Wednesday, I posted about the “partnership” approach Trump proposes to take to infrastructure repair.
Paul Krugman had a recent description of that plan, which he concludes is not about public investment, but about ripping off taxpayers.
Trumpists are touting the idea of a big infrastructure build, and some Democrats are making conciliatory noises about working with the new regime on that front. But remember who you’re dealing with: if you invest anything with this guy, be it money or reputation, you are at great risk of being scammed.
So, what do we know about the Trump infrastructure plan, such as it is? Crucially, it’s not a plan to borrow $1 trillion and spend it on much-needed projects — which would be the straightforward, obvious thing to do. It is, instead, supposed to involve having private investors do the work both of raising money and building the projects — with the aid of a huge tax credit that gives them back 82 percent of the equity they put in. To compensate for the small sliver of additional equity and the interest on their borrowing, the private investors then have to somehow make profits on the assets they end up owning.
The description of this rip-off reminded me rather forcefully of the “looters” described by Ayn Rand in Atlas Shrugged.
I have frequently been bemused by the actions of politicians and others who claim to have been influenced by Rand’s philosophy (and who all seem to see themselves as one of her protagonists. Remember those “I am John Galt” bumper stickers?) I particularly recall an Indiana agency head during the Daniels administration who made all his employees read the “two most important books”–Atlas Shrugged and–wait for it– the bible.
Rand, of course, was a very outspoken atheist who insisted that her philosophy was an explicit rejection–and antithesis– of Christianity.
Then we have Paul Ryan, another Rand fan, who is intent upon keeping Americans from becoming dependent on such “giveaways” as health care (and who was able to go to college after his father’s death thanks to Social Security). I wonder if he will see the parallels between an infrastructure scheme that will enrich crony capitalists and Rand’s withering description of the morally indefensible “looters” who used government to enrich themselves at the expense of the truly productive (Rand’s version of the “makers and takers” worldview).
Ayn Rand had an excuse for her extreme worldview; she was a product of Soviet collectivism, and saw first-hand the danger that such a system posed to human diversity and individual excellence. What she failed to see was the equivalent danger posed by a society that defines success solely as the attainment of wealth, however acquired, and encourages contempt rather than compassion for the weak and powerless.
The latter society is the one that produced Donald Trump, who is already promising to be looter-in-chief.