Robert Reich: Trump’s Public Works Scam Boosts the Rich

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A toll collector in her booth at the Golden Gate Bridge on March 25, 2013, in San Francisco. Robert Reich writes that rather than tax the wealthy, then use the money to fix our outdated roads, bridges, airports and water systems, Donald Trump wants to give rich developers and Wall Street investors tax credits to encourage them to do it. So we pay twice: once when we subsidize the developers and investors with our tax dollars and again when we pay the tolls and user fees that also go into their pockets. Justin Sullivan/Getty

This article first appeared on RobertReich.org.

Our country is in dire need of massive investments in infrastructure, but what Donald Trump is proposing is nothing more than a huge tax giveaway for the rich.

1. It’s a giant public subsidy to developers and investors

Rather than taxing the wealthy and then using the money to fix our dangerously outdated roads, bridges, airports and water systems, Trump wants to give rich developers and Wall Street investors tax credits to encourage them to do it. That means that for every dollar they put into a project, they’d actually pay only 18 cents, and we would contribute the other 82 cents through our tax dollars.

2. We’d be turning over public roads and bridges to private corporations that will charge us expensive tolls and earn big profits

These tolls will be set high in order to satisfy the profit margins demanded by elite Wall Street investors. So, essentially, we pay twice—once when we subsidize the developers and investors with our tax dollars and then again when we pay the tolls and user fees that also go into their pockets.

3. We get the wrong kind of infrastructure

Projects that will be most attractive to Wall Street investors are those whose tolls and fees bring in the biggest bucks: giant mega-projects like major new throughways and new bridges.

Not the thousands of smaller bridges, airports, pipes and water treatment facilities most in need of repair. Not the needs of rural communities and smaller cities and towns too small to generate the tolls and other user fees equity investors want. Not clean energy.

To really make America great again, we need more and better infrastructure that’s for the public—not for big developers and investors. And the only way we get that is if corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes.

Related: We must learn to ignore Trump’s ‘alternative facts’

Robert Reich is the chancellor’s professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, and Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective Cabinet secretaries of the 20th century. He has written 14 books, including the best-sellers Aftershock, The Work of Nations, Beyond Outrage and, most recently, Saving Capitalism. He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and co-creator of the award-winning documentary Inequality for All.