On the politics of infrastructure point, a little item the in-tray this morning is priceless.
Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs tweets this morning from Beijing: “Arrived in China, as always impressed by condition of airport, roads, cell service, etc. US needs to invest in infrastructure to keep up!”
So far so normal. But this is Blankfein’s THIRD tweet, total. He joined Twitter on Thursday to attack Trump over Paris.
World Economic Forum – the Davos website – immediately picks up the story and notes: “Interestingly, Blankfein’s tweet comes amid Trump’s infrastructure push. The president announced a plan to privatize and modernize the US air traffic control system on Monday and will deliver a speech in Ohio highlighting his plans for a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure.”
It also reminds its readers that “Trump frequently took aim at Goldman Sachs during his campaign, and Blankfein was even featured in an unflattering light in one of Trump’s advertisements.” Oddly it adorns the article with a picture of what looks like the Federal Reserve building with a security guard in front of it.
And then provides the usual alarmist diagram about America’s infrastructure needs.
As the WEF notes, Blankfein isnt the only “major bank CEO to point out China’s more updated infrastructure. In an interview with Business Insider in May, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon also made a similar point.”
“Then there is infrastructure,” Dimon said. “You might be shocked to find out, we haven’t built a major airport for 20 years. China built 75 in the past 10 years.”
And where does Dimon immediately go, to the question of delays and inefficiency which he, in familiar style, turns towards a question of national character and business regulation: “It takes 10 years to get all the permits to build a bridge today. Ten years? What happened to the good old can-do America?”
Goldman, by the way, has an infrastructure fund business which has raised $ 10 bn since 2006 and is looking to invest in OECD airports etc.
The Washington Post connects the dots: Goldman Sachs, for example, is part of a team that paid more than $1 billion in 2011 for a 40-year contract to operate two toll roads in Puerto Rico. Trump’s infrastructure plan is being developed by a task force led by Goldman alum, Gary Cohn, who now serves as director of the National Economic Council. In Trump’s budget proposal, the administration called for spending $200 billion in federal funds over 10 years in hopes of attracting another $800 billion in private funding for the projects, possibly by privatizing some public assets. On Monday, Trump endorsed a proposal to privatize the nation’s air traffic controllers and upgrade the industry’s technology. The administration also has floated the idea of paying state and local governments a bonus for selling off some of their public assets to private interests. Those companies would in turn make profits by charging fees. The world’s biggest financial firms would undoubtedly have a hand in financing such large-scale projects. Like Goldman Sachs, BlackRock and Morgan Stanley also have established massive funds to back infrastructure projects. Saudi Arabia recently pledged $20 billion to Blackstone for a fund that will invest in U.S. infrastructure. Blackstone is led by Steve Schwarzman, who is close to Trump and leads the White House’s economic advisory council of CEOs.”
This is the deal that Ted Fertik and Anusar Farooqui have recently been discussing on facebook.
Infrastructure is a rogue elephant in microeconomic, macroeconomic and ideological terms.