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January 26, 2017

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I'm waiting for there to be some collision between Trump and House/Senate republicans and this may be where it happens. E.g., Here is a quote from an article in the tax press:

Senate Finance Committee member John Thune, R-S.D., told reporters that Trump's call for an infrastructure plan may not mesh with Republicans' 200-day agenda. Thune, chair of the Senate Republican Conference, said that there are other priorities ahead of an infrastructure plan, but did suggest that such a plan could "hitch a ride perhaps on some tax reform bill."

Clearly they are not enthusiastic. If the GOP Congress ignores this will there be a fight? OTOH does Trump evan care at all about infrastructure? Who knows, but I guess we might see.

And the three in California are even environment-friendly projects! Amazing -- if the Congress agrees to fund them, of course....

Does anyone know what is meant by the "Engineering" status for these items?

Some of them say the engineering is "Done". Does that mean the project is complete, and they just need help paying the bills?

I notice the I-93 effort in NH shows the engineering as "In Progress" - they've been working on that for a while now, at least a year or two.

I would guess that "Engineering" means the necessary studies, design documents, and specs. That is, all the planning that is required before construction can begin. (And before permits can be granted.)

Some of them say the engineering is "Done". Does that mean the project is complete, and they just need help paying the bills?

One that I know something about is the TransWest Express HVDC transmission line intended to take Wyoming wind power (also on the list) to the Southern California/Las Vegas/Phoenix triangle. On that one, they are ready to start construction the day after the final permits issue.

Federal assistance on that project is undoubtedly going to be in the permitting process -- FERC and BLM (no, the other BLM) signing off, and perhaps muscling any state/local holdouts. The private financing is lined up. California ought to be cheering this one, as the big wind farms that will feed the transmission line are the most likely source for enough electricity to cover things when the Diablo Canyon nukes are retired.

I'd say wj is correct. If the I-93 job is in construction, it's likely because it's a multi-phase job, so not all of the engineering is done, even if it's done for whatever portion has already gone into construction.

I guess the drawers are full of shovel-ready projects already anyway.
Ironically, I just this week read a chapter in a Latin novel from the early 17th century* where the best type of government is discussed. One argument against elective government in there is that none would invest in large infrastructure projects because the next administration would either take all the credit or cancel/sabotage them in order to make the predecessors look bad. (the book argues that hereditary monarchy is in the end the least bad option among all the dismal choices even considering the occasional toddler or imbecile on the throne).
Our university course could not avoid pointing out certain parallels to the present day.

*John Barclay: Argenis, book I, chapter 18

I notice Boston's Green Line Extension is on the list (item 28). To some extent that makes straightforward sense: It's a project that has encountered budgeting and design issues, but it will be a high-impact project, the federal funding is already allocated, and the design and actual construction are already underway. On the other hand, it's a bit at odds with other recent Trump pronouncements, since it's extending a transit line that serves a sanctuary city (Boston) from a sanctuary city (Cambridgeside) through a sanctuary city (Somerville) to another city (Medford) that isn't formally a "sanctuary city" but in terms of policy might as well be.

Some of the projects seem legit, but some have a smell to them, IMHO. For instance, #29, "Augustin Plains Ranch", an LLC (!!) that wants to basically mine water, have the government pay for the infrastructure, and keep the profits.

But when I went looking for a local (Albuquerque) take on it, I found an article saying that the White House "disavows" this project list.

It seems this list is another sally in the intra-White House fighting, which is at an extraordinary (possibly unprecedented?) level for this early in the Administration.

It seems this list is another sally in the intra-White House fighting, which is at an extraordinary (possibly unprecedented?) level for this early in the Administration.

president chaos monkey

An interesting take on the Trump management style.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trumps-government-looks-an-awful-lot-like-a-badly-run-business/2017/01/26/8b9e4886-e40d-11e6-a453-19ec4b3d09ba_story.html?utm_term=.6937393a5d8f

For example, this quote:

"One week into the presidency, we’ve gotten a taste of Trump’s management style. And so far it’s been plagued by many of the bad habits common to poorly run businesses."

There are (at least) rumors this morning that the list was prepared by a consulting firm, who sent a request for desirable projects to the 50 state governors, and distilled down what came back. Governors are, in general, reasonably sane about the infrastructure needs of their states.

That would explain why the three Colorado projects on the list are the top-three "badly needed to deal with past population growth but unaffordable" CDOT projects.

Yes they do seem to be useful and needed projects, with no obvious profiteering. But how will there get to be 50% private funding for all this?

But how will there get to be 50% private funding for all this?

Loans, tax credits, grants, and grift.

It's the American Way.

One week into the presidency, we’ve gotten a taste of Trump’s management style. And so far it’s been plagued by many of the bad habits common to poorly run businesses

The entrepreneurial fallacy:

I had a good idea, therefore I am probably going to be really good at implementing it.

Seldom so.

Trump seems to be good at smelling opportunities and putting things into play. Those are, actually, valuable skills. They are pretty much unrelated to running operations. I.e., defining goals and objectives, planning, prioritizing, measuring performance, retrospecting to evaluate how it all went.

In a nutshell, the executive function.

President chaos monkey.

But how will there get to be 50% private funding for all this?

The electricity (and natural gas pipeline) projects on the list are large, privately funded, and profitable once built. Federal involvement is likely in the form of expedited permitting, and FERC exercising various regulatory authority to ensure they get built promptly. Nuclear power plants would be quite profitable if the feds picked up half the construction costs.

Public-private partnerships are becoming more common for things like light rail and some major road work. Government contributions in those cases are often land, either already owned or accessible through eminent domain. Federal dollars could be contingent on such financing arrangements.

Stretch the definition of private to include local fee-for-service financing. Cleveland is part of a quasi-private regional sewer authority, legally separate from any of the city and county governments where it does business. That picks up a lot of big sewer and airport spending.


United States of America, P.U.D.

Has a nice ring to it, no?

Trump seems to be good at smelling opportunities and putting things into play.

I would disagree a bit. His business history is a panoply of disaster, and only his inherited private personal wealth, and utter lack of business ethics has kept him afloat.

However, he certainly does have a knack for personal aggrandizement.

Perhaps a better way to put it is that he is good at smelling opportunities to sell something. And then selling it.

That would account for his checkered (at best) business history. He finds stuff he can sell and sells it. And quite effectively.

But whether or not it really was a viable business opportunity is a different question -- and doesn't seem to be his strong suit, to put it mildly. His ability to actually run a business that does anything other than selling is also questionable.

For the last decade or two, he had found a way around that problem. He licensed people to put his name on stuff, and left actually building and running it to them. That way, he could limit himself to what he does well: selling, specifically selling his brand.

Now, though, he is back in the position of being expected to run something. Which isn't anywhere near his wheelhouse.

Which isn't anywhere near his (D. Drumpf's-ed)wheelhouse.

The understatement of the century. But it's still young.

I'm hoping to scare off possible competition for the award....

To be clear, I have no regard for Trump as a businessman. I think he has an intuitive sense for opportunities to make money. He directs that talent toward making himself rich. Anyone else involved is on their own.

The last thing I think of when I think of Trump is 'good executive'.

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