As a nation, ours scored a D+ on the latest report card.

Blocked by Republican intransigence, we’ve been spectacularly “penny wise and pound foolish.”

(It costs a lot more to replace a bridge after it collapses than to maintain it so it doesn’t collapse — 10 times more so when you account for all the detours and traffic jams for the months required to rebuild.)

About the least “conservative” thing I can think of is cutting taxes as our infrastructure crumbles but that’s exactly what our Republican friends have for decades done.

So now comes a report from attorney Philip K. Howard, founder of Common Good (and author of The Death of Common Sense: How Law Is Suffocating America*) — no knee-jerk liberal he — that maintains:

Delays in approving infrastructure projects cost the nation more than twice what it would cost to fix the infrastructure, according to a new report released by Common Good, the nonpartisan government reform coalition. Those approvals can take a decade or longer, and the report shows that a six-year delay in starting construction on public projects costs the nation over $3.7 trillion, including the costs of prolonged inefficiencies. That’s more than double the $1.7 trillion needed through the end of this decade to modernize America’s decrepit infrastructure.

The report, Two Years, Not Ten Years: Redesigning Infrastructure Approvals, proposes a dramatic reduction of red tape so that infrastructure can be approved in two years or less.

I’m for it!

But it’s not just red tape that’s caused delays; it’s the G.O.P.  that blocks spending.  There was the American Jobs Act the President exhorted a nationally televised prime-time joint session of Congress to enact five years ago . . .

  • Spending $50 billion on both new and pre-existing infrastructure projects.
  • Spending $35 billion in additional funding to protect the jobs of teachers, police officers, and firefighters
  • Spending $30 billion to modernize at least 35,000 public schools and community colleges.
  • Spending $15 billion on a program that would hire construction workers to help rehabilitate and refurbishing hundreds of thousands of foreclosed homes and businesses.
  • Creating the National Infrastructure Bank (capitalized with $10 billion), originally proposed in 2007, to help fund infrastructure via private and public capital.
  • Creating a nationwide, interoperable wireless network for public safety, while expanding accessibility to high-speed wireless services.

. . . killed by the Republicans even though there were so many people desperate for work and the interest rate on borrowing to finance such projects was so phenomenally low (see: “GOP kills Jobs Bill Despite Majority Support”).

And there were numerous local examples — prime among them:

Florida’s Republican governor killing . . .

. . . the Obama administration’s marquee high-speed rail project, giving up a whopping $2.4 billion in federal funds for a Tampa-Orlando bullet train. This was the nation’s most shovel-ready high-speed project, and the state wasn’t required to spend a dime to build it; running through the heart of the politically sensitive I-4 corridor, it had bipartisan support in South Florida, where it was seen as a precursor to a long-awaited Orlando-Miami line . . .

And New Jersey’s Republican governor killing . . .

. . . a $12.4 billion tunnel that would have doubled commuter capacity to Manhattan.  If Christie hadn’t stopped the Access to the Region’s Core project that began in 2009, mass-transit relief would have come as soon as 2018. Now he supports an approach, with new oversight by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, that has no dedicated funding and would take at least 10 years. . . .

Only now that interest rates look set to start creeping back up, and unemployment has fallen from 10% to 5.1%, might we — possibly — begin to ramp up our infrastructure programs.  The famous Republican “government shutdown” stunt that needlessly cost us $24 billion was dramatic and well publicised.  But the delay of infrastructure revitalization, while less visible, is costing us trillions.

Have a great weekend — and vote Democrat if you think we should strive for better than a D+ on the infrastructure report card.


*”Every doctor and teacher frustrated by paperwork, every judge frustrated by mandatory sentencing guidelines, every banker and businessman tied in regulatory knots, every manager terrified to fire someone for doing a poor job – every taxpayer – will findThe Death of Common Sense a blood-boiler. What makes it important, though, is not its (amazing) anecdotes, but that it so elegantly synthesizes them…and points to solutions.” – Andrew Tobias



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