President Obama was back on the road last week, sounding a familiar refrain in Chattanooga, Tenn. about the need to bolster the nation’s infrastructure. And even though he proposed a “grand bargain,” offering to offset the cost of the job-creating road, rail and other improvements with business tax cuts, Republicans were no more willing to embrace the idea than at any other time he’s proposed it since becoming president. That’s unfortunate.
The nation’s infrastructure — its roads, bridges, airports, public water systems, etc. — is in pretty rough shape. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, it collectively rates a D-plus and would take $3.5 trillion to fix. Doing even half of this work would not only provide hundreds of thousands of good-paying construction jobs, it would make the facilities safer and save money to boot.
For example, American motorists spent 4.8 billion hours stuck in traffic jams in 2010, wasting 1.9 billion gallons worth of fuel. When their vehicles were damaged by potholes and other road deficiencies, the repairs cost them additional billions of dollars.
The ASCE estimates that by 2020, the economy could lose $1 trillion in sales to businesses moving overseas as a result of infrastructure deficiencies here. Even if this analysis is exaggerated, it seems clear that a financial case for spending money to fix the infrastructure can be made.
Obama’s “bargain” would grant the corporate income tax relief Republicans have been seeking, including an extra bonus for manufacturers, with the infrastructure repair money generated by an expected spike in compliance and accelerated payments.
What’s not to like?