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Myth of the Infrastructure Cure-all

Every year the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) comes out with a report card on the condition of America’s infrastructure. We got a D+ this year. According to them, “Deteriorating infrastructure is impeding our ability to compete in the thriving global economy, and improvements are necessary to ensure our country is built for the future.”

They calculate that every family in America will lose $3,400 a year because of infrastructure deficiencies. If the problem isn’t fixed, they say, GDP will lose $4 trillion a year by then (2025) and 2.5 million jobs will be lost. They recommend an additional $1.1 trillion of spending on transportation (roads and bridges) over the next 10 years to correct this problem.

President Donald Trump says that we need to spend $1 trillion to “transform America’s crumbling infrastructure into a golden opportunity for accelerated economic growth and more rapid productivity gains.”

Liberals and conservatives alike get teary-eyed when they hear this. They think that massive spending, especially on roads and bridges, will “put people back to work” and make America more productive.

Here is the reality: America’s infrastructure is not crumbling, massive spending won’t create any permanent jobs, and productivity is not suffering because of our infrastructure. These are economic myths that lobbyists, infrastructure contractors, and the ASCE perpetuate to get fat contracts. (more…)