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Government The Almighty Buck United States

Trump's New Infrastructure Plan Calls For Selling Off Two Airports (politico.com) 406

The Trump administration has released an infrastructure plan on Monday that proposes that the federal government considers selling off Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport. According to Trump's blueprint, the administration wants to allow federal agencies to divest assets if they "can demonstrate an increase in value from the sale would optimize the taxpayer value for federal assets." It also includes the George Washington and Baltimore Washington parkways, the Washington Aqueduct and the transmission assets of the Tennessee Valley Authority and Bonneville Power Administration on the list for "potential divesture." Politico reports: State and local agencies or the private sector may be better at managing assets currently owned by the federal government, the administration argues, and federal agencies should be able to "identify appropriate conditions under which sales would be made." They should also "delineate how proceeds would be spent." Under the administration's proposal, federal agencies would have to complete an analysis demonstrating an "increase in value from divestiture." Though technically owned by the federal government, both airports are operated by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority under a long-term lease agreement. The 53-page infrastructure plan lays out a vision to turn $200 billion in federal money into $1.5 trillion for fixing America's infrastructure by leveraging local and state dollars and private investment. "The White House says its plan will create $1.5 trillion for repairing and upgrading America's infrastructure," reports CNNMoney. "Only $200 billion of that, however, would come from direct federal spending. The rest is supposed to come from state and local governments, which are expected to match any federal allocation by at least a four-to-one ratio. States have gradually assumed more of the responsibility for funding infrastructure in recent years, and the White House says it wants to accelerate that trend."

As for how the money would be split up, the plan says that half of the new federal money, $100 billion, "would be parceled out as incentives to local government entities," reports CNNMoney. "An additional $20 billion would go toward 'projects of national significance' that can 'lift the American spirit,'" while another $50 billion will be designated "for rural block grants, most of which will be given to states according to a formula based on the miles of rural roads and the rural population they have," reports CNNMoney. "The rest of the money would support other infrastructure-related undertakings..."
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Trump's New Infrastructure Plan Calls For Selling Off Two Airports

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 12, 2018 @07:27PM (#56111747)

    I can't wait for the "de-platforming" trolls to find out that "they own it, so you have to do what they say" becomes incredibly problematic in real world contexts.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      AC the problematic part is having the gov find the budget every year to keep everything working and presenting the USA as a modern nation.
      The next part is the total upgrade of the parts people look at and use. That 1960's styling that needs a lot of work and budget just to keep as is.
      Other nations sell off their airports and let the private sector take that huge risk.
      No more having to cover the costs of upkeep every year and new design work every few years, over the decades.
      That tax money once used to
      • by postbigbang ( 761081 ) on Monday February 12, 2018 @09:30PM (#56112621)

        It's not a huge risk, it's a money-making public asset. Airports are gold mines. Besides gate fees, there are lots of bucks to be made renting space, parking spaces, food/taxes, fuel/taxes, and far more.

        Other nations might sell off their assets, and they're idiots.

        Instead, sell off and stop the tax monies to private airports, thousands of them that serve general aviation, and make them stand on their own feet without tax dollar support. Make private aviation have to pay its own dues, rather than shifting the cost to the cattle car carriers we call airlines.

        • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
          Re "It's not a huge risk, it's a money-making public asset."
          Making "money" would see every larger airport in the USA been brand new and be great looking.
          The "lots of bucks to be made" will not cover a new design and total new look and keep an airport working.
          Thats a risk the private sector can take on. The costs every year and the "lots of bucks to be made" do not add up to been able to build what is needed.
          A lot of great looking new airports are needed.
          So that flying into the USA and around the US
          • And governments and airport authorities do a fine job. Give it to the private sector and watch the costs become base*profit margin. The private sector shouldn't be necessary at all; they already are the contractors for lots of services. These are PUBLIC assets, not to be sold to the gleaners.

            You're moving the argument into areas that have nothing to do with airports and public finance. Lots of great airports have come online in the past decade, along with stellar remodel jobs. It's folly to attempt to fines

        • by LynnwoodRooster ( 966895 ) on Monday February 12, 2018 @10:19PM (#56112845) Journal
          Maybe elsewhere they make big money, but in the US, it's not quite true. Here's the budget for Los Angeles World Airports [lawa.org]. Now, at first blush it looks like they'll make about $100MM in profit in 2017; however, tearing into it, you see they do that by issuing $680MM in new bonds, and paying our $560MM in old bond servicing. So basically their profit comes from issuing new debt. Not quite as much of a gold mine as many would think, especially for the 2nd busiest airport in the US.
          • Not really. Your citation doesn't take into account how they operate at all. Take a look at sunken capital costs vs depreciation vs their revenue model. It's true that financing helps them along, but not to the extent that you imply, at all.

            And find me a private business that doesn't have investors, bank notes, lots of debt glue, and sunken costs. Comparing the two is pretty juvenile. I'm not a big fan of bonds, but they're tempered against ratings and underwriter considerations and are a viable method of f

        • by mjwx ( 966435 )

          It's not a huge risk, it's a money-making public asset. Airports are gold mines. Besides gate fees, there are lots of bucks to be made renting space, parking spaces, food/taxes, fuel/taxes, and far more.

          Other nations might sell off their assets, and they're idiots.

          This is the standard plan of modern conservative economists... find your best performing assets and sell them off for a pittance, screw the future. It's going to be the other guys who'll have to get us out of it.

          John Howard in Australia did the same thing, selling off public assets and utilities including several major airports because that was the only way he could balance a budget.

          Instead, sell off and stop the tax monies to private airports, thousands of them that serve general aviation, and make them stand on their own feet without tax dollar support. Make private aviation have to pay its own dues, rather than shifting the cost to the cattle car carriers we call airlines.

          Whoa cowboy, that sounds like communism there. You don't want Communism in 'Merika do you?

          Without public funds and tax m

      • by tbannist ( 230135 ) on Monday February 12, 2018 @10:52PM (#56112973)

        AC the problematic part is having the gov find the budget every year to keep everything working and presenting the USA as a modern nation. The next part is the total upgrade of the parts people look at and use. That 1960's styling that needs a lot of work and budget just to keep as is. Other nations sell off their airports and let the private sector take that huge risk. No more having to cover the costs of upkeep every year and new design work every few years, over the decades. That tax money once used to keep an airport looking nice can then go to bridges, roads around the USA and other vital work that really needs doing.

        Ok so you sell off the airports this year because you have pay to upgrade them, and use that money on bridges instead. What do you do next year? Sell the bridges and roads?

      • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Tuesday February 13, 2018 @04:41AM (#56113981) Journal

        Other nations sell off their airports and let the private sector take that huge risk.

        No they don't, because they need the airports. All that happens is that debts and long term contracts to private companies are hidden from the national debt figures and the government has to underwrite everything anyway because the airport is too important to go out of business.

        It's just a way of privatising the profits while socalising the risks.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 12, 2018 @07:29PM (#56111769)

    The official home of Pepsi ... and the leader of the free world

  • by TomR teh Pirate ( 1554037 ) on Monday February 12, 2018 @07:30PM (#56111771)
    https://www.newyorker.com/maga... [newyorker.com]

    This is how you turn the first world into the third world
  • User Fees (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 12, 2018 @07:32PM (#56111789)

    The private sector KNOWS how to run things. We just need a few user fees.

    -Parking garage entrance fee
    -Parking garage exit fee
    -Airport entrance fee
    -Airport exit fee
    -Airport Security Fee
    -Fee payment Fee
    -Fee payment fee recovery fee
    -Fee payment fee recovery fee surcharge
    -Fee payment fee recovery fee surcharge levy
    -Fee payment fee recovery fee surcharge levy premium

    They should charge for WiFi bandwidth by the byte, say the same as a text message fee, but with a premium.

    -Stuff at the airport is too cheap, as proof, even the poors can afford to fly. Poors should have to take the bus everywhere, or at least need a loan to fly.

    -Passport fees should also increase.

    • You left out the âzasking a question feeâoe
    • You already pay most of these fees except for the facetious ones at the end plus others that you have not included like "airport improvement" despite the fact that airports almost never seem to improve no matter how much you pay.

      Most of these fees are hidden by being included in your ticket price either directly as a fee you pay or as fees which the airline pays and so passes on indirectly (like landing fees) to you. Have a look at the list of fees on your next air ticket. Typical charges on mine are thi
  • Interesting notion (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Pop69 ( 700500 ) <billy AT benarty DOT co DOT uk> on Monday February 12, 2018 @07:33PM (#56111803) Homepage
    I presume he already has a couple of friends lined up to buy them ?
  • In other words... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Monday February 12, 2018 @07:35PM (#56111813) Homepage

    In other words, government agencies are now expected to put a dollar value on their historic icons, landmark infrastructure, and carefully-controlled limited-development areas, and sell them to the highest bidders, then turn around and give that money to the federal government to cover tax cuts for the companies who just bought our society.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 12, 2018 @07:40PM (#56111857)

      Conservatism has been redefined as taking what is owned by the public and giving it to multinational corporations for kickbacks and contributions. That's literally all they care to do now. They love uneducated voters. Nuff said.

    • by Ichijo ( 607641 )
      Why would Tennessee and portions of Alabama, Mississippi, and Kentucky, and small slices of Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia [wikipedia.org] be less qualified than the federal government to own "the transmission assets of the Tennessee Valley Authority"?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Or, more briefly and bluntly: FUCK citizens, they don't matter, only corporations and The Rich matter.
      We can't get this jackass and his cronies out of office fast enough. Now he's going to try to literally destroy the country.
  • While the document doesn't specifically mention projects that "lift the American spirit," we all know that there's a certain parade that a certain country also did that a certain someone thinks will lift everyone's spirits in just the right way. You know that's what he wants, and this is the perfect way to pay for it. I mean, you've got to fix the road first before you can have a parade, right?
    • Ahh yes, Trump was inspired by a Bastille day parade [cnbc.com] he saw in France. I say, the man has earned it, let's give President Trump the celebration he derserves in the true spirit of Bastille day. Let's really make it authentic, get the townsfolk riled up, and storm our way to MAGA. He really is a stable genius.
  • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Monday February 12, 2018 @07:42PM (#56111869)

    ... for the Comcast Ronald Regan Washington National Airport.

  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Monday February 12, 2018 @07:46PM (#56111897)
    his "Infrastructure Plan" is to give away vast amounts of infrastructure so the folks that helped elect him can profit from it (after the public paid to build it). Privatize the profits, socialize the losses. The frustrating thing is that it's going to take decades to undo the damage this crap causes. Hopefully enough opposition gets into Congress to stop him from selling off the interstate roads. I'm not looking forward to $20 in tolls just to get to work every morning, but I can guarantee you somebody is.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Except these buildings and projects are 30 plus years old on a 40-50y planned life, which the government has not been even doing the minimum maintenance on in many cases while continuously losing money.

      There are no losses being socialized, rather Trump is using the private sector profit motivation: you know, the thing that lets you get good products like your smartphone and good customer service, at least where there is competition and where you have the right to sue if you have an unresolved issue (no, you

      • by Patent Lover ( 779809 ) on Monday February 12, 2018 @08:40PM (#56112323)

        National Airport opened in 1941 and is currently expanding. It doesn't need a private business to "sink billions" into it.

      • going forward the customers who use the facilities will pay for their maintenance and upkeep. Just like any other pay to use piece of property

        Don't forget the profit. Since much of this infrastructure will have monopoly level protection, they can charge what the market will bear without real competition. It's a massive giveaway. A real market needs competition not collusion.

      • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

        "at least where there is competition"

        Airports and highways are known for their high level of competition.

        • There are 3 major Washington DC airports, so it seems like they could have reasonable competition...

          Please cite which roads Trump is proposing to sell off, because I am not seeing it.

          • by dryeo ( 100693 ) on Tuesday February 13, 2018 @12:24AM (#56113279)

            If the airports are operating at capacity, there won't be much competition, same if they're too spread out.
            Roads and bridges would probably be private/public partnerships. Private business gets its loans guaranteed by the government as well as guaranteed income. Looks good on paper, the government doesn't actually borrow money or raise taxes and the business gets a guaranteed profit.
            In reality, it turns out that people avoid tolls if they can and the government still has to subsidize the bridge to make up for the shortfall and the next election, the other party runs on a platform of eliminating the tolls, wins and has to pay off the bridge and the private company. Taxpayers lose.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Private business is going to sink billions much more efficiently to renovate, modernize and run

        Just like they did in Flint, MI when the water supply was privatized [pittnews.com]?

        Private business will do everything they can to take as much profit as they can while performing the bare minimum maintenance that they think will allow them to avoid lawsuits. They don't give a shit if the infrastructure completely crumbles because they're walking away with huge profits that they can use to buy something else to strip all the value out of.

      • by BBF_BBF ( 812493 ) on Monday February 12, 2018 @08:54PM (#56112429)
        Well, let's see, after deregulation of the Electricity market caused the power shortages in California since the private power companies realized that the capital costs involved with building new generation capacity was really expensive and that electricity is a necessity, so they just stopped building new plants and just raised electricity prices. Plus Enron.

        So with regards to the selling of federal assets: It may be that the private market will game the system better with the extra control they have over the most valuable assets... they'll let buildings run down even more and charge even higher fees because it's really expensive and time consuming to build another airport near Washington DC... and if you start, they'll wait until you're underway and then cut their pricing to bankrupt your project and then raise prices even higher afterwards.

        Yeah, sell the assets once to get a lump sum now, pay from now to eternity "leasing" it back. We'll see how the state's and city's budgets will look like in 10 years for the ones that sold their legislative offices to private enterprise so they can lease them back...

      • companies will run infrastructure way, way beyond it's intended life and to devil with the consequences.
      • lets you get good products like your smartphone and good customer service, at least where there is competition and where you have the right to sue if you have an unresolved issue

        When I think of good products and good customer service, I naturally think of airlines!

    • by vix86 ( 592763 )

      going to take decades to undo the damage this crap causes.

      I'd argue it'll never get undone. All of these privatization changes aren't going to get rolled back because they'll be way too expensive to do so. It's easy to sell off public things, hard to maintain, and impossible to buy back. Let's say DC sells off the airports or some of the Interstates to private companies. Companies will bump prices or add tolls in order to cover the costs of fixing up these deteriorating items. Now lets say that 20 years from now the public is frustrated with how the private indust

      • You tax the hell out of it and regulate it until they either sell it back or settle in for long term low profits. The question is what's gonna happen when the boomers die off and leave the millennials with nothing. Will the millennials have the political will to do stuff like that.
    • by k6mfw ( 1182893 )
      Exactly. Driving an interstate freeway in California should be the same as driving one in Iowa. Same as mailing a letter in one state is the same as another, and covers ***all*** areas of country. Companies will simply abandon those places that don't generate enough toll to keep them open except pay $20 for a road you already paid for in taxes.
  • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Monday February 12, 2018 @07:46PM (#56111907) Homepage

    Instead, of selling critical infrastructure to businesses, make sure the bidding process to build & maintain those things is based on solid business foundations. There's too much crony-ism in the bidding process, too much bias toward existing contractors regardless of performance.

    • Instead, of selling critical infrastructure to businesses, make sure the bidding process to build & maintain those things is based on solid business foundations. There's too much crony-ism in the bidding process, too much bias toward existing contractors regardless of performance.

      This is the epitome of cronyism. Are you kidding me? Why give out lucrative contracts to maintain the infrastructure when you can give away billions in assets for pennies on the dollar and t he new asset holder can then turn that critical infrastructure into a goose that lays a golden egg.

    • There's too much crony-ism in the bidding process, too much bias toward existing contractors regardless of performance.

      That's why they usually avoid this by single bid contracts to brand new companies.

  • Trumps red hole (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bigtreeman ( 565428 )

    There's a red hole in the budget caused by reducing corporate taxes, allowing companies to screw the government.
    And it's really sore.

    • No one seems to care about the deficit anymore. And that is true both on the left and on the right.
      • by k6mfw ( 1182893 )
        Shields and Brooks on PBS Newshour said only the minority party complains about deficits. When they are majority party, deficits don't matter.
  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Monday February 12, 2018 @07:53PM (#56111961) Journal

    Trump could do anything. Especially run up bills on the joint's credit. And why not? Nobody's gonna pay for it anyway. And as soon as the deliveries are made in the front door, you move the stuff out the back and sell it at a discount. You take a two hundred dollar case of booze and you sell it for a hundred. It doesn't matter. It's all profit. And then finally, when there's nothing left, when you can't borrow another buck from the bank or buy another case of booze, you bust the joint out. You light a match.

    Fuck you, pay me.

  • In other words ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 12, 2018 @07:56PM (#56111989)

    The 53-page infrastructure plan lays out a vision to turn $200 billion in federal money into $1.5 trillion for fixing America's infrastructure by leveraging local and state dollars and private investment

    In other words, Trump isn't doing a goddamned thing, is doing his standard trick of making other people spend their money and take the risk while he puts his name on it, and is going to transfer public assets into private assets. This is pretty much how he built all of his other failed ventures.

    This is such a bullshit 'plan' it defies belief ... because Trump is a crook and thief who apparently can't do math.

    But in the mean time he'll be sure people are dying in the streets because they have no healthcare, but his rich asshole friends all get tax breaks.

    I swear, the economics trotted out by Republicans is a complete fantasy most of the time.

  • Mythology (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Jodka ( 520060 )

    According to David Harsanyi at Reason, our "crumbling infrastructure" is a myth [reason.com].

    One of the great myths of American politics, no matter who is president and no matter who runs Congress, is that our infrastructure is "crumbling." Former President Barack Obama repeatedly warned us about our "crumbling infrastructure." President Donald Trump now tells us that our infrastructure is "crumbling." The next president is going to hatch a giant plan to fix our crumbling infrastructure as well, because most voters wan

    • by guruevi ( 827432 )

      And then bridges collapse because they concrete rotted away and nobody fixed it.

      Economy 101: You invest in your own economy, you increase the value of your country, you increase work force that spends money in the economy, this allows you to practically print money. It's how the space race (NASA) created $14 for every dollar it spent (ask Neil DeGrasse Tyson) or how having the Interstate project returns a double digit percentage every year on the investment.

      Imagine our modern economy (delivery of groceries

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by RazorSharp ( 1418697 )

      Well, I'm sure someone will point to a bridge or two that is in need of repair, or provide some anecdotal evidence regarding the potholes they must suffer through on their morning commute. It's part of the idiocracy that's formed: outliers become evidence for broad trends. Just look at all the FUD surrounding terrorism. Even though terrorist attacks are very rare, it's the one thing people are afraid of and want protection from. If people wanted protection from real life dangers they would demand more train

      • Re:Mythology (Score:5, Informative)

        by Nite_Hawk ( 1304 ) on Monday February 12, 2018 @09:37PM (#56112655) Homepage

        Yep, I'm going to point out a bridge. I drove over the I35 bridge in Minneapolis nearly every day coming home from work prior to it's collapse. It was dumb luck I didn't leave work 10 minutes later that day or I would likely have been on it when it went down.

        But hey, if you don't want to take my anecdotal example, you can just go check transportation.gov and get a state by state breakdown of structurally deficient bridges yourself:

        https://www.transportation.gov... [transportation.gov]

        Now maybe you don't take much stock in their numbers, but personally after watching the bridge I made my daily commute over for years catastrophically collapse, I think it's worth at least considering that there may be some truth to these claims.

        • That bridge is literally the example in the article Jodka cited.

          So "crumbling infrastructure" peddlers play on this concern by habitually agonizing over things like the impending outbreak of tragic bridge collapses that will kill thousands. They bring up tragedies like the 2007 disaster with the Interstate 35 bridge over the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis even though, according to federal investigators, the collapse was due to a design flaw rather than decaying infrastructure. Many outlets and politicians simply ignore the inconvenient fact that the rare fatality involving infrastructure typically has nothing to do with "crumbling" and everything to do with natural elements or human error.

      • Two train crashes that would have been prevented had the Congress not been preventing the new safety system from turning on for many years, and in between the first and second crash delayed yet again

  • by Blinkin1200 ( 917437 ) on Monday February 12, 2018 @08:35PM (#56112287)

    It is the only way you are ever going to see Trump International Airport.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Sydney's airport was sold to Maquarie bank and now has the dubious distinction of having the most expensive parking of any airport in the world!

    They also financially engineered the transaction so they haven't spent on taxes in the history of the project.

    Don't do it.

    • yep, if you are flying somewhere for a few days it is quite possible you will pay more for parking than the plane ticket. drive up rates are now $60+ a day. Even small cities like Canberra have parking rates at the airport that are more expensive than parking in the city and that is BEFORE you take into account all the extra fees you get hit with on your ticket.
  • . is already a thing.

    When asked, "How many soldiers do we have?" the military does not include contractors who have taken the jobs formerly filled by military personnel.

    Think Blackwater, Snowden, Winner and recent "civilians" killed in Afghanistan.

  • by Cimexus ( 1355033 ) on Monday February 12, 2018 @09:17PM (#56112563)

    As an Australian that moved to the US a few years ago and does a lot of flying for work, I'm on the fence when it comes to airport privatisation proposals. One of the interesting differences between the US and Australia is that, despite the fact that the US is generally more in favour of private sector delivery of services (think healthcare etc.), it has overwhelmingly kept its airports publically owned. Most major airports in the US are publically owned, whereas I think every major Australian airport was privatised many years ago.

    On the one hand Australian airports are wayyyy nicer than US airports. More modern and up to date, cleaner, more spacious, better and more facilities etc. Nicer places to be in by a long shot. US airports, especially some of the major ones (Newark and O'Hare spring to mind) are very overcrowded at peak times, straining at the seams and generally just more unpleasant places to be in (e.g. what's with those disgusting old seats and claustrophobically low ceilings in Concourses E/F at ORD?)

    But why are they so much nicer? Because they charge a lot more and thus have a lot more money to pump into improvements. US airport parking fees, even in a major city, are a small fraction of what they are in Australia for instance. I could park at Chicago for a week for what it could cost for a few hours at SYD or MEL. Australian airports no doubt also charge the airlines more than their US counterparts too (landing fees etc.), which indirectly affects ticket prices etc.

    So in terms of user experience, private airports seem nicer, but in terms of equity of accessibility to travel itself, publicly owned is the way to go. Prices go through the roof when airports are privatised, if Australia is anything to go by. Travel should not be only for the wealthy.

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