Donald Cohen is the founder and executive director of In the Public Interest, a national research and policy center that studies public goods and services. He’s also the co-author, with Allen Mikaelian, of The Privatization of Everything.
In his State of the Union address, President Biden announced some 4,000 new infrastructure projects, among them fixing more than 65,000 miles of highway and 1,500 bridges by the end of the year. Biden promised the $1.2 trillion bill would unlock the full potential of a clean energy economy, but there’s an obstacle. The bill requires state and local governments to consider public-private partnerships for large transportation projects, and there’s nothing to dissuade municipalities from using the money to partner with the private sector in other areas — for instance, to build electrical infrastructure or operate a drinking water system. The bill also lifts caps on how much cities and states can subsidize private financing through bonds.
As the head of a national public policy research group, I’ve seen many well-intentioned public-private partnerships make climate progress more difficult. Private... Read more