LOUISVILLE — There is no better time than now to invest in America’s crumbling infrastructure, Kentucky Rep. John Yarmuth (D) told ThinkProgress in an interview this week. With the nation facing high unemployment and in need of a massive upgrade to its roads, bridges, and other infrastructure projects, the government should take advantage of historically low borrowing costs to put people back to work, Yarmuth said:
YARMUTH: These are surefire job creators, it’s work that has to be done. This is not elective surgery, this is life-saving surgery, as far as the infrastructure is concerned. And we’ve never been able to borrow money cheaper. As a matter of fact, people are giving us money for 10 years now. It is the absolute right time to do it, and I think the payback over time would be substantial.
Yarmuth’s home district experienced a major infrastructure crisis in 2011, when a bridge between Indiana and Kentucky was closed because of structural deficiencies. That isn’t a rare problem: across the country, bridges and roads are failing in increasing numbers.
Republicans, however, have consistently opposed infrastructure investments that would fix those problems, even as roads and bridges in their own districts and states crumble.
As Yarmuth notes, the United States has never been able to borrow money cheaper. Real interest rates on government bonds are now lower than the rate of inflation, meaning the government would have to pay back less than it borrowed to fix the problems. And as he also noted, the problems are not optional: roads, bridges, sewer systems, and other infrastructure needs must be addressed at some point.
Republicans, meanwhile, repeatedly blocked the American Jobs Act when it was proposed last year, complete with its investments in infrastructure. They pushed for reductions in the amount of infrastructure spending contained in the 2009 stimulus law, and they want to lower the cost of highway bills that would pay for new and existing improvement projects. In the name of fiscal responsibility, Republicans have prohibited necessary spending on the nation’s infrastructure, even though the projects will only grow more expensive in the future.