I noted yesterday that several Republican lawmakers are trying to claim that Obama’s $50 billion plan to invest in infrastructure is too darn expensive, at the same time that they’re pushing for an $830 billion tax cut for the richest two percent of Americans. If these lawmakers succeed in blocking the investment, they’ll definitively prove their deficit peacockery, while also perpetuating an ongoing neglect of the country’s infrastructure, which is rapidly deteriorating.
This should be prefaced by saying that even $50 billion doesn’t come close to covering the funds needed to accomplish all the work that needs to be done in the country, but it is a start. According to the Army Corps of Engineers, it would take a $2.2 trillion investment to get America’s infrastructure into good condition, including $930 billion for roads and bridges and another $160 billion for schools.
“For the safety and security of our families, we can no longer afford to ignore the congested roads, aging dams, broken water mains, and deficient bridges we face every day,” wrote American Society of Civil Engineers President D. Wayne Klotz in last year’s Report Card for America’s Infrastructure. Here is the situation in some of the states where lawmakers have been resistant to Obama’s plan:
KENTUCKY: Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) opposes the funding, even though one-third of his state’s bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete and the state has 178 high hazard dams (which is a dam where failure “would cause a loss of life and significant property damage”).
PENNSYLVANIA: Republican Senate nominee Pat Toomey opposes the funding, even though 50 percent of his state’s bridges are deficient, 44 percent of its roads are in poor condition, and it has $7 billion in wastewater infrastructure needs.
OHIO: House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) opposes the funding, even though his state has 375 high hazard dams and is the country’s fifth largest hazardous waste producer. 25 percent of Ohio’s roads are in poor condition.
FLORIDA: Rep. John Mica (R-FL) opposes the funding, even though 18 percent of his state’s bridges are structurally deficient, the state has 72 high hazard dams, and needs a $15 billion investment in drinking water infrastructure.
Allowing infrastructure to deteriorate is dangerous, and cleaning up the mess after an infrastructure failure triggers a disaster is costlier than simply dealing with problems before they arise. But at the moment, it’s easier to score political points off of anything that has to do with additional government spending.