In Praise of Infrastructure

We can (and surely will) debate whether Keynesian economics, and the massive (but planned) government spending it entailed, pulled America out of the Great Depression. Query whether that’s besides the point. There are few that argue it hurt the recovery effort, and in the process, the plan employed thousands, electrified the Tennessee Valley, and otherwise modernized America. Well-planned, the plan that unravels well (if it unravels at all).

Just so, for President Obama’s planned infrastructure projects. We can contest his ability to execute the plan properly, but the contention that the plan is another way to pump money, inefficiently, into the bankrolls of the very orchestrators of the initial collapse, seems simply off-base. And surely there ought to be some special form of estoppel to prevent John Boehner from complaining about government waste, and then taking credit for it. Reinvestment in our nation is a popular idea, and the very essence of patriotism. There ought to be no shame in it.

Still, the President may have settled on a plan too late to save his party at midterms. As I’ve argued before, though, a clear opponent, with a clear and popular plan, as this will likely be, may be a blessing for the President. To date we’ve been cursed by the appearance but not the actuality of a supermajority, meaning we take near exclusive responsibility for the country, but can’t actually do anything to discharge that obligation. Losing a house of Congress would bring our actual power in line with our actual responsibility. Given the complete absence of Republican policy alternatives — still — a loss could finally mean a chance to win on a level playing field.

I’m hoping the post-election dynamic will make Obama’s plan politically feasible.  I for one still hold out hope for the promised high-speed rail corridor connecting the Texas Triangle, and maybe a New York/Chicago line. Even given the latter, I’d seriously consider moving back to Texas.

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2 comments

  1. I’m a fan of infrastructure projects in general. I’m also in favor of high-speed rail, however, I’m a bit concerned about his emphasis on high-speed over heavy rail. The latter has to come first.

  2. Infrastructure investments are great and all, but… didn’t they already set aside over 100 billion dollars for exactly the same thing through the ARRA bill back in February 2009?

    “Let’s try more of the same and hope it works better this time” does not seem like a particularly confidence-inspiring strategy.

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