America’s roads and bridges are in horrible shape. We could fix them up and provide lots of jobs in the process. But we won’t!
A new annual survey of our nation’s bridges, out today, finds that one in ten of our nation’s bridges—about 58,000 total—are “structurally deficient,” meaning they are in pressing need of repair. The good news is that that’s 2,500 fewer structurally deficient bridges than in 2014. The bad news: “The current pace of investment would take 21 years to replace or upgrade all the deficient bridges.”
It is safe to say that our roads and bridges are going to be in use for a while. For many decades to come. We are not all going to be flying in hovercars in the next five years. These roads and bridges will need to be fixed. The money to fix them will need to spent. The longer we wait to fix them, the worse condition they will be in, the more money it will take to fix them, and the more accidents and transportation delays will be caused by their failures.
Interest rates are very low right now on a historical basis. If you ever wanted to, say, borrow a trillion bucks to finance a national infrastructure program to repair our crumbling roads and bridges, this would not be a bad time to do it. Oil prices are extremely low right now. If you ever wanted to, say, impose a gas tax that could be used to fund a national infrastructure program to repair our crumbling roads and bridges, this would not be a bad time to do it. While the official unemployment rate is relatively low, certain demographic segments of our society—particularly young people and minorities—are suffering from high unemployment. If you ever wanted to, say, start a nationwide government-funded jobs program to put these unemployed people to work, thereby unleashing a great deal of economic potential and mitigating a variety of social problems linked to unemployment and poverty and, in the process, repairing our crumbling roads and bridges, this would not be a bad time to do it.
Repairing our nation’s crumbling roads and bridges is the definition of a nonpartisan goal that “both sides of the aisle” can support. If you ever wanted to, say, demonstrate to the dispirited American public that our epically unpopular Congress can actually work together to get something meaningful done, this would not be a bad time to do it.
But we won’t do it! Because various special interests oppose gas taxes and a fully formed insane conservative ideology opposes any new big government spending programs, even ones that are targeted to something that we will need to spend money on eventually anyhow. Instead, we will do this in a piecemeal, inferior, more expensive way, that will not do as much good.
We get the political leadership that we deserve, as always.