In an interview heavy on economic populism, Donald Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon told The Hollywood Reporter he wants to ditch the Republican Party establishment and start over. "Like (Andrew) Jackson's populism, we're going to build an entirely new political movement," he said. And that’s not all:
“Darkness is good. Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That's power. It only helps us when they (liberals) get it wrong. When they're blind to who we are and what we're doing."
Hurrah for honesty, at least. Even Dick Cheney, who certainly inhabited the dark side, didn’t—at least publicly—praise Satan. Bannon could have mentioned some others imbued with the darkness-is-good vibe: Silvio Berlusconi, Augusto Pinochet, Francisco Franco. But that would have been too honest.
The guy known for what NPR tepidly describes as “racially insensitive” remarks denies that he is a “white nationalist.”
"I'm a nationalist. I'm an economic nationalist," he said in the interview. "The globalists gutted the American working class and created a middle class in Asia. The issue now is about Americans looking to not get f---ed over. If (the Trump White House delivers), we'll get 60 percent of the white vote, and 40 percent of the black and Hispanic vote and we'll govern for 50 years. That's what the Democrats missed. [...]
"It's everything related to jobs. The conservatives are going to go crazy. I'm the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. With negative interest rates throughout the world, it's the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything. Ship yards, iron works, get them all jacked up. We're just going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks. It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution — conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement."
If you experienced a bit of cognitive dissonance reading about that infrastructure idea because it sounds quite a bit like something heard for a decade from large portions of the left—originally from outside the Democratic Party, and subsequently from many prominent members in it—you’re right.
Repairing key pieces of America’s decaying infrastructure and innovating new green infrastructure is not just a good idea, it’s imperative. The climate mobilization movement, exemplified in an August article by Bill McKibben, calls for declaring war on the climate crisis and treating it as an emergency as great if not greater than World War II, when large parts of the U.S. economy were transformed to meet the threat of the rampaging Axis powers. But, given that the incoming boss at the White House is a climate change denier, any infrastructure makeover Bannon is talking about ain’t going to be called the Green New Deal.
Bannon presumably expects congressional Republicans who refused to go along with President Obama’s stimulus plan nearly eight years ago to switch their stance now because there will soon be a white guy in the Oval Office. Getting their support would require some major twists from senators and representatives who have built their entire careers on shrinking government and shrinking taxes. But if there is something in it for them, they likely will go along.
And as David Dayen wrote recently in The New Republic, there certainly will be something in it for them: sugar for their home districts, and from campaign contributors who would benefit. For the American people, not so much:
Trump’s “Contract with the American Voter” (get to know this document) stresses that his American Energy and Infrastructure Act “leverages public-private partnerships, and private investments through tax incentives, to spur $1 trillion in infrastructure investment over ten years. It is revenue neutral.”
What do “public-private partnerships” and “tax incentives” mean here? This report from Peter Navarro, set to be one of Trump’s leading economists, lays out the blueprint. The government would sell $1 trillion in revenue-producing bonds, needing only to supply an equity cushion to ensure everyone gets paid. Navarro estimates around $140 billion in government funding when all is said and done, which you could easily get through repatriation.
Investors would get a tax credit to entice them to buy bonds, and Navarro claims that the tax revenue from new jobs created by the projects makes up for that cost. He also wants to contract out these projects, building in a 10 percent profit margin for the private contractor. Navarro claims that construction costs are higher when built by the government, and the private sector is more efficient.
Does this sound familiar? It’s the common justification for privatization, and it’s been a disaster virtually everywhere it’s been tried.
The devil, as they say, is in the details. That’s the real dark power Bannon is talking about.