Trump’s “Infrastructure Week” tour more of the same

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Nicholas Hunter

During his campaign, President Donald Trump promised to designate $1 trillion in spending on infrastructure in the United States once elected to office.

In his fifth month in office, Trump began putting those gears in motion — sort of.

He kicked off his “Infrastructure Week” tour by announcing plans to privatize the air traffic control industry; A move that would take control of air traffic from the Federal Aviation Administration and put the safety of air travel in the hands of a yet-unnamed private organization.

Under this plan, air traffic services would be funded by passenger fees and overseen by representatives from major airlines, worker unions and airports.

The concerns with this plan are notable; If airlines get an official say in flight safety, it leaves the door open for them to cut safety corners to save money. 

There’s also the risk that, since a private air traffic control system would be funded through passenger fees, prices will skyrocket as new fees are implemented.

Trump continued his tour by speaking on the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines.

The Dakota Access pipeline is up and running after over a year of protests at Standing Rock, where the Sioux people and people from across the nation fought against the pipeline that cuts through sacred ground, and runs underneath the only clean water source for Lakota and Dakota people in their area.

Trump claimed that the Keystone XL pipeline, which has also seen massive public protests against it, would produce 48,000 American jobs, despite the U.S. State Department and TransCanada, the company constructing the pipeline, finding it would create only 42,000 jobs — with only 50 of those being permanent.

Trump’s argument for the pipelines are obviously flimsy. Not only do they not create long-term jobs for Americans, but they are reliant on an increasingly unpopular form of energy and are unbelievably destructive if they malfunction.

On Wednesday in Cincinnati, Trump trudged forward with Infrastructure Week by delivering a speech reminiscent of his infamous campaign speeches, where he was supposed to lay out his infrastructure plan.

What happened instead was a derailment that resulted in much of his speech decrying the Affordable Healthcare Act and blaming Democrats for being “obstructionists.”

Despite the intention of the speech being to lay out an infrastructure plan, he spent a great deal of it touting the Republican’s ACA replacement, the American Health Care Act and mentioning that he planned on meeting with ACA “victims.”

On Thursday, while the world’s eyes were turned to the testimony of former FBI Director James Comey, Trump laid out his budget plan for infrastructure: a $200 billion dollar federal investment, with $800 billion expected to be provided by state, local and private investments.

Trump also said he plans to cut costs on infrastructure building by streamlining permit processes.

This brings me to the binders.

In the middle of a speech on Friday, Trump walked to the side of the stage, picked up several large binders and threw them on the floor. It was quite a spectacle.

Trump claimed the binders came from an unspecified man in Cincinnati, who told him that hundreds of millions were spent on those binders, which contained environmental reviews for a highway project.

“These binders could be replaced by just a few simple pages,” Trump said. “It would be just as good — it would be much better.”

Trump sees the requirement of these reports as a burden on the infrastructure system and looks to relieve that burden by creating the Council of Environmental Quality, which would be responsible for monitoring the environmental impact of infrastructure projects.

No details were given on how or when the CEQ would be created.

In the end, Trump’s Infrastructure Week tour was — unsurprisingly — all pomp and circumstance, with no substance.

Continuing his main themes of privatization, tax cuts and simplifying government functions through deregulation, Trump spent a week pushing forward an agenda that favors businesses, at the expense of the federal government and U.S. citizens.

While his plans and promises seem flimsy, at best, he is not helping his own case for infrastructure reform: In his budget, Trump made net cuts of $55 billion to infrastructure programs, with most cuts aimed toward “grants for highway renovation, Native American water facilities and rural airports,” according to CNN Money.

In the end, Trump managed to demonstrate the most dangerous parts of his personal ideology, and how they will impact something as vitally important as infrastructure.

Announcing projects with no real plan created, privatizing industries that are, likely, better off under federal control, an inability to keep focus on one issue at a time and a dangerous belief that deregulation will save money and improve the state of our Union.

Some of this can be chalked up to partisan differences — I will always disagree with most Republicans about what the government should be in charge of — but with Trump, this runs deeper. 

He exhibits a mix of greed and apathy that endangers every facet of this country, right down to the street you live on.

Nicholas Hunter is the opinion editor. Contact him at [email protected].