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Rebuilding America
Trump’s Infrastructure Plan Faces PR Hurdle

President-elect Donald Trump’s plan to rebuild American infrastructure with public-private partnerships faces an uphill public relations battle, a new poll suggests:

A majority of Americans oppose the type of infrastructure proposal that has been floated by President-elect Donald Trump, which could further spell trouble for his promised $1 trillion package, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Sixty-six percent of respondents said they oppose a plan to offer nearly $140 billion in federal tax credits to private investors that back transportation projects, with 44 percent indicating they “strongly” oppose such a proposal and 22 percent “somewhat” against it.

Of the 29 percent of people who said that they support the plan, 11 percent are in strong support and 18 percent somewhat agree with the idea. Six percent of respondents had no opinion.

It’s hard to know how reflective these polls really are of the political mood around infrastructure — if roads get built in the end without a big tax hike, will people really care how it happened? It’s also possible that Americans, many of whom live in places without toll roads, are turned off by the idea of paying for what is currently a free public good. But it nonetheless seems clear that privatization will create easy opportunities to attack Trump and that his Republican (and Democratic) allies need to think about how to communicate the benefits of harnessing private investment for public infrastructure projects. In the main, this means they need to highlight the relative speed and efficiency private firms can bring to construction.

But the Trump administration also will have to contend with the uglier consequences and optics of privatization. Among them: the likely involvement of foreign money, the worries that private companies will be allowed to hike tolls beyond reason, and the many opportunities for graft and special dealing that privatization creates. There are ways for all of these concerns to be mitigated with smart legislation and strong regulatory protections—not the red tape that slows things down, but rather duct tape that holds things together.

If Trump can strike the right balance, we’ve repeatedly said we think Americans will be surprised by how well public-private partnerships can work. But it isn’t going to be easy.

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  • FriendlyGoat

    1) Comparing red tape and duct tape is a “good one”.

    2) If anyone knows what “smart legislation and strong regulatory protections” are, would they please tell the American people and send a “cc” to Congress?

  • RedWell

    And what is the right balance? The real issue, as I see it, is not public vs private vs public-private but competent and careful implementation. Both the right and left wield big clubs to solves these issues, and neither winds being very effective.

  • Fat_Man

    Would this be the same poll that said Hillary is the President elect?

    In a prior millennium, I did time as a graduate student in social science. There I worked on polling data produced by one of the leading national academic polls. It was, and I am confident that it still is, junk.

    It was afflicted with several problems. One major one was that the questions were asked in language that political junkies would understand, but which ordinary men found opaque. The people who read this website know what is meant by the words such as conservative and liberal. Note, dictionary meanings are not useful. Poll questions asked with such words cannot produce meaningful consistent answers. Indeed, my research showed that there was no relationship among terms assumed to be polar opposites (i.e. conservative & liberal) and between them and policy questions.

    Further. Polling is a social activity. Most people avoid conflict with strangers. Poll subjects and poll takers are negotiating a social relationship while questions are asked and answered, and the subjects responses most likely tell us more about his relationship with the poll taker, than about his opinions.

    Finally, since that era, polling has gotten worse. In those olden days, polls were often conducted face to face. Now they are by telephone only. But, the deterioration of the landline subscriber base, call screening, and popular aversion to telephonic spam have reduced response rates into the microscopic.

    The punch line is that polling is not very worthwhile, especially when it is directed to abstract question like exact policy structures.

    Actually, the recent election is an excellent example of this. The polls that showed Hillary as winning the national popular vote total were correct. She did win that. Trump will be inaugurated on Friday because he won the electoral vote contest. The national level polls simply did not ask the relevant question. Who would win states with the highest total of electoral votes.

    Final bottom line. Stories about polling results have no value.

  • CapitalHawk

    Two thirds of Americans oppose these “public-private partnerships” eh? If only that number were higher.
    First, the term “public-private partnership” is a misnomer, what it really is is partial public financing of privately owned infrastructure, for which the public is charged a fee to use. So, I guess there is a public-private partnership there – the public pays (in the form of subsidies for building and user fees) and the private gets. Kind of like what happened on Wall Street in 2008 and 2009 – the banksters made the profits and the public paid the losses. Fewer of those deals, please.
    Second, this just accelerates the sale and dissipation of our national “seed corn”. Taxes WILL NOT go down as a result of these partnerships and instead those monies will be used to continue to feather the nests of overpaid government pensioners and delay the real, hard choices that must be made.
    Third, these are, everywhere and forever and by their nature, extremely regressive. Toll roads, bridges and other “user fees” on things that were previously provided to the public free of charge are extremely regressive taxes – where the poor pay either in terms of dollars or time.
    These should be opposed by all right thinking people.

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