I wrote about this before, a couple of times, most thoroughly here.
I was reminded of this topic when I saw that the American Society of
Civil Engineers (ASCE) have updated their Report Card on
In 2008, I compared the positions of the two Presidential candidates,
regarding advocacy for infrastructure improvements. Obama was
better. So I was somewhat hopeful that we would see some pretty
big changes, after he won the election.
Back then, I pointed out that the Department of Homeland Security
considered the protection of critical infrastructure to be a high
priority. I also said:
The gravest threats are the catastrophic ones:
nuclear bombs, hurricanes, floods. But by far the most
likely threat is nothing like that. The most likely threat
is simple decay…The DHS is proposing that we refine our plan to
protect the infrastructure. Fine. But without some
additional investment, “the terrorists” won’t have to do a thing.
It will all fall apart on its own.
Tony Wikrent, writing on The
Economic Populist, has summarized and commented upon the latest
ASCE Report Card. He notes:
According to figures compiled by the America Society of
Civil Engineers, a multi-year program of just repairing all existing
U.S. infrastructure requires an additional $1.134 trillion dollars than
already planned funding.
Mathematically-inclined readers might notice that the proposed cost is
of the same order of magnitude as the cost of the wars in Iraq an
A little more math, however, shows an important difference.
The cost that is shown is only the initial cost. But the cost
will continue to go up. By one
estimate, it will reach three trillion dollars. The
infrastructure improvements, however, would result in economic
improvements almost immediately. Furthermore, the benefits would
continue to accrue over subsequent decades.
Wikrent indicates the magnitude of economic benefit:
Using various employment multipliers specific to types of
infrastructure (more discussion below), such a program spread over five
years can be expected to create 4.605 million direct and indirect jobs.
It is difficult to convey an impression of just how important this
is. I encourage people to get an idea for themselves, by looking
at the ASCE report
card for their own states. This will show you things that
directly impact your life, such as transportation, flood control, and
There are two potential goals for the spending of money: money can be
spent to make good things happen, and/or to prevent bad things from
happening. The ASCE proposals would do both. The wars only
accomplish one, at most. Some
have argued that it doesn’t even do that; they might be making us less