Do We Really Have an Infrastructure Spending Problem?

In between Bernie Sanders’ constant bemoaning of our rigged economy and income inequality, he always manages to work in comments about our crumbling infrastructure and how fixing it will create more jobs.

But do we actually have a problem that is as significant as Sanders says?

First of all, relative to other countries, U.S. spending is certainly on par:Infrastructure Chart 1

Secondly, according to the World Economic Forum, our infrastructure has relatively high ratings:Infrastructure Chart 2

Compared to other nations, our infrastructure quality meets or exceeds the other G-7 countries as well:Infrastructure Chart 3

Another fact, not often mentioned, is that the number of structurally-deficient bridges (an oft-mentioned subject) is diminishing. Furthermore, it’s now diminishing at a higher rate than in previous decades. In other words, bridges that need fixing are getting fixed more rapidly.

Of course, understanding exactly what meant by “investment in infrastructure” is very important. High-speed rail projects, like those planned to connect Northern and Southern California or Tampa and Orlanda, are extraordinarily expensive boondoggle projects that have are always favored by the social engineering-focused progressive left. The economic justifications are almost always non-existent.

In evaluating these, I’m reminded of the classic anecdote between Milton Friedman and an Asian government official, who was showing him a canal-building project. The Nobel-winning economist asked why there were so few earth-moving machines on site.

Official: “You don’t understand, this is a jobs project.”

Friedman: “Oh, I thought you were trying to build a canal. If it’s jobs you want, then you should give these workers spoons, not shovels.”

The reality is this: there are certainly improvements to the infrastructure of the country that can be made, but we are certainly not doing as poorly as advertised and much of this agenda is merely a make-work scheme for increased government employment.

H/T American Enterprise Institute


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