaborative and creative way” of funding projects when “unfortunately, there’s not enough money to be able to pay for all the infrastructure needs of our country.” (Chao’s husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, just pushed through a $1.5 trillion tax cut.) “We should also not discriminate” against private firms wanting to partner with public entities, Chao said. Norman Ornstein at the American Enterprise Institute had a different view of the proposal:
Trump “infrastructure” plan is a thinly disguised effort to sell valuable public properties and roadways– including Dulles and National airports and the GW Parkway– to their billionaire cronies and stiff the public. Kleptocracy redux
— Norman Ornstein (@NormOrnstein) February 12, 2018
The budget’s proposal to “encourage commercial development” of the ISS, with the goal of at least partially privatizing the orbiting research and exploration facility after 2024, was not fleshed out. And it’s prospects are murky. Private aerospace firms seemed cool on the idea, and Congress did not seem enthusiastic. Last week, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called the rumored proposal fiscally irresponsible and blamed it on “numskulls” at the Office of Management and Budget.