Let’s Pay People to Build Roads, Bridges, Ports and Railways

(from here)

While a lot of things are fucked up, our transportation system should be high on the list:

The U.S. population is forecast to grow by 100 million — a 30 percent increase — before the middle of the 21st century. And right now a nationwide transportation system built in the middle of the 20th century is falling apart.

There isn’t enough money to arrest its decline, and the public is largely oblivious to the need.

That was the general consensus Friday at a transportation conference that heard from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood; House Transportation Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-Fla.) and his predecessor as chairman, former representative James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.); and a dozen other experts….

The problem is twofold. Although complaints about traffic congestion are commonplace, to the average consumer the transportation system appears to be working reasonably well. And, said several speakers at the conference hosted by Washington Post Live, the amount of money needed to restore and expand it is so enormous that few taxpayers can relate.

(Aside: when did citizens suddenly become ‘taxpayers’? Someone contact the propaganda department…)

Here are some estimates of what it would take to tackle the problem:

The American Society of Civil Engineers has estimated that an investment of $1.7 trillion is needed between now and 2020 to rebuild roads, bridges, water lines, sewage systems and dams that are reaching the ends of their planned life cycles. The Urban Institute puts the price tag at $2 trillion.

Last year, a report by 80 experts led by former transportation secretaries Norman Y. Mineta and Samuel K. Skinner called for an annual investment of $262 billion.

Fail to invest now, and the cost will increase later. Already, the civil engineers said, infrastructure deficiencies add $97 billion a year to the cost of operating vehicles and result in travel delays that cost $32 billion.

“The politicians have been ignoring this data,” said Peter Ruane, president of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association . “This is negligence at the national level.”

He said the discussion over meeting infrastructure needs had been “reduced to a cartoon, a caricature,” in the political debate. “It looks like Congress is going to do the right thing,” he said. “Will they give us the right amount of resources? Right now, it doesn’t look like it.”

This is why misunderstanding how spending and money works is so damaging. We have a glaring national need, underused capacity in virtually every sector, and millions of unemployed people. It’s estimated that $1 billion of transportation spending yields around 30,000 jobs, so $200 billion per year would employ millions of people. Spend money to build this stuff. Instead, we obsess over how we will fund this stuff, or if it will cause runaway inflation (it won’t), when we could be employing, directly and indirectly, millions of people.

Utterly irresponsible and immoral.

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