Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., has once again earned his nickname: Thurston B. Howell III. He's elite, effete and so hopelessly out of touch with reality that his latest solution to America's fiscal profligacy is ... more fiscal profligacy, of course, Lovey! On Tuesday, Kerry introduced a $10 billion infrastructure bank bill that would engineer yet another federal taxpayer boondoggle benefiting Big Labor and favored Big Business interests.
Kerry finagled support from Texas GOP Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, AFL-CIO brass knuckler-in-chief Richard Trumka, statist U.S. Chamber of Commerce head Tom Donohue, and the far-left Center for American Progress. Like spinning straw into gold, the Kerry coalition promises to leverage $10 billion in unidentified funds into $640 billion for crumbling roads and bridges.
This new recipe for expansive government is actually not a "new" idea. It's an old recycled one borrowed from former corruptocrat Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd, who sponsored a bill to create a federally operated "infrastructure bank" in 2007. President Obama tried to get $5 billion in funding for one in his 2010 budget, and $4 billion is proposed for one in his 2011 budget.
Connecticut Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro is pushing a House version — and her lavish pipe-dream plans tell you all you need to know about what a disastrous, costly slush fund this thing would inevitably morph into (TARP redux plus stimulus redux plus Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac redux = abysmal failure redux):
"The program, which would make loans much like the World Bank, would finance projects with the potential to transform whole regions, or even the national economy, the way the interstate highway system and the first transcontinental railway once did," The New York Times reported last fall. "In an interview, Ms. DeLauro said she would be 'looking at a broader base,' meaning the bank would finance not just roads and rails, but also telecommunications, water, drainage, green energy and other large-scale works."
Green energy? Bright red flag. Like Stimulus I, which was initially intended to put infrastructure spending first but evolved into a multipurpose slush fund that put infrastructure last, the Kerry-Dodd-DeLauro-Obama "infrastructure bank" envisioned by progressives on Capitol Hill would be plundered to finance "green energy" and "other large-scale works" based on "social benefits" determined by a panel of cronies appointed by the president.
The social justice infrastructure "bank" would be anything but a bank in the normal sense of the word. Ron Utt at the Washington-based Heritage Foundation exposed the farce: "This bank would be capitalized by federal appropriations to leverage a greater volume of debt borrowed under the full faith and credit of the federal government. In turn the bank would use these funds to finance eligible infrastructure projects. While these proposed entities — and similar ones that exist in the states from earlier legislation — are described as 'banks,' they are no such thing."
In other words: The infrastructure banks would borrow more money the government doesn't have to dole out grants that wouldn't be paid back and don't require interest payments. All's well that ends well in the land of make-believe austerity.
Unsurprisingly, Big Labor biggie Andy Stern, former head of the Service Employees International Union and an Obama confidante, is glomming on to the infrastructure bank idea to push a new overseas profit tax on multinational corporations. Brilliant: Impose new double-taxes on American businesses that no other country imposes, reduce competitiveness, induce companies to incorporate outside the U.S., and then put union bosses in charge of redistributing the $30 billion punitive windfall.
Supporters also compare the infrastructure bank plan to the U.S. Export-Import Bank — an idea that, as Washington Examiner reporter Tim Carney rightly notes, "epitomizes corporate welfare. It also is a prime example of unaccountability. The agency is independent of any cabinet department, and it hands out loans and loan guarantees basically at its own discretion. ... (I)t's kind of like Fannie Mae was, before its exposure became real and the taxpayers had to come in and bail it out. So, Kerry wants to create Fannie Pave, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce loves the idea: a bunch of free money that seems to cost nothing."
Who pays? Ordinary taxpayers, nonunion contractors and businesses that don't pander to the Obama White House.
Remember: In his first weeks in office, Obama signed union-friendly executive order 13502, which essentially forces contractors who bid on large-scale public construction projects worth $25 million or more to submit to union representation for their employees. The project labor agreement racket requires contractors to hand over exclusive bargaining control; to pay inflated, above-market wages and benefits; and to fork over dues money and pension funding to corrupt, cash-starved labor organizations.
Higher taxes. Union favoritism. Crony capitalism. Left-wing special interest wish list. We're on the road to another irreparable taxpayer sinkhole. You can bank on that.
Michelle Malkin is the author of "Culture of Corruption: Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks & Cronies" (Regnery 2010). Her e-mail address is email@example.com.