Monday, July 24, 2017

Why Do Democratic Groups-- And Even Nonpartisan Good Government Organizations-- Give The Blue Dogs A Pass?

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Ryan and McCarthy love to brag about how their most toxic legislation passes with "bipartisan" support. And technically, they're right. There is always a pack of bribe-hungry Blue Dogs and New Dems eager to sell their votes to the highest bidders. So far this cycle the 10 most corrupted Democrats in Congress so far-- from bad to worst:
Charlie Crist (Blue Dog-FL)
Ron Kind (New Dem-WI)
Scott Peters (New Dem-CA)
Stephanie Murphy (Blue Dog-FL)
Daniel Lipinski (Blue Dog-IL)
Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX)
Josh Gottheimer (Blue Dog-NJ)
Tom O'Halleran (Blue Dog-AZ)
Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN)
Kyrsten Sinema (Blue Dog-AZ)
I often notice that when Democratic Party affiliated groups-- like the DCCC-- or even Democratic allies in the media chastise Republicans for destructive legislation, they give the handful of Democrats from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party a pass. Let me give you an example. MapLight is a non-partisan good government group whose mission is to reveal money's influence on politics. Last week they published a report, Oil, Gas, and Chemical Money Boosts House Members Pushing to Weaken Clean Air Act, a response to the 229-199 passage of what is commonly referred to as the "Smoggy Skies Act." MapLight notes that "Sponsors of a House measure that would significantly weaken the Clean Air Act received more than two and a half times more campaign money from chemical, oil, and gas interests than other House members, according to a MapLight analysis. The House passed the “Ozone Standards Implementation Act” Tuesday, which would delay implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency’s current ozone regulations until 2025. The bill also would permanently reduce the frequency of the EPA's assessment of ozone levels on health from once every five years to once every 10 years. Opponents of the bill claim it would harm air quality and public health; supporters argue it gives businesses more time to comply with pollution standards created by the agency in 2015. During the 2016 election cycle, the 25 Republican representatives sponsoring the bill received an average of $20,196 from chemical, oil, and gas interests. Other lawmakers received an average of $7,720."


All of that is true-- if slightly misleading. What MapLight identified as "the 25 Republican representatives sponsoring the bill" included 3 ultra-corrupt Blue Dog Democrats-- Henry Cuellar (TX), Jim Costa (CA), and Sanford Bishop (GA). When the bill came up for a vote of the floor last week, Those 3 were joined by another of Big Oil's most notorious congressional whores, Collin Peterson (MN), when they crossed the aisle to vote with the Republicans. Meanwhile, 11 Republicans refused to tow the party lie and they crossed the aisle in the other direction and voted with the Democrats. MapLight:
All told, chemical, oil, and gas interests contributed roughly $3.7 million to the campaigns of current House members. More than 200 members received at least $4,000.

A coalition of 121 organizations focused on health and the environment urged members of Congress to oppose the bill in March, arguing it would “systematically weaken the Clean Air Act without a single improvement, undermine Americans’ 46-year right to healthy air based on medical science, and delay life-saving health standards already years overdue.”
And what about the 4 Blue Dog supporters? How much in bribes did they get from chemical, oil, and gas interests in the 2016 cycle? Let's take a peek:
Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX)- $158,305
Jim Costa (Blue Dog-CA)- $110,525
Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN)- $44,075
Sanford Bishop (Blue Dog-GA)- $20,000
Map Light asserts that corrupt Republican bribe takers who sponsored the bill received an average of $20,196 during the 2016 cycle. OK... but the corrupted Blue Dog Democrats who co-sponsored and voted for the legislation took far more on average than even the Republicans! But there was no mention of that in their otherwise very accurate and important report. Odd!

Ignorant twitter commenters and others very frequently try to cover up this kind of fact-based analysis by claiming attacks on Blue Dogs and New Dems are nothing more than "purity tests." Sad.



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Can Chuck Schumer Lead the Democrats to "Unity" on Economic Issues?

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Is it impertinent to say this? Not constructive enough? Or necessary to make the change the country needs? I've heard all three asserted lately.

by Gaius Publius

I'd like to put three thoughts together for consideration as a set.

1. Chuck Schumer recently told George Stephanopolis that "we [Democrats] are united on economic issues." See 33:36 in this video.

Not sure what you think, but that seems the most absurd statement of the month. It's precisely economic issues — trade deals, service to corporate needs, bailouts of Wall Street instead of Main Street, forgiveness of crushing debts like student loans — that divide Democrats most deeply.

And worse, I think Schumer knows that he's lying as he says that.

2. The polling memo that lead to the Democratic Party's "Better Deal" plan contains these two contradictory statements. First, from the middle of the piece:
[A] large majority of battleground state voters respond favorably to [this] statement of the premise and direction that define the Better Deal Economic Agenda...:

"Too many families in America today feel that the rules of the economy are rigged against them. Special interests have a strangle-hold on Washington — from the super-rich spending unlimited amounts of secret money to influence our elections, to the huge loopholes in our tax code that help corporations avoid paying taxes...."
Note the attack on the wealthy that voters agree with. Now, from the first paragraph, in which Democrats who commissioned the polling were told their "themes" were consistent with this message:
As Senate and House Democrats begin to roll out their new Better Deal Economic Agenda, a review of recent public opinion polling shows that the central themes and frames that are at the heart of this agenda match closely with the experiences, values, and priorities of American voters today.
Do you think the Democratic Party, as currently captained by Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, embraces the themes "the rules of the economy are rigged" and "special interests [the very rich] have a strangle-hold on Washington"?

3. Consider this interesting piece from a David Sirota podcast about when the U.S. government stopped prosecuting "white collar" (i.e., Wall Street) crime. From a partial transcript, this is the introduction:
In 2008 Wall Street banks created a financial crisis that incinerated the economy. It was only a few years after the Justice Department had aggressively prosecuted Enron and Arthur Anderson, and so many folks expected similar prosecutions of financial executives, especially because Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama promised to “bring a new era of responsibility and accountability to Wall Street.” But as recounted in a new podcast with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jesse Eisinger, it never happened.

Eisinger has just released a new book called “The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives.” It tracks how a furious pressure campaign by corporate America fundamentally changed the culture of the Justice Department. Instead of going after executives who commit white collar crime, the agency now often offers settlements with corporations, forcing shareholders to pick up the tab for fines while leaving executives untouched.

The result, says Eisinger, is a criminal justice system that no longer seriously deters corporate crime, but instead makes it just a mundane cost of doing business. Shareholders may pay some fines, but executives often get a nice get-out-of-jail-free card, avoiding prison or any kind of punishment.
From near the end of the interview (emphasis mine):
Sirota: So a successful prosecution of Arthur Andersen becomes the justification for, "We shouldn't prosecute Arthur Andersens in the future because the prosecutors in theory were too strong, were too harsh, went after them too vigorously." Meanwhile, your book tracks the concurrent rise of the so-called “too big to jail” idea. How did that evolve?

Eisinger: What happens is, there's a 1909 Supreme Court ruling [that says] if there is an employee who in the course of his or her job commits a crime, the entire company can be prosecuted. That is the power that the government has. It's essentially neglected. They don't really prosecute companies for a very long time.
Note that last paragraph; it's important. Eisinger continues:
In the 1990s, starting out, they're unsatisfied with this. They don't really want to prosecute companies all the time. They used to be focused on individuals, but they started shifting the focus on trying to root out the rotten cultures at companies. They hit on this haphazardly. Mary Jo White, as the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District, comes up with this settlement. Then, she sends her lieutenant and writes a memo that Eric Holder signs saying, "Here are the principles for how we're going to prosecute a company." One of the principles is, "We'll take into account collateral consequences." Eric Holder gets a lot of blame for this in retrospect, but he didn't really write it…

Then, [the] Arthur Anderson [investigation] happens, and they ignored these principles, quite rightly in my view, and prosecute the company. Larry Thompson updates them, and that becomes the locus for the lobbying, where they hit on one aspect of these principles to try to tear them all down. The aspect of the principles is that they attack the fact that the government can ask for companies to waive attorney-client privilege when they're doing investigations, so that the government can get access to all that's going on in their own internal investigation. If companies want to cooperate and they want to get leniency from the government, they have to waive attorney-client privilege.

Companies scream bloody murder, and so does the white-collar bar. Over the course of the next decade, those powers are completely rolled back, which really strip the ability for prosecutors to get inside companies to investigate. That has a whole cascading series of effects.

Sirota: Okay. Now let's move up to the Obama era. What could the Obama administration have done based on all of the trends you've just charted, and what did it do instead?

Eisinger: The first thing they could have done is created a task force, a big, giant task force to address a variety of financial crisis-era cases. People should remember, the financial crisis hits in the end of the Bush administration. The height is September. The election is in November. All the firms that collapse, the criminal investigations are going on, and the late Bush administration folks who are on their way out don't take a series of serious decisions and let the investigations start to percolate. That's the first mistake.

The Obama administration inherits that mistake, but they compound it by not doing anything about it. One thing they needed to do was create a task force where you figuratively lock 50 prosecutors in a room together to look at — five needed to look at Lehman Brothers, and 10 needed to look at the CDO business, and five needed to look at Citi, and six needed to look at JP Morgan, etc., etc. If you had, they would have found crimes.

In fact, what happens is they don't really look in a serious way. Whenever you hear Eric Holder or Preet Bharara or Lanny Breuer saying, "We looked seriously and nobody ever presented us a criminal case without a doubt prosecuting a high-level individual," the secret is that they didn't look. That was mistake number one.

Sirota: What are the continuing effects of the Justice Department culture that the Obama administration basically helped cement?

Eisinger: The day-to-day legacy now is that the Department of Justice has lost the will and ability to prosecute top corporate executives. This is the flip side. [We] know about mass incarceration and the scandal of that, and that we disproportionately punish mostly poor, mostly people of color, in this country. This is the flip side of that, which is that we allow the rich and powerful to commit crimes with impunity if they are in executive positions at major corporations. That is a scandal, and it undermines the fairness and justice of our system and the rule of law.

The Obama administration has contributed to it. What they do now is they settle with corporations rather than focusing on prosecuting individuals. They have lost the skill set to do with it, because settling with corporations is so easy and because of the way settlements come about, which is that we have outsourced and privatized investigations to the corporations themselves. It's basically like allowing Pablo Escobar to hire the major law firm of Medellin to investigate whether Escobar is dealing drugs or not. That surprisingly is an investigation that might yield a few street-level drug users but is not going to actually implicate Pablo himself.
And note the Obama administration-confirmed process for handling major white-collar crime:
[Eisinger:] We have corporations who have a scandal. They hire a law firm. The law firm does the investigation. The investigation is studiously incurious about going to the top levels, and worse than that, they negotiate, then they hand the results to the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice looks over it, and then comes up with some kind of fine that the shareholders pay. The executives don't pay it. The company, the piece of paper has to pay it, but that comes out of shareholder pockets. Then those prosecutors, many of them, go to work for those law firms themselves after a few years. That is a deeply corrupt process.
"That is a deeply corrupt process." Not only that, but everyone in America knows it. These are the voters who think "the rules of the economy are rigged" and "[the very rich] have a strangle-hold on Washington." Do Americans expect the Democratic Party, as currently led, to change any of this? Will a slogan — "A Better Deal" do it?

No, Mr. Schumer, Democrats are deeply divided on "economic policy" — dead-opposite divided in fact. And in other fact, Chuck Schumer is Wall Street's Democrat. Will he change his spots?

It will be interesting to see how all this plays out. Seems to me though, you have to change the singers, not just music, to get a different sound from the choir. On the other hand, you go to war with the singers you have, my more hopeful friends tell me. Let's see how this plays out.

GP
 

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Will Trump Claim He's Firing Sessions Over Marijuana Crackdown Instead Of Putin-Gate?

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Rep. Melissa Sargent represents Wisconsin's 48th Assembly District, which covers the east and north sides of the city of Madison and the village of Maple Bluff. Two weeks ago she introduced LRB-2457, a bill to legalize recreational and medicinal marijuana in Wisconsin.

She told the media that her bill "is so much more than legalizing marijuana-- it’s about legalizing opportunity and prosperity. The state budget was due two weeks ago, and Wisconsin simply can’t afford to wait any longer-- we deserve a real plan to create new jobs and stimulate our lagging economy, and that’s what this bill is... Business as usual is simply not cutting it. We need to start thinking about new, innovative ways to jumpstart our economy. Wisconsin has a billion-dollar budget deficit, Republicans have no real ideas for fixing our transportation fund, and Scott Walker still hasn’t created the 250,000 jobs he promised six years ago. Meanwhile, in Colorado, legalizing marijuana generated $2.4 billion in economic activity and created more than 18,000 new jobs in a single year alone. The most dangerous thing about marijuana is that it’s illegal, and as our budget crisis worsens and we continue to see new evidence to support legalization’s economic benefits, the more unjustifiable-- and even foolish-- it becomes not to legalize... I’ve spoken with my Republican colleagues across the aisle, and some of them have expressed their quiet support for my bill. Given the severe budget crisis Wisconsin is facing, I am hopeful they can get past the 'D' next to my name long enough to give legalizing marijuana the earnest review and consideration Wisconsin deserves."

This will be the third try to legalize marijuana in Wisconsin. There has never been a Republican co-sponsor to the previous bills and the Assembly Republicans have never allowed a public hearing. This new one has several innovation Sargent put in, including providing employment and benefit protections for marijuana users, requiring insurance coverage for medicinal marijuana for terminal illnesses, and incorporating marijuana into current alcohol and tobacco educational curricula in schools. The bill also treats marijuana as an agricultural product, requiring the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to conduct periodic inspections and to promote best practices for producing, harvesting, and packaging."


Ohanian takes on Sessions
Meanwhile, Trump's renegade Attorney General is preparing the go to war against marijuana again-- one of the agenda items on his to-do list that not everyone in the regime agrees with. On Sunday Lydia Wheeler reported for The Hill that Sessions is preparing a marijuana crackdown. She points out that Señor Trumpanzee's so-called Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety, led by Sessions, "is expected to release a report next week that criminal justice reform advocates fear will link marijuana to violent crime and recommend tougher sentences for those caught growing, selling and smoking the plant."

Sessions is the most reactionary of anyone in the Regime on marijuana and he's been a strong advocate for stricter enforcement and for trampling on the laws states have passed legalizing marijuana, something Trump pledged he wouldn't do during the election campaign-- as false as ll the rest of Trump's pledges are turning out to be.
“The task force revolves around reducing violent crime and Sessions and other DOJ officials have been out there over the last month and explicitly the last couple of weeks talking about how immigration and marijuana increases violent crime,” said Inimai Chettiar, director of the Brennan Center's Justice Program.

“We’re worried there’s going to be something in the recommendations that is either saying that that’s true or recommending action be taken based on that being true.”

Sessions sent a letter in May asking congressional leaders to do away with an amendment to the DOJ budget prohibiting the agency from using federal funds to prevent states "from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana."

“I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime,” said the letter from Sessions, first obtained by Massroots.com and verified by the Washington Post.

As for the task force, Sessions said another subcommittee would “explore our use of asset forfeiture and make recommendations on any improvements needed to legal authorities, policies, and training to most effectively attack the financial infrastructure of criminal organizations.”

On Wednesday, Sessions reportedly re-established a controversial criminal asset seizure program ahead of the committee’s recommendations.

Local law enforcement leaders say a crackdown appears to be next, though they argue there’s no need for it.

“From a practitioner’s point of view, marijuana is not a drug that doesn’t have some danger to it, but it’s not the drug that’s driving violent crime in America,” said Ronal Serpas, the former superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department and co-chairman of Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration.

“That’s not the drug with which we see so much death and destruction on the streets of America. Crack and powdered cocaine, heroin and opioids is where we’re seeing people die on street corners fighting over territory or control.”

Eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, and another 21 states allow the use of medical marijuana, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, but marijuana use is still illegal under federal law.

If Sessions ignites a fight over states' rights, Chettiar wonders whether it will spur Republicans into a showdown with the Trump administration on criminal justice reform.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who publicly criticized Sessions for reversing Obama-era guidelines on criminal charges and sentencing in May, said he’s not in favor of the DOJ interfering with state policies regarding marijuana.

“I will oppose anybody from the administration or otherwise that wants to interfere with state policy,” he told The Hill this week.

Paul is part of a bipartisan group of Senators pushing legislation to allow patients to continue accessing medical marijuana in states where it is legal without fear of federal prosecution.

Legislation introduced last month by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Paul introduced-- known as the The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act-- would amend federal law to allow states to set their own medical marijuana policies.

According to Politifact, Trump pledged to leave marijuana legalization up to the states while on the campaign trail. But last month he reportedly pushed back against the congressional ban on the DOJ interfering with state medical marijuana laws in a signing statement, asserting that he isn’t legally bound to the limits imposed by Congress. 

The DOJ’s likely move on marijuana comes amid rising tensions between Trump and Sessions.

Trump in an interview with the New York Times publicly dressed down Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation, calling that decision “very unfair” to him.

Longtime Trump ally Roger Stone argued this week that Trump has been disappointed in Sessions.

“The president initially bonded with Sessions because he saw him as a tough guy,” he said in an interview with the New York Times.

“Now he’s saying: 'Where’s my tough guy? Why doesn’t he have my back?’ There’s a lack of aggressiveness with Sessions, unless it involves chasing people for smoking pot.” 

In an interview with The Hill, Booker called Sessions “one of the greatest threats to the safety of our local communities in America.”

“If you try to start prosecuting marijuana … you create more violence and more danger as well as greater government cost,” he said. “These policies that he’s doing ultimately go to the core of the safety of our communities.”

Though Sessions appears to be an obstacle for lawmakers and advocates who want sentencing reform, Booker said he’s not “insurmountable.”

“If we can overcome Strom Thurmond’s filibuster against the civil rights bill, we can overcome a U.S. Attorney General who is out of step with history and out of step with his party,” he said.

But Sessions isn’t alone in his views on pot. Though he said he believes in the need for sentencing reform, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) seemed to agree this week that there needs to be stricter enforcement.

“I believe marijuana probably needs to be cracked down on, but we’ll see when he sends it over,” Graham said of the task force report.

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Sunday, July 23, 2017

American Cartoonists Meet The Republican "Healthcare" Scam Head On, Part 2

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-by Noah

One of the most famous episodes of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone deals with a malevolent race of aliens who land here on Earth and seemingly promise a utopian future. They bring promises of advance technologies and cures for disease. All we earthlings have to do in exchange is send some of us humans to their planet while some aliens set up home here. All sounds hunky-dory. Peace! Brotherhood! A brilliant future for all!

The lead or head alien ambassador is an alien right out of central casting. He’s 9 feet tall and has a classic enlarged cranium area that presumably houses his expanded mental powers. He even carries with him, a gift, a book entitled To Serve Man! How wonderful! How glorious! They have our best interests at heart! What nice people these aliens are!

Naturally, a certain number of gullible earthlings blindly flock to the spaceships that will convey them to the utopian planet of their dreams, while our best translators work on deciphering the gift that is To Serve Man.

To Serve Man, of course, turns out to be a cookbook. All those who have boarded the ships are doomed to be a succulent feast on the home planet dinner tables of the aliens.

I didn’t catch that alien ambassador’s name, and, while he certainly doesn’t look like Messrs. Trump, McConnell, and Ryan, he might as well be a conglomeration of all three and the rest of the Republican Party. Put a Make America Great Again hat on his domed alien head. That makes as much sense as Senor Trumpanzee wearing one.

The Trumpcare plans for what those of both parties in Washington like to condescendingly call ordinary Americans aren’t much different than the plans of their fictitious un-human, inhuman alien brothers seen on The Twilight Zone.


The only difference between the plans of Serling’s fictitious aliens and Trumpcare is that, at least as far as we know, Republicans don’t plan on cooking and eating us after they kill us all. A month ago, an earlier version of their plan earmarked 22 million Americans for poor health, disease, and death by stealing away their health insurance so they could give away a trillion dollars of our hard-earned taxpayer dollars to their wealthy friends and corporate benefactors. That handout is really what Trumpcare is all about. Calling it a healthcare plan is just an uber-cynical and deceptive marketing ploy. To this day, even the so-called liberal media insists on calling this republican plan a healthcare plan when it is nothing of the sort. Trumpcare is the Republican Party’s To Serve Man.

With all of this in mind, and yet another McConnell-decreed Trumpcare vote coming up this week, I thought it appropriate to do a Part 2 of my late June post bout what America’s cartoonists have to say about Trumpcare, especially, since the latest version of Trumpcare now earmarks not 22 million but now 32 million Americans for misery; fat lot the mass-murderers of the Republican Party care, but, hey, death and misery is what the Republican Party is all about, and best at. If this vote fails, expect yet another new version. Do I hear 42 million! How about 52 Million!

Here are some of the latest cartoons on the subject:
















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GOP Healthcare Woes Are Getting Worse, Not Better-- Parliamentarian Questions Trumpcare Framework

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House Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) is having a fit again. If I was in the FBI and if someone blows up the Senate with a bomb, I'd look at Meadows' alibi very, very closely. He's freaking out over the Senate parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, ruling that there are as many as a dozen parts of TrumpCare that violate the Byrd Rule and that they can't be passed with a 51 majority and would need a full 60 votes if the Democrats object-- which they do. Meadows said, for example, taking the provisions defending Planned Parenthood out of TrumpCare, would make it "almost impossible" to pass the bill back through the House, To him and other far right extremists the Hyde restrictions on tax credits are a must. Pity.

The ruling specifies that "abortion restrictions on the premium tax credit and the small business tax credit, and the language defunding Planned Parenthood, violate the Byrd Rule. Further, the 'Buffalo Bailout' which was used to secure votes in the House has also been found to violate the Byrd Rule-- threatening other state-specific buy-offs." Those are all "sweeteners" to make the bill palatable for the extreme right fringe of the Republican Party.

The NY Times reported that "Democrats made clear they would seize on the findings." Bernie, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee: "The parliamentarian’s decision today proves once again that the process Republicans have undertaken to repeal the Affordable Care Act and throw 22 million Americans off of health insurance is a disaster." One of the no-no provisions "would penalize people who go without health insurance by requiring them to wait six months before their coverage could begin. Insurers would generally be required to impose the waiting period on people who lacked coverage for more than about two months in the prior year... The waiting period provision is fundamental to the working of the bill. Because the legislation would end the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that most Americans have health insurance, the waiting period was designed to ensure that people could not simply wait to get sick before they purchased a policy."

Senate Republican leaders plan to begin debate next week on repealing the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement, which has provided health insurance to roughly 20 million Americans.

At the moment, Republican leaders lack the votes to ensure passage of their bill to repeal and replace the law, and they are still modifying it in hopes of gaining support from uncommitted Republican senators. All Democrats are expected to oppose the repeal bill.

Under the procedure that Republicans are using to speed passage of the health care bill, senators can object to a provision if it does not change federal spending or revenue or if the budgetary effects are “merely incidental” to some policy objective. The parliamentarian serves as a sort of referee, determining whether specific provisions of the bill comply with Senate rules.

Don Stewart, a spokesman for the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, emphasized that “this is guidance, not a ruling.” The parliamentarian “provided guidance,” and that guidance will help inform subsequent drafts of the legislation, he said, suggesting that the bill could be revised to answer her questions.

The Senate’s presiding officer usually follows advice from the parliamentarian. But the full Senate can vote to overturn those decisions.

The parliamentarian also objected to a narrowly written provision that would shift Medicaid costs from New York’s counties to its state government. This provision, tagged by opponents as the “Buffalo Bailout,” was included in a repeal bill passed by the House in May to secure the votes of Republican House members from upstate New York.

The Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, suggested that other provisions written specifically for different states could also be at risk.

“This will greatly tie the majority leader’s hands as he tries to win over reluctant Republicans with state-specific provisions,” Mr. Schumer said. “We will challenge every one of them.”

Even before the parliamentarian’s blow, Trump administration officials and Republican leaders were struggling to win over moderate Republicans with a new infusion of money to help people who would lose Medicaid under the Senate health care bill.

Senators are set to return to the Capitol on Monday, and Republican leaders are eager to begin debate in the Senate on health care, perhaps as early as Tuesday. It is unclear they have the votes needed to start the debate, let alone to ensure passage of a bill to repeal and replace the health care law.

In their latest bid for agreement on a plan to undo the health care law, Senate Republicans are weighing a proposal to add funds, perhaps $200 billion, to the bill to help low-income people transition from Medicaid to private insurance. But Republican leaders must balance the interests of senators from states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act with the goals of fiscal conservatives, who see the repeal bill as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rein in the growth of one of the nation’s largest entitlement programs.

“You can only go so far, and then you lose votes on one side where we want to make reforms within Medicaid,” Senator Michael Rounds, Republican of South Dakota, said after a lengthy meeting this week with administration officials and other Republican senators. “And if you don’t go far enough, then you’ve got folks that are concerned that we’re making the changes too quick. So it’s that balancing act of trying to keep everybody on board and feeling comfortable.”

The Congressional Budget Office says the Senate repeal bill would cut projected federal Medicaid spending by more than $750 billion in the coming decade, leaving 15 million fewer people on Medicaid in 2026, compared with the enrollment expected under current law.

Those cuts have caused deep concern to Republican senators from states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, including Rob Portman of Ohio, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

“I would like to do more to help people at the low end of the income scale afford private health insurance,” Mr. Portman said, noting that more than 700,000 people in his state had gained coverage through the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Ms. Capito, in a video message on Friday, said that many of her constituents had been hurt by the Affordable Care Act, but that “many West Virginians have benefited from our state’s decision to expand Medicaid” under the health law.

“I have said all along that we need to both repeal and replace Obamacare, and I’m not giving up on that goal,” she said. But, she added, “We aren’t there yet.”

Opponents of repeal, including consumer advocates and health care providers in every state, are keeping up the pressure on Republican senators.

AARP called on senators to vote against the procedural motion to begin debate, while the American Medical Association panned the repeal measure and an alternate Senate bill that would repeal the health law without providing a replacement.

“Recent revisions do not correct core elements that will lead to millions of Americans losing health insurance coverage with a resulting decline in both health status and outcomes,” Dr. James L. Madara, the association’s chief executive, wrote to Senate leaders on Friday. The Senate legislation, he said, would undermine state Medicaid programs and weaken the individual insurance market.

Save My Care, a group that is fighting the repeal effort, is targeting Ms. Capito, Ms. Murkowski and Senator Dean Heller, Republican of Nevada, with new television commercials urging them to vote against repealing the health law.

“Senator Capito promised to protect our health care,” one of the ads says. “Now Washington insiders are pressuring her to back down.”



On the flip side, Republican senators risk angering conservative supporters-- as well as President Trump-- if they stand in the way of the repeal effort, perhaps by opposing the procedural motion to begin debate that is planned for next week.

Painter Nancy Ohanian is... prescient

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What Happened To Trump's Promises About Massive Infrastructure Spending?

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We'll look at the mess the Trump Regime has made of infrastructure in a moment. First though, I want to highlight one crucial part of that in my part of the country. The Republican-led Congress and the Trump Regime are screwing with California, Oregon and Washington over the earthquake early warning system-- enough time for people to take cover or pull their cars over-- the federal government was committed to, something NPR highlighted this week. An early warning system along the West Coast from the Canadian border to the Mexican border has been in the works for over a decade and is in beta testing now. NPR reported that Thomas Heaton, an engineering seismologist at the California Institute of Technology, has worked on this idea since 1985. 
“It's running right here in my office, and it has been running in my office for about 10 years, and I run it in my home,” Heaton said.

The sample earthquake scenario he pulled up on his computer showed a map of California with seismic waves radiating from the epicenter of a quake. Alarms rang, and an electronic voice called out a verbal warning, “Earthquake. Earthquake. Moderate shaking expected in six seconds.”

How such alerts would be sent to the public still needs to be ironed out, with some hoping warnings could be sent to mobile phones located in soon-to-be affected areas.

Heaton said a full rollout along the West Coast would take about 1,200 sensors. So far, there are 800 installed, half of which are in Southern California. Limited public rollout of the warning alert system has been planned for next year, but that depends on continued federal funding. The roughly $10 million the U.S. Geological Survey gets for the program would be wiped out under Trump’s proposed budget.

“If it goes through, there will not be an early warning system,” Heaton said. “I'm pretty confident about that.”

Los Angeles has already spent millions of dollars on its own to install its warning system sensors.

“We’re going to raise our own money and try to get this done, even if the federal government doesn’t help,” said Jeff Gorell, the city’s deputy mayor for public safety.

But L.A. can’t fund the full estimated cost, $16 million a year, to cover California and the whole Pacific Northwest. Lucy Jones, scientist emerita at USGS, where she helped get the early warning system going, said earthquake warnings need to come from the federal government, because research centers don’t want to own the system.

“The universities have uniformly said 'We don't want the liability of releasing these messages,'” Jones said.

The proposed federal cuts are getting pushback from Congress. A House subcommittee voted last week to keep funding at current levels. The funding proposal has more votes ahead in the House and Senate. What actually shakes out of the budget approval process is anyone’s guess, but California Rep. Ken Calvert, a Republican from Corona who chairs the subcommittee, said it has wide support.
Calvert, a Trump rubber-stamp says he has "bipartisan agreement [and] "We’re moving ahead"-- at least on the Appropriations Committee's subcommittee on Interior and Environment. He's the only Californian on the subcommittee, although Oklahoma Republican Tom Cole is a member and fracking-related earthquakes are shaking up his constituents lately.

Ted Lieu, who represents the west side of L.A. is concerned about Trump's decision to end the funding. This afternoon he said, "To borrow the President's phrase, not funding earthquake early warning systems would be 'dumb as a rock.' Such systems will save countless lives. The President's lack of an infrastructure plan shows the continued chaos at the White House. Cutting infrastructure funding with no plan will harm the American people. That's why Congress needs to pass the 21st Century New Deal for Jobs Act that I wrote, which will provide 2 trillion dollars of much needed infrastructure funding and create millions of jobs."

The Trump Regime's entire attitude towards infrastructure in basically the same-- stop spending money on anything and everything. Tom Scheck reported the story for NPR's Marketplace last week-- and who gets hurt the most? Folks in the rural areas who backed Trump most strongly in the election: Trump's desire for private infrastructure money will narrow his choices to mostly urban projects. The ignoramus in the White House insists that "business-- not government-- can deliver better services to Americans," which has sent officials in states, cities and counties scurrying for private money for public infrastructure projects like roads and bridges. They looked at 46 transportation and water-related projects in 23 states where private money-- "investment opportunities"-- is what the Trump Regime is pushing for.

We asked two Orange County candidates whose districts are plagued with infrastructure problems. Kia Hamadanchy is running for the seat held by Trump rubber stamp Mimi Walters do doesn't live in the district and isn't really aware about what people in CA-45 face. He told us that "This country-- and Orange County in particular-- needs immediate and dramatic investment in our infrastructure. Our roads and bridges are in an incredible state of disrepair and every dollar we fail to spend today is going to lead to an even higher cost down the road. Donald Trump promised time and time during his campaign he would invest in and fix infrastructure and more then six months into his administration we have yet to see a plan to do so. What we need is the right kind of investment that actually addresses the problems we have in this country and the answer certainly isn't more privatization and the selling off of our public assets. The solution must be driven by the federal government, working in concert with state and local governments."


Goal Thermometer And Sam Jammal, the progressive running against Ed Royce in CA-39 told us that "Every voter-- no matter whether they lean right or left-- has the basic expectation that government will invest in infrastructure. Unfortunately, we are years behind in these investments thank to a Republican Congress that has ignored the basics. Trump made his promise knowing full well that voters expect roads without potholes, safe bridges and the deployment of new infrastructure to modernize our economy. But, like so much else, his rhetoric doesn't meet reality. We need a real investment in infrastructure that moves us towards 2030, not backwards. To me, this means making sure we have our bridges modernized, roads paved and investments in clean energy infrastructure that promotes electric vehicles and renewable energy. This will create jobs and ensure economic growth. We lead when we invest in our country and right now, we aren't doing that. Just take a ride on any of our freeways in Orange County and its clear we aren't investing in the basics. Voters rightfully expect more and infrastructure must be a priority."

Trump may love it but "privately financed projects have proven unpopular in at least two states after citizens learned they had to pay higher fees and tolls to private investors. And a federal loan program Trump is pushing to broaden has lost money on three projects that featured private investment." On top of this, most of the projects private capital is willing too invest in "serve high population, urban centers. That means rural voters, who helped elect Trump, could be left out of the potential infrastructure boom unless he either directs a significant amount of taxpayer money to rural projects or convinces investors to steer money there."
Forty of the 46 projects on the list are transportation related. The remaining six are water projects. Eight of the projects are entirely private enterprises with limited or no government involvement.

The others rely on a financing mechanism known as a public-private partnership, which can include a variety of models. The most common is a government receiving upfront financing to build or fix a project in exchange for either payments to the investors or rights to the investors allowing them to earn money on the project from, say, charging tolls on a highway.

...13 of the 46 projects on the list collected by the White House since November are road and bridge projects. That's more than half the total number of highways-- 21-- that relied on private financing between 1989 and 2012, according to a 2012 report by the Congressional Budget Office.

Trump has not released specifics about what he calls his $1 trillion infrastructure plan or the timing, but he has emphatically embraced public-private partnerships as a solution to a problem that he's identified as critical to America and what most political observers say could deliver a badly needed political win.

The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the nation's infrastructure poor marks in a report card released earlier this year. The group said it will cost $4.6 trillion to address the nation's roads, bridges, ports and water systems.

The White House budget plan clearly indicates that private investment will be a strategy. "Providing more federal funding, on its own, is not the solution to our infrastructure challenges," the document said.

...It isn't certain, though, how many projects will get financed with private money.

Investors may balk at a proposal because there isn't a revenue guarantee. Government officials may also decide that it's more cost effective to use traditional borrowing rather than private financing.

What's clear is that investors are eagerly moving to put more money into infrastructure. It's considered a safer and steadier investment than the stock market, yet has higher returns than bonds.

Wall Street is already lining up. Global Infrastructure Partners closed on a $15.8 billion fund in the first quarter of 2017, according to the data analysis firm Preqin.

The fund was the largest infrastructure fund at the time but was soon surpassed in May when Saudi Arabia announced it would invest $20 billion in a $40 billion infrastructure fund run by Blackstone Group, a private equity firm.

Other fund managers, state and national pension funds and foreign governments are also looking to profit. Preqin found $71 billion ready for infrastructure spending in North America even before the Saudi pledge.

"There has been reasonable investment within infrastructure in the U.S., so it's more of whether we're going to see a real explosion going forward," said Tom Carr, a Preqin analyst.

But private financing comes with risks and drawbacks:
Last month, Texas-- an early adopter of privatizing transportation projects-- rejected efforts to authorize additional private investment.
Private investors in road projects in South Carolina, Texas, California and Indiana have declared bankruptcy. In some instances, the bankruptcies resulted in a financial loss for the federal government.
A 2015 Congressional Budget Office study found that private financing will speed up the construction of a road but doesn't reduce overall costs or increase with other transportation spending.
Rural communities may lose out since they don't have the population willing to finance projects that can cost billions.
And critics of privatization warn against selling rights to what has long been considered a public asset. They also say private backers are looking for investment returns that could make the projects more expensive to the taxpayer.

Donald Cohen, executive director of the anti-privatization group In the Public Interest, called Trump's vision an attempt to "sell off America" to Wall Street investors. He said private investors will collect their returns by creating toll roads, increasing fees or finding other sources of revenue to get a return on their investment. "There may be lots of folks who actually want to rebuild America but their top job is to generate returns, and they're going to do pretty well under Trump's plan," Cohen said.

Despite the risks, the Trump Administration continues to push for increased private investment. "The private sector can provide valuable benefits for the delivery of infrastructure, through better procurement methods, market discipline, and a long-term focus on maintaining assets," a White House budget document said.

It's unclear, though, when the president will roll out the specifics of his plan or how it will fit into a congressional agenda bogged down by a stalled health care bill, a desire to overhaul the tax code, a measure to lift the debt ceiling and a budget plan that includes infrastructure spending cuts.

Kathrin Heitmann, an infrastructure analyst with Moody's, said that's why she doesn't expect an impact from Trump's plan in the short-term. "We are very cautious that the $1 trillion infrastructure investment can be realized," she said.

Heitmann also pointed that it will take a long time for projects to get started even if Trump's plan becomes law later this year. The lag between funding approval and project completion could mean that nothing substantial happens until the end of Trump's term in 2020. "It looks like that some of this funding will only peak at the end of the current administration's term," she said.

Adding to the uncertainty, public records show Trump's top infrastructure adviser is pushing states to finance construction projects without any help from the federal government, a quiet shift in rhetoric that reflects the president's onerous budget realities. That could be a blow to local governments since many have historically relied on federal funding to complete infrastructure projects.

...Larger population centers are the primary focus for private investment. Of the 46 projects that could rely on private investment, just two are located in and would serve rural America. Both are in Alaska.

Eight projects are located in rural communities but primarily serve urban population centers, including two privately financed projects that would allow companies to ship water from rural parts of California and New Mexico to urban areas.

The lack of financing opportunities for rural America is a bipartisan concern in Congress. Lawmakers worry that private money will chase the highest return, typically found in higher population centers instead of financing the neediest projects.

"There are thousands of miles of highway and tens of thousands of bridges that need work that can't make money," said U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore. "No private sector person is going to buy them and repair them, because there isn't enough volume."

...Meanwhile, the nation's largest metropolitan areas are receiving unsolicited bids from private funds.

In November, voters in Los Angeles County approved a new half-cent sales tax and extended an existing half-cent sales tax. The increase is projected to raise $120 billion over 40 years. Even before the measure passed, private investors submitted unsolicited proposals to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Authority.

California Gov. Jerry Brown asked the Trump Administration to include three Los Angeles County transit projects in its infrastructure plan. They are a 9-mile extension of an existing transit line, a connector to the airport and a bus rapid-transit line.

Experts say financing projects like those in Los Angeles County are perfect for investors looking to capitalize on long-term projects. The city is the second largest in the country, and county voters just approved a long-term funding stream that's attractive to private investors.

...Private financing is becoming a more attractive option as cities, counties and states grapple with tight budgets, a transportation system that is costly to maintain and a desire to build new projects that serve a growing population. The financing mechanism also allows state officials to finance projects without raising gas taxes.

"States are becoming more enamored of this because they're able to deliver projects sooner," said Shailen Bhatt, executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation. "It allows you to advance a project without necessarily, say, raising your gas tax."

But Bhatt says there are only so many projects that can be financed with private money. And he said federal and state officials should not ignore a gas tax increase as an option. Since Colorado is an early adopter in public-private partnerships, Bhatt would prefer Trump focus his plan on directly funding projects.

"If the president's plan was just more financing opportunities, well, we're already moving on that path on our own," he said.

The trade group for the national construction industry is also directing most of its efforts on states when it comes to public-private partnerships and infrastructure investment.

Ben Brubeck, an executive with Associated Builders and Contractors, said his organization has been pushing for an infrastructure package on the federal level but said the states are where he sees the most action. "If you look at the deal flow here in the United States, it's happening at the state level and not really happening at the federal level," he said.

Since President Trump was elected, anticipation has grown that the real estate billionaire would deliver on his promise to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure. He's met with union leaders, state and local officials and private business leaders trying to build support.

He's also assembled an infrastructure team led by New York real estate investors Richard LeFrak and Steven Roth. LeFrak has personal ties to the president, and Roth and Trump have a business relationship.

In May, the White House released Trump's budget proposal, which included spending $200 billion in "federal outlays to the infrastructure initiative," but didn't specify how the money will be spent.

And from some departments, Trump cut infrastructure funding.

He proposed a 13 percent reduction to the U.S. Department of Transportation general fund budget, eliminating funds for new transit projects and gutting a $499 million grant program that has paid for road, bridge and transit projects. The plan also eliminates a $500 million water and wastewater loan and grant program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but boosts funding for water and wastewater infrastructure at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Since then, there have been few other details. In June, during a week devoted to promoting his ideas about infrastructure, Trump pledged $25 billion to rural projects and $15 billion to spur what he called "transformative" projects. An accompanying document didn't elaborate on the spending or say whether the funds are included in his $200 billion request.

And despite pleas by White House officials that journalists cover the president's policy agenda instead of allegations of Russian interference in last year's election, they didn't return repeated requests for comment about Trump's infrastructure plan.

The lack of specifics regarding infrastructure-- and a budget that weakens infrastructure-related programs-- have left state and local government officials wondering when a plan will be released and whether it will benefit them.

Documents show White House officials were still working to craft a policy in March despite a campaign rollout in October, a two-month presidential transition that focused on assembling wish lists from states and multiple meetings since the inauguration to discuss policy.

During a conference call with state leaders on March 23, D.J. Gribbin, the president's infrastructure policy adviser, was reluctant to embrace any plan and emphasized that he was only speaking for himself, not for Trump or other White House officials, according to a readout of the call.

And adding to the uncertainty, notes from the call-- captured in an email from Adam Zarrin, a policy adviser to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper-- show that Gribbin wants states to build projects without federal help. "They really are most excited ‘about projects [states] are paying for' and not the federal government. Want states to help themselves," read Zarrin's email.

Gribbin did not respond to an interview request.

The White House has aggressively courted states on infrastructure. In December, Trump's transition team requested a list of "shovel-ready" projects from governors. The White House also met in June with a group of county officials, mayors and Native American leaders to discuss infrastructure needs. The vast majority of those in attendance were Republicans.

Through the National Governor's Association, governors submitted a list of projects to the White House. Union officials, infrastructure consultants and campaign aides also submitted requests. It isn't certain whether White House officials are relying on those lists as it crafts its policy.

Others say they weren't approached to submit a list of projects. Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, who served as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors through June, said his organization wasn't solicited. He's skeptical that any plan relying solely on private investment will work.

"I wouldn't get overly optimistic that the private sector is going to come to the rescue for America's infrastructure projects," Cornett said. "I don't think that's likely. And if that's the hope and dream, then we're probably going to be waiting a long, long time."

Cornett said that it's often cheaper for government officials to finance projects through government borrowing. He says cities, counties and states with a solid credit rating will likely get a cheaper rate than the private sector.

...Texas State Highway 130 offers a vivid example of how Trump's vision for infrastructure could spark projects. It also shows how some Texans have revolted against toll roads that have been privately financed.

In 2012, Gov. Rick Perry appeared at the grand opening of the highway. His speech focused on how the 41-mile stretch of road between San Antonio and Austin would reduce congestion on another busy freeway, Interstate 35. Perry, who now serves as Energy Secretary in the Trump Administration, also targeted critics of privatization.

"When we debated this concept back in 2003, there was no shortage of individuals both inside and outside the Capitol that said it wouldn't work," Perry said at the time. "Today's proof that the concept is complete, and it can be seen in concrete and asphalt."

His vision focused on the financing of public and private toll roads to spur road construction. The record shows Perry was successful.

A state report last year showed 53 toll roads spanning 671 miles in Texas. Many were built in the past two decades. Some, like State Highway 130, are privately operated. Others are managed by local governments or the state.

State officials claim that 10 public-private partnerships established since 2003 have generated $17 billion in construction. And Marc Williams, deputy executive director of the state's transportation department, said public-private financing was critical to speedy completion.

But swift, private construction and tolling doesn't guarantee a healthy return on investment. In 2016, the SH 130 Concession Company, which built the highway, declared bankruptcy. The firm-- owned by Cintra, a Spanish company, and a consortium of Australian entities-- cited less traffic than projected, according to bankruptcy records.

The combination hasn't proven politically popular, either.

Critics say the financial failure should be a warning to the Trump Administration about the unpopularity of toll roads in Texas. "If you want to lose a voter, the fastest way you do it is to take $300 or $400 out of their pocket every month," said Terri Hall, who runs Texans for Toll-Free Highways.

Hall, a Republican who says she voted for Trump, intends to lobby against increased private investment in transportation. She said Trump and others who back privatization will have a political problem on their hands. "They're going to have a rude awakening if they think that this is going to be something acceptable to the average Joe," she said.

Hall's lobbying appears to have been successful in Texas. Gov. Gregg Abbott opposes more toll roads, and the Texas House of Representatives defeated a bill in May that would have allowed communities to negotiate private financing for 10 projects.

No matter; Texas communities seem undaunted and state transportation officials are still lobbying the Trump Administration to include an expansion of I-635 in its infrastructure plans.

Douglas Athas, mayor of Garland, Texas, said private investors are interested in expanding the highway from 10 lanes to 15 lanes. He said the $1.6 billion proposal would ensure the project is finished more quickly. The program relied on allowing the investors to collect tolls on a few of the managed lanes that run near existing lanes.

Like the federal government, Texas has not raised the gas tax since the early 1990s, which has slowed new road construction that's led to congestion as the state's population soars.

"Politicians are scrambling to solve a problem," said David Ellis, a research scientist at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, and manager of the Infrastructure Investment Analysis Program. He said some toll roads, specifically in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, have been effective. After all, said Ellis, while no one likes paying a toll, the alternative is waiting in traffic.

Drivers along SH130 say they've been forced to weigh those options.

D.J. Shaw, a daily commuter on that Texas highway, said he hates paying $15 a day in tolls to drive from Seguin to Del Valle. But he said it's better than spending an extra 30 minutes on I-35. "It costs so much money and there's no other way to go," he said. "Nobody likes sitting on I-35 so they kind of got you cornered."

Williams, the state transportation official, said the legislative action means it's unlikely that any new toll roads will be financed over the next two years. But he's confident his department will secure federal funding when Trump's infrastructure plan is introduced. Williams also said Texas will spend as much as $3 billion a year more on transportation projects after voters approved a ballot measure dedicating general fund money to projects.

...[C]ritics and even some supporters of public-private partnerships warn that the public loses control over infrastructure assets when a deal is done. A citizen upset with a road project or a new toll, for example, can't complain to an elected official and get relief.

"When you enter into the P3, you now have a third party that is now in the process," said Aubrey Layne, Jr., Virginia's Secretary of Transportation.

Unwinding a deal, he says, no longer means taking a vote in the Legislature or at a city council meeting. Instead, private investors want something in return if a government reopens a contract.

Layne said governments going into P3 agreements need contractual precision and an amount of prescience because deals could last decades.

Moreover, attorneys and financial consultants are critical to protect the public's interest, he said, because private investors are typically armed with savvy financial analysts, lawyers and contractors who have negotiated these complex deals in the past.

Cities and counties, particularly those with smaller population centers, may not have the same experience or budget to retain a high level of expertise to protect their interests. "These are some of the most sophisticated investors in the world you're going to be negotiating with," Layne said, cautioning that naivete will result in a bad deal for the public.

Cohen from In the Public Interest analyzes the choice more cynically, saying that too many policy leaders look for private investment instead of making the difficult choice of raising taxes. He said there's little worry because the policy leaders often leave office before there's blowback from an increase in fees or tolls. "They don't have to answer the question in eight years about what happened to the tolls when they're tripled," Cohen said.

In fact, a key selling point of public-private partnerships has been the financial protection of taxpayers. The private sector typically assumes most of the risk in the deal. When the private backers of the Indiana toll road filed for bankruptcy in 2014, for example, taxpayers there didn't see a loss.

However, that's not always the case.

At least three times in the past seven years taxpayers have been on the hook for business failures, each stemming from a federal loan program-- called the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA)-- which President Trump wants to grow.

The program helps finance transportation projects through direct loans, loan guarantees and lines of credit. In budget documents, the Trump Administration claims TIFIA is a success.

"One dollar of TIFIA subsidy leverages roughly $40 in project value. If the amount of TIFIA subsidy was increased to $1 billion annually for 10 years, that could leverage up to $140 billion in credit assistance, and approximately $424 billion in total investment," the document states.

But TIFIA loans have put taxpayers at risk:
In 2010, the private investors of the South Bay Expressway in California declared bankruptcy. When the investors emerged from bankruptcy in 2011, the U.S. Department of Transportation took a $47 million loss on a $140 million loan that helped finance the road.

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Transportation sold a federal loan it held on the Pocahontas Parkway in Virginia to private investors at a 59 percent loss. Anthony Foxx, who was the Transportation secretary, said he chose to sell the loan after private investors signaled they were losing money on the nearly 9-mile toll road near Richmond.

And the bankrupt Texas highway-- State Highway 130-- was initially financed with a $430 million federal loan. It emerged from bankruptcy in June with new ownership and $260 million in new financing. The federal government received $16 million for the loan.
The Texas agreement also brings an ironic twist: The investors who insisted the private sector could manage transportation projects better than the public sector will now answer to a new owner: the federal government, which now has a 34 percent stake in the toll road.
"I think you only need to look at Texas to get an idea of what Trump’s infrastructure plan will look like down the road," said Tom Wakely, an economic populist who is running for Texas governor on a progressive platform. "Texas infrastructure, roads, bridges and damns, is to be kind in shambles but if we are telling the truth it is nothing short of FUBAR. Decades of failed Republican policies that emphasized private infrastructure money back by government guarantees over sound fiscal public infrastructure investment have left Texans sitting in traffic for hours.

Tom Wakely 
"A perfect example of this is Texas Toll Road 130. It was by built 130 Concession Co., a joint venture between Cintra, a Spanish developer and Zachry Construction Co., a San Antonio based company. It was build with a half-billion dollars in federal loans and another billion or so in private loans but it is nothing more than a 41 mile highway of broken concrete and promises. It was built by Republican Governor Rick Perry, now Trump’s Energy Secretary. The highway connects San Antonio and Austin but only if you drive a hell out of your way to get there. It causes flooding in nearby towns. It is nothing more than a public albatross and private get rich quick scheme.

"Another example of an infrastructure project here in Texas that is surely headed for bankruptcy is the flawed Vista Ridge pipeline. It is a $3.4 billion water project requiring the construction of a 142 mile pipeline from San Antonio north to rural Burleson County. This transfer of water will be the biggest in Texas history and has been described by financial advisers as one of the U.S.’ largest public-private partnerships in the water sector. To put it bluntly, it is morally wrong to grow a city like San Antonio by taking water from a distant ecosystem which will eventually need that water."

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