Donald Cohen

Donald Cohen is Executive Director of In the Public Interest.

Recent Articles

Trump's Infrastructure Plan: Fiction? Scam? Actually, Both

The plan’s not about building more. It’s about privatizing what’s already there.

(Photo by Oliver Contreras/SIPA USA via AP Images)
Fiction: invention or fabrication as opposed to fact; belief or statement that is false, but that is often held to be true because it is expedient to do so Scam: a dishonest scheme; a fraud First, it’s a fiction. There is no $1.5 trillion plan. It’s $200 billion—that’s all the federal government says it’s going to spend—but then it’s not that either. That $200 billion doesn’t factor in the billions in cuts to transportation, water, energy, and other projects. The Highway Trust Fund that states and cities rely on is zeroed out. Budgetary shell games (a.k.a. budget cuts) are not the new investment that will fill the gaping need in American drinking water, waste water disposal, transit, roads, bridges and other vital infrastructure. Paul Krugman summed it up in a tweet: “So the real net spending on infrastructure being proposed is basically zero. All that's left is an effort to privatize things that can make profits.”...

Public Infrastructure as Stealth Privatization

Trump’s infrastructure plans could raise costs, enrich financiers, and fleece the public.

AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File
Donald Trump hasn’t released an infrastructure plan but has given a good sense of the direction his administration will take. His proposal will likely use giant tax breaks to spur a massive increase in private control of public infrastructure in what David Dayen called a “privatization fire sale.” Trump will be able to say the plan will both mean no new taxes and guaranteed profits for investors for decades. It’s too good to be true. There’s no doubt America needs a massive infrastructure upgrade. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates nearly $4 trillion in needs including decades of deferred maintenance of our drinking and waste water systems, our roads and bridges and more, as well as new infrastructure such as light rail and broadband communications needed respond to 21st century challenges and opportunities. The battle in D.C. will be over four things: Whether and how much we decide to invest in public infrastructure at all, how we pay for...

California in Crisis

With a dysfunctional state government unable to act, the universities, schools, and roads that were once the model for the nation are crumbling -- if not collapsing.

California is broken -- and broke. Its K-12 public schools, roads, levies, aqueducts, parks, and bridges; its health-care system; home health care for the elderly and disabled; and even its once-envied public universities are all crumbling from long-term neglect and underfunding. State employees have been forced to take three unpaid furlough days per month -- equal to a 14 percent pay cut. Every public service and every community across the state has taken a hit. Emily Merchant, 27, saw the number of students in her San Diego kindergarten classroom double in one year. "I love teaching, but now I'm looking at other options," she laments. "It's too exhausting to do this forever and do my best for the students." In Sacramento, the municipal fire department has slashed $2.1 million from its budget by shutting down some water-bearing trucks, a decision that could put lives and property at risk. The state adopted a budget in July that cut 585,000 children from the popular Healthy Families...