Everyone has their “favorite pothole.” As well, we constantly hear on the news about our “crumbling infrastructure.” We are about the become engaged in a national conversation about finally “fixing” the problems. And I can assure you that CNN, NBC, NPR, ABC and CBS will not actually give you any useful information. I can sum up their entire storyline for you and save you a great deal of time. What story line is that, ask you? “Trump is wrong,” answer I.
[Sources: Trump Releases Infrastructure Plan Focused on Deregulation and New Funding, by Fred Lucas and Our Roads and Bridges Are Not Actually Crumbling, by Michael Sargent]
So, I will make a humble attempt to provide you with some useful information. Criticize to your hearts content if you think its wrong.
First, is our infrastructure actually “crumbling?” The media would have us believe that our infrastructure is in unprecedented disrepair. This is, quite simply, a mischaracterization. Our national infrastructure, that is the “major” parts of our infrastructure and the parts we use most frequently, are in satisfactory condition. When I think about the roads I drive upon, the bridges I cross, the airports from which I take flight, the public buildings which I enter, I virtually never say to myself, “Whoa, look at that!” Have you driven over a “crumbling bridge” or driven on a “disastrously uneven highway” lately? Is your city hall “falling down?”
Michael Sargent provides us with a reality check:
- Despite a reputation of steep decline, the number and share of bridges deemed “structurally deficient” (not unsafe, but in need of elevated maintenance) has declined by more than half over the last 25 years and now represents just 9 percent of the nation’s total.
- A full 93 percent of the miles driven on the National Highway System is on pavement that is in fair or better condition.
- U.S. airports move more people than ever before and boast a near perfect safety record for scheduled commercial service.
- The nation’s seaports continue to be among the world’s largest conduits for international trade, providing affordable access to the world markets.
There are definitely parts of our infrastructure that need to be improved or updated. Some of our electrical grids are in poor condition. And we certainly need to pave many local roads, replace decrepit locks, and upgrade water and air traffic control systems.
In the graph below, we can see that in 2018 roads are the major “need” in terms of required repair. The other parts of our infrastructure improvement requirements are more like pimples on the back of an elephant. Further, we need to ask, “Is the problem due to lack of federal funds or is it a symptom of a federal regulatory and funding system that makes it harder to accomplish vital repairs.
Let’s look at some of the regulatory issues:
- On average, it takes more than five years just to receive an environmental impact statement, one step of many in the process.
- Some projects are stuck in regulatory limbo for decades. These delays amount to billions of dollars in additional costs for governmental and private projects alike without providing any obvious environmental benefits.
- Top-down funding system that too often inserts the federal government into local infrastructure decisions.
- The federal government acts as an intermediary by collecting taxes on users and redistributing them back to the states or project sponsors after stuffing the funds with costly mandates and diverting resources to pet projects.
President Donald Trump’s proposed $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan has features which I, for one, like. The bulk of the money for President Donald Trump’s proposal wouldn’t come from federal funds. More importantly, the plan focuses heavily on deregulation.
The Trump plan wants to limit federal spending to $200 billion in an effort to leverage $1.3 billion in state, local, tribal, and private-sector funds. Typically, the federal government puts up the bulk of the money. The plan would also make some of the federal grants competitive. The Trump plan includes incentives, promotes accountability, and requires projects to meet certain benchmarks to demonstrate progress to maintain federal funding. His plan eliminates or, at very least, reduces regulatory hurdles.
I guess we will find out whether he can get the two Parties (each with very different notions about “funding sources” and “regulatory overreach”) to agree on anything. While the Democreeps like infrastructure projects they are not disposed to give President Trump a “win” on anything.