President Obama still hasn't learned the classic First Rule of Holes: When you're in one, stop digging. Up to his earlobes in failed stimulus grants and tainted federal loan guarantees, the shoveler in chief tunneled forward this week on his latest Government Loans to Nowhere bill. His willful ignorance is America's abyss.
Little noticed in the White House jobs-for-cronies proposal is a provision creating yet another corruption-friendly "government corporation" that would dole out public infrastructure loans and loan guarantees.
Because, you know, the government-chartered, political hack-stacked Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac "public-private partnerships" -- which have incurred an estimated $400 billion in losses while enriching bipartisan Beltway operatives -- worked out so well for American taxpayers.
The new monstrosity, dubbed the "American Infrastructure Financing Authority" (AIFA), would "provide direct loans and loan guarantees to facilitate investment in economically viable infrastructure projects of regional or national significance," according to the White House plan.
President Obama would have the power to appoint AIFA's chief executive officer and a seven-member board of directors. No doubt the nominees would include the likes of AFL-CIO Chief Richard Trumka on the left and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on the right -- strange Obama bedfellows who have formed a Big Labor-Big Business-Big Government alliance supporting Obama's infrastructure slush fund.
In addition, a new bureaucracy to support AIFA would be created, including a "Chief Lending Officer" in charge of "all functions of AIFA relating to the development of project pipeline, financial structuring of projects, selection of infrastructure projects"; the "creation and management of a Center for Excellence to provide technical assistance to public sector borrowers in the development and financing of infrastructure projects"; and creation and funding of "an Office of Rural Assistance to provide technical assistance in the development and financing of rural infrastructure projects."
In its first two years, AIFA would rake in $10 billion in congressional appropriations; $20 billion over the next seven years; and $50 billion per fiscal year after that. How would Obama ensure the loan review process is protected from special interest favor-trading and White House meddling? If the ongoing, half-billion-dollar stimulus-funded Solyndra solar company loan debacle is any indication, the answer is: not very well.
And consider Obama's naked partisan stunt on Thursday at the Brent Spence Bridge connecting GOP House Speaker John Boehner's home state of Ohio and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's home state of Kentucky. "There's no reason for Republicans in Congress to stand in the way of more construction projects. There's no reason to stand in the way of more jobs," he railed. "Mr. Boehner, Mr. McConnell, help us rebuild this bridge. Help us rebuild America. Help us put this country back to work. Pass this jobs bill right away!"
While he has high-mindedly called on "Washington" (as if he isn't at the center of it) to put country over politics, he continues to use tax dollars to travel the country for campaign events assailing Republicans in front of decrepit bridges that wouldn't see a dime of his "immediate" jobs bill money for years. If ever.
The point was made not by evil GOP obstructionists, but by the local Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper, which pointed out that the Brent Spence Bridge is not named in Obama's jobs bill, has no guarantee of funding in the jobs bill, and "is still in the preliminary engineering and environmental clearance phase. In a best case scenario, the earliest that workers would be hired would be in 2013, but more likely 2015."
It gets worse. Obama's infrastructure loan corps wouldn't just oversee bridge loans to nowhere. The AIFA board would get to dispense billions and score political points for their favorite photo-op-ready roads, mass transit, inland waterways, commercial ports, airports, air traffic control systems, passenger rail, high-speed rail, freight rail, wastewater treatment facilities, storm water management systems, dams, solid-waste disposal facilities, drinking water treatment facilities, levees, power transmission and distribution, storage, and energy-efficiency enhancements for buildings.
As I reported in my Tuesday column, a separate $6 billion "private nonprofit corporation" would be created by the Obama jobs plan to oversee the "Public Safety Broadband Corporation." The panel would consist of 11 board members and four Obama administration officials. It, too, would be tasked with choosing winners and losers. Instead of local and state governments overseeing construction, this new federally created investing entity would "hold the single public safety wireless license granted under section 281 and take all actions necessary to ensure the building, deployment, and operation of a secure and resilient nationwide public safety interoperable broadband network."
Given last week's bombshell revelations of White House pressure on military and government officials to promote the president's old broadband cronies at shady LightSquared Inc., the idea of empowering a new Obama bureaucracy to dole out more broadband contracts in the name of "public safety" is unsettling at best. Deeper and deeper we go.