Sunday, December 11, 2011

Infrastructure projects to fix the economy? Don’t bank on it.

Many good points in this Washington Post guest opinion:

  • Even if federal agencies calculate the numbers properly, members of Congress often push ahead with "trash" projects anyway.
  • As Morgan noted in his 1971 book, these big projects have often damaged both taxpayers and ecology.
  • Taxpayers are double losers from all this infrastructure. They paid to build it, and now they are paying to clean up the environmental damage.
  • When the federal government "thinks big," it often makes big mistakes.
  • When the federal government is paying for infrastructure, state officials and members of Congress fight for their shares of the funding, without worrying too much about efficiency, environmental issues or other longer-term factors.
  • The recent infrastructure debate has focused on job creation, and whether projects are "shovel ready." The more important question is who is holding the shovel.
  • The federal government subsidizes the construction of urban light-rail systems, for example, which has caused these systems to spring up across the country. But urban rail systems are generally less efficient and flexible than bus systems, and they saddle cities with higher operating and maintenance costs down the road.

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