One of the worst effects of the Reagan Revolution was a near-complete loss of conscious caring about public infrastructure in the U.S. Most capital-intensive essentially public projects with no Wall Street box office were neglected. For decades.
I’m reminded of this by On the pot-holed highway to hell, by John Gapper in the Financial Times. It begins,
|If anyone doubts the problems of US infrastructure, I suggest he or she take a flight to John F. Kennedy airport (braving the landing delay), ride a taxi on the pot-holed and congested Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and try to make a mobile phone call en route.|
|That should settle it, particularly for those who have experienced smooth flights, train rides and road travel, and speedy communications networks in, say, Beijing, Paris or Abu Dhabi recently. The gulf in public and private infrastructure is, to put it mildly, alarming for US competitiveness...|
|There are lots of ways in which infrastructure inadequacy matters to the US but I would focus on two.|
|First, it imposes a drag on economic growth. The private infrastructure is poor enough – broadband speeds lag behind other countries and mobile coverage is spotty. But much of the public infrastructure is unfit, a fact that was becoming clear even before Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans and a Minneapolis bridge collapsed during rush hour last year.|
|Second, it presents an awful image of the US to investors and other visitors. The state of transport and communications infrastructure is a symbol of a nation’s economic development and the US is starting to look like a third world country. In fact, scratch that. Many developing countries look and feel better.|
|Of course, they are in a different phase of development. The US invested 10 per cent of its federal non-military budget in infrastructure in the 1950s and 1960s as it built the interstate highway system – at the time, the envy of the world. While US investment has fallen to less than 1 per cent of gross domestic product, China has been matching its double-digit postwar record.|
Will this be an issue in the upcoming election? Barack Obama lists 21 issues in a pull-down menu. One of those is “additional issues“. There are six of those. Last on the list is “transportation“. Its entire text says “As our society becomes more mobile and interconnected, the need for 21st-century transportation networks has never been greater. However, too many of our nation’s railways, highways, bridges, airports, and neighborhood streets are slowly decaying due to lack of investment and strategic long-term planning. Barack Obama believes that America’s long-term competitiveness depends on the stability of our critical infrastructure. As president, Obama will make strengthening our transportation systems, including our roads and bridges, a top priority.” But there is a .pdf of the full plan. Argue with it if you like, but at least he has one.
John McCain lists 13 issues in his pull-down Issues menu. None of them cover this stuff, near as I can tell.
Comments are now closed.