The US dollar jumped in value against other currencies and shares rose on Thursday after President Donald Trump promised what he called a “phenomenal” tax plan in the next few weeks.
Investors have been waiting impatiently for details on Trump’s earlier pledges of major stimulus through additional spending and tax cuts to boost the US economy.
During a White House meeting with US airline executives, Trump said: “Lowering the overall tax burden on American businesses, big league, that’s coming along very well and we are way ahead of schedule, I believe, and we are going to be announcing something I would say over the next two or three weeks that will be phenomenal in terms of tax.”
Trump promised the airline bosses that he would help them to become more competitive with fewer regulations and better airports and air traffic control.
Not even a little tiny oil-well
He lamented the trillions spent on foreign wars instead of on infrastructure improvements: “We’ve spent six trillion dollars – as of about two months ago – in the Middle East, we’ve got nothing, we never even kept even a little tiny oil-well, not one – I said keep the oil. And we have an obsolete plane system, we have obsolete airports, we have obsolete trains, we have bad roads, we’re going to change all of that.”
During the meeting Trump said the US air traffic control system is out of date and criticised current modernisation efforts as the “wrong system” and too expensive. He also said the head of the Federal Aviation Administration should be a pilot.
He told the airline executives: “So we want to help you realise these goals by rolling back burdensome regulations, and you people are regulated probably as much as almost anybody, although I can think of a couple of industries that are even worse.”
After the meeting airline stocks, including JetBlue, Delta and United Continental, rose.
Air traffic is handled in the United States by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The agency is spending billions to implement ‘NextGen’, a system that would utilise satellites to monitor aircraft instead of radar and make other changes.
The Transportation Department’s inspector general said in a November report that the FAA has invested over $3 billion in NextGen programmes since 2007, but has faced implementation challenges.
“I hear the government contracted for a system, that’s the wrong system,” said Trump. “It’s way over budget, it’s way behind schedule and when it’s complete it’s not going to be a good system.”
The FAA did not immediately comment on his remarks.
The Government Accountability Office said in a 2016 report that the United States “is generally considered to have the busiest, most complex and safest ATC system in the world”.
No meaningful progress
Gary Kelly, chief executive of Southwest, told Trump that “the single biggest opportunity for aviation is to modernise the air traffic control system”.
“We have spent billions of dollars on air traffic control modernisation, but it’s not making any meaningful progress,” Kelly said when Trump opened the floor for comments.
The FAA handles more than 50,000 flights a day and more than 700 million passengers each year. It spends nearly $10 billion a year on air traffic control funded largely through passenger user fees, and has about 28,000 air traffic control personnel.