An email from my Congressman, Sean Patrick Maloney, 18 District, (Dem.), NY reminded me of a topic we’ve touched on but really is an 800,000 lb. gorilla in the country’s room: INFRASTRUCTURE. Maloney was more focused on NY State infrastructure, but I know his concerns, and this blogs, go far beyond that.
Many of the nation’s roads, bridges, highways, power grids, airports are sub-par, although there is huge variation from state to state and within states. Ironically it is a topic that Republicans and Democrats can agree on from many, but not all, points of the compass. It has been said, by a wide range of commentators:
- That the state of the nation’s infrastructure ranges from “Not Number One” to (inexcusably) Third World.
- A CNBC report (21 Nov 2013) cited “…$6 trillion in investment [that] the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) says is needed by 2020”
- This might seem an expensive tab indeed for a country more or less coming out of 2 (approx.. 1 trillion each) wars and with a large deficit ($17.6 trillion as of late July 2014), though not to tackle the problem might entail even greater costs and certainly different kinds of cost; like so much else in life, the problem as been talked about, but not much done, for years (Climate change, anyone?, Poverty and Income Inequality?)
- It has been argued that the private sector, largely (no Civilian Conservation Corps or PWA on This horizon), would have the upgrades and new projects subcontracted to IT, therefore manufacturing would be expandable, as well as other economic subsectors; debates tend to center around “government spending” generally, and “how to spend infrastructure dollars specifically”—so of course the brightest solution is to spend only a fraction of the amount needed, and this often for pork- barrel spending in districts with powerful congresspersons
- A 2012 study by an economics team at William and Mary: Chen, Freiling and Robinson, is typical. They conclude among other things: 1. every dollar spent on infrastructure returns 2 dollars to the economy, 2. over a 20 year period, each dollar sent in year one on infrastructure returns an average of $3.21 to the economy and 3. $1 spent generates $1.35 in federal taxes and an additional 70 cents in state taxes
The United States of America: Is US infrastructure in a worse condition than other industrialized nations?
Here is a report card summary from the respected Brookings Senior Fellow and Director of that Institution’s Metro Infrastructure Initiative, Robert Puentes, as featured in QUORA, 2/12/14:
U.S. compared with other industrialized countries:
More pot-holes, less investment since 1960s in new interstates, crumbling bridges). Most foreigners are astonished that a country that relies on roads so much has so poor quality.
Historically was much worse (big gaps in coverage, slower adoption of digital, slower adoption of 3G) but is accelerating with far faster adoption of LTE.
In urban areas probably now ahead of Europe, but still behind developed Asia. In suburban & rural areas still behind but catching up fast.
Only a few areas have decent public transport, minimal high-speed service.
Electrical grid. Worse.
USA is almost the only developed country to have had major blackouts (thanks Enron).
Environmental health. Comparable to other industrialized countries. Clean drinking water, sewage etc. are almost universal.
Slower, more expensive, lower penetration.