COVID-19 caused a tremendous shock to America’s economy and millions of people around the country are still unemployed as the economy struggles to get back to pre-pandemic levels. Some policy analysts argue that infrastructure spending could be just the thing the U.S. needs to get the economy moving again while fixing roads, bridges, and other essential parts of our country’s backbone that are desperately in need of repair.
The most recent Infrastructure Report Card from the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2017 gave the country a D+ on everything from roads to dams to hazardous waste facilities, and the next report in 2021 is expected to be the same or even worse.
At a time when crises like COVID-19 seem to demand immediate solutions, some experts argue that investing in long-term projects like infrastructure are actually the way to go — so long as the acute issues are also being addressed.
“Infrastructure is a “long life cycle asset,” Gerald Buckwalter, who served on the National Infrastructure Advisory Council within the US Department of Homeland Security for presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, told The Verge. “Sometimes it’s difficult to think out that far because it’s too uncertain. But the longer our time horizon for our infrastructure investments, the more value our citizens will get from these investments.”
An article by Robert Krol of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University outlines three big ways infrastructure could boost the economy:
Highways increase the mobility of workers and help businesses deliver their products and services to consumers and allow them to find jobs farther from home that better matche their skills. These factors raise profits, encouraging business expansion.
The introduction of productive public funds increases the productivity of private capital and creates an incentive to expand private capital investment.
Job creation comes more from the impact on mobility and rising labor productivity than from jobs associated with the actual construction of an infrastructure project.
According to a Brookings Institution report, federal infrastructure spending is also necessary to help out state and local governments that had to divert funds from their own infrastructure plans to deal with COVID-19 and are facing budget shortfalls from decreased income and sales taxes.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has signaled that Democrats in Congress plan to make infrastructure a priority in the new year, along with the Biden administration.
“So once we go forward with an infrastructure bill, that is usually not partisan. It isn’t partisan,” Pelosi told Marketwatch. “We’re going to blanket the country with Build Back Better, as Joe Biden called it. We called it Moving America Forward. We have a great deal in common between those two agendas.”
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