The Details of How Obama is Selling America to Corporations

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FA Note: A Pub­lic-Pri­vate Part­ner­ship, or “P3” as below is usu­al­ly billed as an “inno­v­a­tive” financ­ing scheme where­by a gov­ern­ment ser­vice or pri­vate busi­ness ven­ture is fund­ed and oper­at­ed through a part­ner­ship of gov­ern­ment and one or more pri­vate sec­tor com­pa­nies. In infra­struc­ture P3s, tax­pay­ers can expect being charged user fees, such as tolls, on roads orig­i­nal­ly built at tax­pay­er expense, which become the prop­er­ty of pri­vate industry.

The Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion has announced a plan to build “a 21st-cen­tu­ry infra­struc­ture” that is run by pri­vate sec­tor cor­po­ra­tions because of their abil­i­ty to finance these projects.

Accord­ing to a “fact sheet” pub­lished by the White House, the pres­i­dent “is announc­ing new steps that fed­er­al agen­cies are tak­ing to bring pri­vate sec­tor cap­i­tal and exper­tise to bear on improv­ing our nation’s roads, bridges, and broad­band networks.”

The cre­ation of the Water Finance Cen­ter (WFC) with­in the Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency (EPA) coin­cides with the imple­men­ta­tion of the Rur­al Oppor­tu­ni­ty Invest­ment Ini­tia­tive (ROII), a new divi­sion of the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture (USDA) to assist “local and state gov­ern­ments access fed­er­al loan and grant pro­grams to get more projects off the ground.”

This neces­si­tates “a new set of infra­struc­ture tax pro­pos­als that will lev­el the play­ing field for projects that com­bine pub­lic and pri­vate invest­ment so that local and state gov­ern­ments can more eas­i­ly work with the pri­vate sec­tor to advance the pub­lic interest.”

In essence, the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion is push­ing “the impor­tance of these crit­i­cal invest­ments” (i.e. a part­ner­ship between cor­po­ra­tions and gov­ern­ment) to ensure employ­ment, facil­i­tate job cre­ation, assist entre­pre­neurs and boost the US economy.

The WFC will infil­trate man­ag­ing drink­ing and waste water needs for the next 2 decades by work­ing “close­ly with munic­i­pal and state gov­ern­ments, util­i­ties and pri­vate sec­tor part­ners to use fed­er­al grants to attract more pri­vate cap­i­tal into projects and pro­mote mod­els of pub­lic pri­vate col­lab­o­ra­tion that can address the real needs of cities and towns to pro­vide safe water, rebuild sew­er sys­tems, and keep streams and rivers clean.”

By seek­ing out pri­vate cor­po­rate invest­ments, the WFC will be empow­ered to:

  • Bring inno­v­a­tive finan­cial tools such as pub­lic pri­vate part­ner­ships to the water sec­tor to get more projects off the ground
  • Help inter­est­ed local and state gov­ern­ments to bring pri­vate sec­tor invest­ment and exper­tise into water sys­tem con­struc­tion and management
  • Bring togeth­er investors and project spon­sors; high­light promis­ing deals; pro­vide peer-to-peer learn­ing and work­shops; and devel­op case stud­ies and toolkits
  • Work with states to max­i­mize the ben­e­fits of more than $3 bil­lion in annu­al fed­er­al water investments
  • Explore financ­ing alter­na­tives, engage the pri­vate sec­tor and attract investment
  • Work with on-the-ground part­ners to pro­vide finan­cial train­ing and tech­ni­cal assis­tance to small com­mu­ni­ties and rur­al water systems

In par­al­lel, the ROII will be tasked with iden­ti­fy­ing “oppor­tu­ni­ties for invest­ment in promis­ing rur­al water, ener­gy, and broad­band projects, reduce bar­ri­ers to invest­ment, and con­nect projects with investors.”

With the ROII bring­ing cor­po­ra­tions to invest­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties with the US gov­ern­ment and the WFC dic­tat­ing how indi­vid­ual state gov­ern­ments can pro­ceed with allo­cat­ing their nat­ur­al and munic­i­pal resources, the pro­ject­ed prof­it mar­gin for larg­er cor­po­ra­tions could be a tempt­ing lucra­tive investment.

To accel­er­ate growth the ROII will:

  • Facil­i­tate and cat­alyze rur­al invest­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties for the pub­lic and pri­vate sectors
  • Look to gen­er­ate and facil­i­tate rur­al invest­ment through USDA field staff across the coun­try and strength­en rela­tion­ships with the pri­vate sector
  • Focus on oppor­tu­ni­ties to lever­age pri­vate sec­tor financ­ing against the over $30 bil­lion in exist­ing USDA pro­grams and resources to pro­vide fund­ing to vital rur­al infra­struc­ture projects; includ­ing water and waste­water sys­tems, ener­gy effi­cien­cy improve­ments, broad­band net­works, and oth­er rur­al infra­struc­ture needs

The USDA has already involved pri­vate finances with “the $10 bil­lion CoBank rur­al infra­struc­ture fund [deal] between CoBank and Cap­i­tal Peak Asset Man­age­ment and a $150 mil­lion Rur­al Busi­ness Invest­ment Company.”

In order to ensure that cor­po­ra­tions are able to invest in US infra­struc­ture unfet­tered, the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion is “lev­el­ing the play­ing field for munic­i­pal­i­ties seek­ing pub­lic pri­vate part­ner­ships by propos­ing the cre­ation of an inno­v­a­tive new kind of munic­i­pal bond, Qual­i­fied Pub­lic Infra­struc­ture Bonds (QPIB).”

QPIB will “com­bine pub­lic own­er­ship with pri­vate sec­tor man­age­ment and oper­a­tions exper­tise” in order to give cor­po­ra­tions the abil­i­ty to pur­chase “munic­i­pal bonds” that pro­vide “long-term leas­ing and man­age­ment con­tracts” ben­e­fit­ing invest­ment cap­i­tal­ists and low­er “the cost of borrowing.”

The Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion would envi­sions QPIB func­tion­ing just as the Pri­vate Activ­i­ty Bond (PAB) pro­gram with the inten­tion of expand­ing the ini­tia­tive to include “financ­ing for air­ports, ports, mass tran­sit, sol­id waste dis­pos­al, sew­er, and water, as well as for more sur­face trans­porta­tion projects.”

With­out an expi­ra­tion date, the QPIB will also offer to cor­po­ra­tions the assur­ance of “no issuance caps” as well as not being “sub­ject to the alter­na­tive min­i­mum tax (AMT).”

Not all cor­po­ra­tions can ben­e­fit from the QPIB because the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion has pro­hib­it­ed “pri­vate­ly-owned facil­i­ties or pri­va­ti­za­tions of pub­lic facil­i­ties” from par­tic­i­pat­ing in the program.

In addi­tion, the devel­op­ment of the Trans­porta­tion Invest­ment Cen­ter (TIC) at the Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion (DoT) will bridge local and state gov­ern­ments with cor­po­ra­tions who are ready to invest in “project plan­ning, and attract­ing investors for U.S. projects from around the world through the Selec­tUSA Pro­gram (SUSAP).”

With 13 projects on the table at the DoT cost­ing $7.5 bil­lion, the TIC would be able to pro­vide $25 bil­lion in “infra­struc­ture invest­ments” from pri­vate cor­po­ra­tions to expe­dite the rebuild­ing of high­ways, port bridges, tun­nels and pub­lic transportation.

The TIC will also be tasked with:

  • Releas­ing new products
  • Sup­ple­men­tal pro­vi­sions for toll con­ces­sion mod­el contracts
  • A new guide on incor­po­rat­ing Fed­er­al-aid fund­ing into P3s
  • Devel­op mod­el con­tracts that show how trans­porta­tion projects can advance “high-road” labor practices
  • Cre­ate good, mid­dle-class jobs and ben­e­fit cur­rent and aspir­ing work­ers alike
  • Pro­vide an exam­ple for oth­er fed­er­al agen­cies as they work to sup­port pub­lic pri­vate part­ner­ships mov­ing forward