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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…)

The Dispirited Class

Bankrate.com’s most recent survey on savings reports that only 41% of Americans had enough savings to cover a $500 unplanned expense. Which means 59% didn’t. Before you jump off a cliff, this doesn’t mean they can’t pay their bills—many have access to credit in one form or another. And, it doesn’t necessarily mean these people are poor—but they are spending more than they make and are struggling to maintain their lifestyle.

The issue here is not wealth inequality. There always has been and will be “inequality”. The fact that some people are wealthier than most people is not relevant. If the top 1% are living fabulously well that doesn’t mean they are doing so at the cost of the rest of us. It means they are better at creating wealth and jobs than the rest of us. This is about how bad economic policies are hurting Main Street.

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How to Make Housing Worse for Poor People

I live in Santa Barbara, California, which by most measures, including my own, is a paradise. It’s also very expensive because everyone wants to live in paradise. The average home price in our south coast was $1,352,000 in 2016. There were 789 homes that sold for more than $1,000,000 in 2016. Trust me, if you could figure out how to make a living here, you would pay the price.

The reason things are so expensive is that we restrict growth. No condo towers or massive tract development for us. Which causes a problem for those who can’t afford to buy a single-family residence and must rent. Apartment rents are high because we aren’t building many new apartments either. Now, those of you living in NYC probably think $2,000 to $3,000 for a one-bedroom apartment is reasonable, even cheap, but … presently there are only 15 units available in town. (more…)