VOLUME 39, ISSUE 3
Distributed quarterly by mail and email, the Conservative Caucus of Delaware's newsletter contains relevant information and insights from noted leaders, authoritative stakeholders and like-minded members who demonstrate their passion for the truths we hold dear by putting pen to paper!
Unnecessary Infrastructure Bill Paved with Debt
One of Biden's first initiatives is a two trillion dollar proposal to rebuild America's infrastructure. This plan is a typical Washington initiative in which lots of pet spending bills are piled on top of what the administration thinks is a bill that cannot be defeated. It is a typical logrolling process whereby Congressmen and Senators
promise to vote for everyone else's pet
projects as long as everyone else votes for theirs. There has been much criticism of these tenuously linked add-on's, but the real issue is whether America needs an infrastructure bill at all. Let's try to think clearly about what infrastructure is, how it is built, and who is responsible for its
First of all, let's put this in perspective. The proposed bill claims that it will repair 20,000 roads in the U.S. That's merely one half of one percent of the over four million miles of roadway. Who knows what constitutes “repair.” Filing potholes?
Re-chipping seldom used roads?
The bill claims that it will “repair” 10,000 bridges. That's two hundred bridges per state. But what constitutes “repair” and what constitutes a “bridge?” In my relatively rural area of Pennsylvania three bridges have been repaired in the last three years, all without a federal infrastructure bill. One was a complete tear down and rebuild of a bridge, only a mile away, that carries 13,000 vehicles per day. Another was a complete rehab of a major state route bridge a mile further away. Another was what appeared to
be nothing more than repair of a culvert over a fairly minor county
road. Nevertheless, this road was closed for six months, as were the two more important bridges. So, we see that
responsible local government IS repairing roads and bridges.
The entity that built the infrastructure should be responsible for maintaining it. If the federal government builds a dam, the federal government is responsible for maintaining it, for example. Of course, we must understand that not all infrastructure projects should be main- tained into perpetuity. In fact many dams in the U.S. have been torn down for a variety of reasons, high maintenance costs being one of them. Between 1990 and 2015 roughly 900 dams were removed. Around 100 bridges have been demolished. The maximum number of miles of railroad track in America was 254,000 in the mid 1910's. That number is down to 160,000 now. So, it's clear that there are reasons that much
infrastructure should not be maintained at all. Who should make these decisions and, more importantly, who should pay for them?
It's clear that there is much more to building and maintaining infrastructure than a 30-second sound bite can convey. These decisions are mostly local; i.e. whether or not to widen a highway between two towns within the same county or whether a bridge should be torn down and rebuilt
or just abandoned. There is no objective way to make this decision than by letting the local taxpayers decide whether or not they want to pay for it. Contrast this real-life question with the president's proposal to shower helicopter money on the nation. What local entity can turn down “free money” from the federal printing press to widen a road or rebuild a bridge, even if the local government would not waste its local taxpayers' money on such projects?
Furthermore, the president's infrastructure bill is touted as a “jobs bill,” too. Yet it is nothing more than a misguided Keynesian-style attempt to juice the economy through high profile spending projects. The current president and congress will be thanked profusely while saddling future taxpayers with a lower standard of living due to misallocation of resources, higher taxes, and higher prices. But, it's so tempting to cut the ribbon on a new bridge and ignore the unseen consequences of profligate public spending.
Oh...yes...by the way, I haven't even mentioned that the money for this boondoggle of a bill will add another trillion dollars to the public debt. But that's a topic for another essay. ■