Opinion

Christopher Papagianis

Why not enact an ‘intelligent’ national infrastructure plan?

Christopher Papagianis
Jun 19, 2012 21:12 UTC

There are about 1 billion cars on the world’s roads today. By mid-century, forecasts have that number climbing to 4 billion. Meanwhile, Congress is mired in a debate over whether to pass a new highway bill. Senator Barbara Boxer, a chief negotiator of the pending bill, lamented recently that she was “embarrassed for the people of this country” that this measure had not been enacted. After all, she said, passing highway bills used to be as popular and as important as “motherhood and apple pie.”

As with all previous highway bills, proponents generally wrap their arguments in projections for new jobs, or rhetoric that links fresh infrastructure spending to unclogging the arteries of commerce. For the president, a highway bill fits his campaign theme of getting America back to work. In a recent speech in Cleveland, the president issued a call to “rebuild America” and to do “some nation-building here at home.” The main obstacle remains how to pay for new spending and investment.

Flashback to 1998 and 2005: Those were the last years Washington enacted “highway bills,” or measures to reauthorize federal infrastructure spending programs. Now that the economy is sputtering in 2012, many would like to see Congress pull a page from the playbooks of those years. The taxpayer price tags for the ’98 and ’05 multiyear highway bills were $218 billion and $286 billion, respectively. Count President Obama as part of today’s infrastructure-stimulus choir, as he has proposed a $556 billion six-year bill.

Harvard Professor Edward Glaeser argues: “America’s infrastructure needs intelligent reform, not floods of extra financing or quixotic dreams of new moon adventures or high-speed railways to nowhere.”

U.S. policymakers would be wise to take a moment this summer to reflect on whether the national strategy they are contemplating for infrastructure investment properly prioritizes performance and leverages technology.

State GDPs are evidence that Republicans may retake the Senate

Christopher Papagianis
Jun 7, 2012 17:14 UTC

The recent jobs and GDP numbers released by the government were a broad disappointment, and plenty of analysts have discussed the implications of the data. Yet, most of the analysis has focused on two dimensions – whether it’s now more or less likely that Congress or the Fed will act on either the fiscal or monetary fronts to try to boost the economic recovery.

The consensus is that the odds are marginally higher now that the Fed will signal something stimulative at its next meeting on June 19-20, while Congress is still hopelessly deadlocked, and the economy will have to show significantly more weakness for this dynamic to change.

However, there is a third dimension happening at the state level. The state-by-state GDP numbers out this week suggest that the probability that Republicans will take the Senate is rising. The weak economic growth numbers in some battleground states imply that Republicans could pick up several key U.S. Senate seats and probably take back the majority for the first time since 2006.

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