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Trump Ghost Town Inauguration

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SHARMINI PERIES: It’s The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore.

While protestors and police are clashing on the inaugural parade route in Washington, D.C., the newly sworn-in President of the United States is lunching with the establishment in Washington — Some of the very people he called out in his inaugural address. Let’s have a look.

DONALD TRUMP: We are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the people.

CROWD: (applause)

DONALD TRUMP: For too long a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished but the people did not share in its wealth.

SHARMINI PERIES: On to discuss with me all of this is Michael Hudson. Michael has a new book out, “J is for Junk Economics: A Guide to Reality in the Age of Deception” (February 2017). Michael is a Distinguished Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. Thanks for joining us, Michael.

MICHAEL HUDSON: Good to be here.

SHARMINI PERIES: So, Michael, that first, I think it’s the third or fourth paragraph in, where he really talks about the establishment, how it benefitted Washington, I would think you would have objection to that.

MICHAEL HUDSON: Well, the establishment he talked about wasn’t really Wall Street. He said, “When Washington got rich.” Bernie Sanders would have said, “When Wall Street got rich, the country didn’t.” So I think when Donald Trump says “Washington,” what he means is the government regulatory agencies. He’s going to cut them back. And what he means is that the IRS, the tax collectors, he’s going to cut them back by cutting taxes on all the Americans, meaning all of the 1% that are his Americans.

So, basically, you’re seeing a cutback in government. I’m sure you will see a cutback in the CIA and the NSA that are parts of the Democratic National Committee and their Hillary supporters. So I think there is going to be a fight within the foreign policy and the national security establishment. But I think that what Trump is really doing is going to be supporting the same 1% that President Obama and George Bush were supporting.

SHARMINI PERIES: Right. And that’s pretty evident with the cabinet he’s lining up, as well — the richest cabinet in U.S. history. And he’s actually taking from the very establishment in Washington, as well as Wall Street. So I’m sure it’ll be doubled down on, in terms of the kind of establishment we’re talking about.

Michael, President Trump said something very interesting about building America, and building America in his own image, I think. Let’s have a look at what he had to say.

DONALD TRUMP: We will build new roads and highways and bridges and airports and tunnels and railways all across our wonderful nation. We will get our people off of welfare and back to work rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor. We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and hire American.

SHARMINI PERIES: So, Michael, what does he mean by this kind of infrastructure building?

MICHAEL HUDSON: Well, he’s talked a lot about infrastructure and there are a lot of different ways of doing infrastructure. I don’t think his way will be the way that it was done a hundred years ago. The whole idea of the Republican Party in the 19th century was for the government to finance infrastructure, and especially transportation, to lower the cost of living and doing business. But I don’t think that’s what Trump is going to do, because he wants to cut back government spending and he wants to cut back taxation. So what I worry about is when he says, “I’m going to build infrastructure” is that it means that he’s going to create a huge trillion-dollar market for Wall Street’s high finance.

They’re going to fund infrastructure by bondholders, and through private-public partnership, rail lines and transportation lines. Who are going to be the beneficiaries of this, and who’s going to pay for it all? If the government doesn’t pay for it, it’s going to be the bondholders and Wall Street. And the question is what is the cost of this transportation going to be, and who will be the main beneficiaries?

A hundred years ago, it was to build free roads and it was to lower the cost of living. But the reverse is happening today. Take for example the New York City subway’s Second Avenue Line, which was just finished a couple of weeks ago. It calls for $10 billion for just six stations.

The way this was funded is for the Metropolitan Transport Authority that runs the subways to borrow $10 billion from Wall Street. It pays bondholders interest, and will meet this cost by raising subway fares for all the riders in New York. To the extent that the New York City and New York State subsidize it, they’re going to raise sales taxes here, and also income taxes. So New Yorkers are going to have to pay more for the subway.

Who are the beneficiaries?

The politicians say, “Well, the people along the transport lines are going to be the beneficiaries – people who live on Second Avenue and First Avenue and York Avenue, who had to take those crowded Lexington subways.” But the real beneficiaries are the landlords. The $10 billion that’s been spent on the Second Avenue subway is probably increasing their land values, the real estate values of real estate developers by from $10 to $20 billion.


Already, wage-earners who live on Second Avenue – the supposed beneficiaries – are complaining that they’re being told their rents are going to go up by a couple of hundred dollars a month. Now that these neighborhoods have more easy transport, that makes it more valuable. So they’re worried that they can’t afford to live there anymore. They worry that they will have to move to Queens, Westchester or outside of New York City.

So there’s a giant windfall for the landlords, a give-away thanks to the subway that cost $10 billion, making $10-20 billion of “capital” (land-value) gains.

All this could have been financed by a windfall gains tax. If the subway and transportation, such as Mr. Trump wants to build throughout the United States, is going to increase the value of the rent of location for real estate landlords and developers, then there could have been a windfall gains tax. That would have captured all this $10 billion added value from the subway, to repay the MTA, the subway authority, for the cost of building it. But that hasn’t been done.

So what you have is the public paying for the 1% to benefit. That looks to me like the plan that Mr. Trump has. So when he says he wants to help all Americans, he means he wants to help all Americans in the 1% by really letting Wall Street get a huge debt from the 99% of the Americans. It’s just the opposite of what people believe.

The same fight is going on in Vancouver. They’re trying to spend about $6 billion in transportation up in Canada. How are they doing it? The transportation – the bus lines and train lines – are going to increase what already is the highest priced real estate in Canada. This promises to make a bonanza for the landlords. But they’re paying for this transportation by a 0.5% sales tax, that is going to cost consumers in Vancouver $250 million a year. So, again, the users of the transportation are having to pay, not the property owners along the route. They get the gains.

I think you could call this the Thorstein Veblen Law: that whenever there is a public expenditure on infrastructure, the benefits go to the absentee owners, the landlords. Civic improvement is basically a real-estate development.

So I think Mr. Trump wants to turn the U.S. economy into the kind of real estate development that has made him so rich in New York. It will make his fellow developers rich, and it will make the banks that finance this infrastructure rich, but the people are going to have to pay for it in a much higher cost for transportation, much higher cost for all the infrastructure that he’s proposing.

So I think you could call Trump’s plan “public investment to create private profit”. That’s really his plan in a summary, it looks to me.

SHARMINI PERIES: Right. And one interesting thing with the new administration coming in, and you have pointed to this, Michael, is that at least the good news here is that we’re not going to be going to war with Russia. Instead, I think we’re poking our finger in the eye of the Chinese government. Give us a sense of what your thoughts are on that.

MICHAEL HUDSON: Well, there’s been a whole argument in the administration between Kissinger and Brzezinski. Both these men say, “We’ve got to divide and conquer. If another country tries to go its own way and be independent of America, we’ve got to smash it up. We’ve got to break up Russia and break up China.”

The question is what do the neocons do first? Kissinger says that the long-term enemy is China, because they’re smarter and larger. So you want to pry Russia away. You want to do nice to Russia and tell President Putin, “Look, if you go with us, we’ll give you Ukraine, we’ll pull back NATO, but we want to pry you back towards Europe and away from China.”

Brzezinski, being Polish, hates Russia and wants to go with China. So he says, “No, no. We’ve got to continue to fight Russia and back the Hillary group within the CIA and National Security Agency.”

It looks like Trump is following the Kissinger group, trying to split up Eurasia by backing Russia. I don’t think he has a chance in succeeding in this, because Putin can say, “Look, America changes its policies so much we can’t depend upon you. Obama and Secretary Kerry have broken every agreement that they have made with us. The Clintons have broken every agreement. We can’t trust America anymore. You’ve forced us to rely on China and Iran.” And of course, China also is supporting Iran because of its oil investments there.

So I think the Trump administration will fail to break up Eurasia – to break up the Shanghai Cooperation Organization of Russia, China and Iran. At that point I think Trump may get angry and go back to the Hillary-type confrontation that looks very dangerous.

SHARMINI PERIES: What do you make of these allegations in terms of the intelligence agencies and the proximity of Trump and some of his aides in terms of their proximity to Russia?

MICHAEL HUDSON: I think the idea of proximity to Russia is fake. It’s a smear campaign, and President Putin has already warned Trump that this is an attempt by the Deep State, by the Russia haters, to threaten a coup d’etat.

I think one of the first things that Trump is going to do to roll back government is to clear out the fakers in the CIA – the people who’ve been faking or leaking these documents against him. He’s going to move against the fake news outlets, led by The New York Times and The Washington Post. They’re pushing unsubstantiated rumors. They’re claiming that it was Russia that somehow threw the election to Trump, instead of the leaks from the Democratic National Committee being leaks, not computer hacks.

So I think Trump is going to clean out the Democratic policy neocons from the CIA and NSA. That’s a good thing. I think he feels hostile enough toward Hillary after all of this. So a house-cleaning is probably the best thing that could happen.


The problem is, we don’t know whether the people he’ll bring in will just be mirror images on the other side, so that instead of being anti-Russian they’ll be anti-Chinese and have the same kind of fake news that they give to The New York Times and The Washington Post that they’ve been giving for the last few months. There’s certainly a crisis of real news reporting, a crisis of accusations. I’ve never seen anything like it.

SHARINI PERIES: All right. I thank you so much for joining us today, Michael. And we look forward a future analysis from you.

MICHAEL HUDSON: Well, it’s good to be here on such an important day.

SHARMINI PERIES: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Economics • Tags: Donald Trump, Government Spending 
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  1. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Michael has a new book out, “J is for Junk Economics: A Guide to Reality in the Age of Deception” (February 2017).

    Delaying books (and every other media) is usually bashed by most.
    Conversely, I’m glad when a work is delayed: it means the authors are very serious about it.

  2. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    So wage earners on Second Avenue will have to move because they cannot up their game? So be it. They are not a protected species to be sheltered in some kind of multibillion-dollar reservation at the expense of their landlords and everyone else.

    The notion that taxes will have to be raised pressuposes that there is no pork to be cut or bureaucrats to be sacked–a dubious proposition in NYC.

  3. This is a call for Land Value Taxation, a tax that captures public improvements.

    Meanwhile, China is not so friendly with Russia. The SCO has been demoted to last but one on China’s foreign policy agenda. None of the 56 Chinese investments promised to Russia in St Petersburg three years ago have materialized. Russia is now back with Siemens for high speed trains as a result. A Russia-China trade deal is not even under discussion despite the promises in the SCO agreements. Overtures to China might be more productive in breaking up that relationship than overtures to Russia. Especially now the TTP has crashed. TTP2 will include China because Trump will otherwise raise tariffs and damn the WTO. China has to concede. The workforce peaked in 2011. Productivity has to climb sharply just to stand still. Even more sharply than EU/Japan. China did not get rich before it got old.

    We are all going to get poorer than we might have been. Time to buy shares in Indian manufacturing?

  4. @Philip Owen

    ” Time to buy shares in Indian manufacturing.”
    India doesn’t even have the basic infrastructure. It’s railways are still relicts from the British Raj. Its social infrastructure is even less impressive. Corruption is omnipresent and rank, much more so than China.

    • Replies: @Philip Owen
    , @epebble
  5. bluedog says:

    Well Trump can bash China all he wants but it was the American business sector that drove China, and China’s fortune to where its at now, with their greed being the main driver, now where would Wal-Mart and a host of others be without that cheap Chinese labor which created their fortune yes we can brag that we are the richest nation on earth, with the greatest military known to mankind until you part the waters and see all the slime at the bottom, and as far as Russia and China they are joined at the hip for they fully well know that if one goes down the other will follow it,yes when this financial system blows up and it will, we all are going to be very much poorer, or to put it another way we are screwed and as the man said I have met the enemy and it is us…

  6. @Verymuchalive

    You don’t get irony do you? Not that China gives away much to India on corruption.

  7. swordfish says:

    What Trump is talking about regarding the mega infrastructure project, is the Return of Glass Steagall

  8. @Philip Owen

    India just self-destructed lately with PMI crashing completely and a new barter system appearing to replace illegalized cash. Not sure why they did it to themselves.

    • Replies: @Alden
  9. @Anonymous

    People on or east of Second Avenue don’t matter in many ways except at the ballot box, and the long walk from York or First Avenues sticks in one’s mind on a cold November morning. Nobody who matters lives on the Avenues, except perhaps Park and Fifth. I lived between Lex and Park, and I drove to my job downtown. The people who lived west of me between Park and The Park were driven to work.

    On a more serious note, maybe some of this infrastructure money will be taken away from the half-trillion being pissed away each year in North Africa and Soutwest Asia (not to mention provoking the Russians and Chinese), and that would be a good thing.

  10. gwynedd1 says:

    I am all for people who cannot earn their keep being forced out. However in areas like this where the value of the location is quite high, and made higher by public infrastructure, then taxes should be rolled onto the landlord and not the worker. So raise the real estate tax and lower income and sales taxes is the idea.

    There is a perverse incentive to use government spending to increase real estate values only to have the bill go to people who don’t own it. Its quite similar to the Corvée. The bankers and the land lords love it.

    • Replies: @Alden
    , @Alden
  11. epebble says:

    May be so; but if a real shooting war starts over Taiwan, India is probably the only country to move production to. Chinese government is very sensitive over Taiwan and won’t hesitate to go ballistic over some Trump’s nasty tweet. Heck, see how he managed to tick off Mexico and he has barely warmed his seat yet. And Mexico is a far, far friendlier nation much more reluctant to quarrel with U.S. compared to China. One more Hainan plane incident and you will have bombs dropping and missiles flying.

    • Replies: @Old Codger
  12. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Ok, Michael Hudson totally discredits himself with the photo and caption which accompanies this commentary. This is the kind of BS I’d expect out of MSM fake news. I was at the Inauguration. The crowds lining the parade route were pretty deep. The photo he used must’ve been an early morning preparation in a staging area without public access. In fact, the driveway looks like it’s in a non-public access area like the Capitol. It’s clearly not a street (not to be Captain obvious here).

    • Replies: @Wally
  13. Trump Infrastructure Plan Is Developer Welfare

    Of course it is.

    Government is nothing more than a wealth transfer scheme; a protection racket to be more precise.

    • Replies: @Che Guava
  14. Agent76 says:

    Corporations versus The Market

    My reading of the article by Roderick Long published at Cato Unbound.

  15. nickels says:

    I certainly heed Hudson’s analysis, I love his work on big finance.

    But I trust Trump more.

    We will have to wait and see. We should give Trump time to do his thing.

    • Replies: @Astuteobservor II
  16. Wally says:

    And violence, threats of more violence & blocked streets were a definite factor.

    But more important:

    President Trump’s Approval Index Booms Up Since Inauguration
    Rasmussen Poll shows that 59% of Likely U.S. Voters approve of President Trump’s job performance. Forty-three percent (41%) disapprove.
    Higher than his election numbers. IOW, he’s gaining support.

  17. @Anonymous

    gotta ask, how can they up their game?

  18. @nickels

    why do you love trump? has he done anything yet? to warrant your love?

    • Replies: @nickels
  19. Alden says:

    Guess neither you nor Hudson have ever heard of NYC rent control laws. With rent control the landlord can only substantially raise rents for new tenants who move in.
    The sitting tenants pay only a minuscule raise.

    A college economics professor who pontificates about rental property and is ignorant of rent control laws in America’s largest city is a fool or a liar or both and typical of all the anti White commie radical professoriate who should be rounded up and sent to California’s Central Valley to live in locked barracks and pick fruit and vegetables in 108 F summers.

    When the income of homeowners sinks so low they can only afford mortgage and property taxes, but neither ordinary not long term maintainence the building deteriorates.

    When the rental income of landlords sinks to the point they can only afford mortgage and property taxes the building deteriorates.

    Another thing this Econ professor is totally ignorant of is that rental income is mainly a tax write off.
    In other words, rental income is not really for added income but for losses that can be used to lower the taxes from other sources of income.

    Contact a real estate agent and tell. Him or her you want to buy a small apartment house. All you will hear is tax deduction tax deduction, never added income for you to spend.

    Another thing is that public transit often does not raise the value of rents No one wants to live on a Main Street with buses and trucks roaring by night and day. No one wants to live near a main commuter station because people park their cars on the street rather than pay the fee for the parking lot.

    Subway stops? They often bring thugs into the neighborhood. I believe the Georgetown neighborhood in DC fought against a subway stop because they knew it would bring even more thugs in.

    Suburban malls are often invaded by rampaging teen age thugs.. The malls were originally built in the suburbs with no public transit access partly to keep the rampaging thugs away. Even city people drove out to the safe suburban malls as they were driven out of city downtowns by marauding teen age thugs.

    But now with bus access to the suburban malls the thugs have easy access and they drive customers away.

    There are of course other factors in the decline of malls, but teen age thugs using public transit is a major factor.

    What a moron is Hudson,

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  20. nickels says:
    @Astuteobservor II

    I don’t have to answer that question. Look at his rallies, we all love him.
    The onus is on you to make your bitch.

    • Replies: @Astuteobservor II
  21. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Yeah, that’s why studios in Manhattan go for millions and farmhouses in the middle of nowhere are so cheap.

    • Replies: @Alden
  22. Alden says:
    @Daniel Chieh

    India wants to eliminate cash because of massive tax evasion, fraud, money laundering, embezzlement and corruption

  23. Alden says:

    You mean purchase, cost, not rent.
    If an owner pays 2 million for a Manhatten studio and rents it out he has to charge rent that will pay the cost of the mortgage, condo fees and repairs to the interior of the condo. If the owner doesn’t pay the mortgage and fees the tenant will be evicted by the bank that holds the mortgage and the condo association.

    The owner of the farmhouse has to be able to pay mortgage, property tax and maintain economic costs or the building will deteriorate.

    Your comment did not acknowledge the difference between cost of the building and rent
    Don’t comment about rent control laws in NYC unless you know something about them, which you obviously don’t. Nor do you seem to know anything about the maintained costs added to mortgage and property taxes for any kind of real property.

    Your comment is the comment of a teen ager who doesn’t even know if your parents rent or own the family home.

  24. @nickels

    ahh, ok. I get where you are coming from 🙂 promises.

  25. Truth says:

    You forgot the part of the insidious plot where KelleyMan distracts us with humor…

  26. The infrastructure is falling apart and, unless it is repaired or replaced, will continue to fall apart until it becomes unusable.
    With pipelines, the grid, roads, ports and railways in ruins, there will be disruptions in the transport of food, medicine, fuel, electricity and all of the goods and services that allow us to survive.
    If private/public partnerships are no good, and Congress refuses to address the problem through direct spending, then pray tell what is Michael Hudson’s solution? A GoFundMe page? A bake sale?
    For Christ’s sake maybe our wise and benevolent elected officials can rediscover that one of their most basic responsibilities is to fix the f*cking roads.

    • Agree: Steel T Post
    • Replies: @Old Codger
  27. nsa says:

    There are simpler arguments to be made: 1) the Japanese have indulged in massive debt financed infrastructure spending since the early 1990s…still no economic revival, 2) US massive debt financed infrastructure spending in the 1930s….no economic revival until WW2. There is always the possibility “this time will be different”…..but more likely the result will be the accelerated erosion of wages and savings through increasing inflation.

  28. just found something very interesting, thought I should share. from a structural engineer about trump’s wall :p

    • Replies: @anon
  29. @epebble

    Oh no! Tick off Mejico?

    Now the price of turista sombreros and serapes for use on that fake Mexican holiday of Cinco de Mayo, will go through the roof! What am I gonna wear when consuming bad margaritas???

    Funny how those “ticked-off” Mexicans called back for an hour long conversation with TRUMP within mere hours of cancelling a state visit….wonder how “ticked off” they truly were???

    • Replies: @Alden
  30. @Tommy James

    “…one of their most basic responsibilities is to fix the f*cking roads…in the United States, rather than Iraq or Syria!”


  31. Che Guava says:
    @jacques sheete

    I am worried and suspect that the infracture scheme may well be as Hudson suggests.

    Jacques, I wanted to post a link to a good Situationist essay, from before I was born, links the corrupt Jewish NY garment business rackets of old to ‘the Mob’, then to capitalism as a whole, very nice piece.

    Can’t remember the writer’s name, Italian, spent 40 or so minutes trying to find it, have to sleep now, I think that you would like the essay. I still do.

    Will be finding it. Used to have it on paper.

  32. anon • Disclaimer says:
    @Astuteobservor II

    Like everything else, the ‘wall’ has elements of metaphor, boast, and symbolism. The fact that it is simple common sense yet defies all common sense is not a problem. It is its attraction.

    Like what sort of fence do you need here?

    Protecting borders is typically the core function of a nation state. The fact that the USA’s primary ‘borders’ are the Atlantic and Pacific has given us a lack of appreciation of its importance, how it is done, etc.

    Yea. Trump is no builder. He is a developer and landlord. But, the easiest part of a New York development is the engineering. Developing a skyscraper is political.

  33. anon • Disclaimer says:

    Does infrastructure raise or lower prices? I would suggest that in a broad sense, the more there is, marginal increases are less valuable.

    There seems to be plenty of capital sloshing around and interest rates for low risk investment is very low.

    And by the way, the Civil Engineers are always crying Wolf about the awful state of US infrastructure. It’s excellent in places and pretty good most places.

    90% of the bitching and moaning about the state of US infrastructure comes from people who don’t have passports. And yea — a lot of Countries have very nice flagship airports. But the US has over 100 airports who call themselves ‘international’.

    But infrastructure isn’t going to redistribute income in the ways preferred by theoreticians. But if the workers are US Citizens then they will be paid first world wages and it is payoff to the people that put Trump in. What is so wrong with that.

  34. Alden says:

    You must not know that the tenants pay the real estate taxes through their rents some states allow renters to deduct a certain amount of real estate tax from their income tax because the costs of the building goes from the rents through the landlord to the mortgage and property tax payments

    That tenants property tax deduction is similar to the standard home owners interest and property tax income tax deduction.

  35. Alden says:
    @Old Codger

    Speaking of messicans and the Central American tribesmen, the Denver restaurants association is weeping, wailing, rending garments and knashing teeth.
    Half their workforce are illegals subject to deportation if Trump is really serious.

    Latest euphemism for illegal alien according to section 8 applications is
    “Non citizen of uncertain status”
    Check that box and you’ll be sure to get a nice apartment or house for one/third your welfare check. What with food stamps, free medical and dental care, a truck load of Christmas presents and new school clothes for the anchor brats, you can send your entire under the table paycheck back to Messico

    If anyone has ever wondered how those poverty stricken messicans manage to send 26 billion back to Messico every year that’s why. They live off their women and children’s welfare. The under the table paycheck goes to Messico

  36. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Since 1812, US has been using municipal bonds to finance infrastructure. There were 3 depressions in 1800s in which excessive issuance of municipal bonds played major part. In fact that is why voter approval of GO debt was introduced by Progressive reformers. But govts bypassed that with revenue bonds.

    The problem is excessive reliance on municipal bonds and the low ROI on municipal debt, so eventual day of reckoning is only delayed. Pension funds should not play dumb money in Trump’s plan because day of reckoning will not take time as demography is destiny and demography is weakening America. America is aging (with boomers having inadequate savings) and the young being mostly poor.

    President Trump seems to be totally out of touch with reality.

  37. […] Lofgren and the H-1B Question Winston Churchill on Land Monopoly Michael Hudson’s article Trump Infrastructure Plan Is Developer Welfare Robert’s point that cohesive urban mass transit is necessary, but must be funded by either […]

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