The bipartisan infrastructure proposal revealed Thursday has a long list of pay-fors. Among them is something called "asset recycling," or, as it might otherwise be known, "a fancy way of turning public infrastructure into private infrastructure."
But how exactly? And how might such an operation help the government fund a $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal? Per research and policy organization In The Public Interest, asset recycling sells off public goods like "roads, water systems, and electric utilities" with the intent of using lease money to fund new infrastructure. Proponents say asset recycling "builds upon itself."
Critics, however, are far less convinced. In practice, they argue, asset recycling would "fleece the country's public works, the common institutions we all paid to build, and allow private companies to control them," writes The American Prospect. As HuffPost's Kevin Robillard notes, we can take Australia, the birthplace of asset recycling, as an example. Officials ended the practice after just two years, saying they were "concerned" the initiative encouraged privatization "without appropriate consideration or analysis of future costs," per ITPI. A similar venture in Chicago wherein the city sold 36,000 parking meters to Wall Street investors has continued to prove itself a headache for officials and taxpayers alike, reports the Prospect.
Although Democrats condemned the practice when it was favored by the Trump administration, they appear to be "mostly silent" in their criticism now, the Prospect notes. However, as Robillard points out, it might be just the progressives who stick up their nose this time around.