By Robert Carbery
Ryan McMaken wrote an insightful piece in the libertarian-heavy Mises Wire on Monday about how the one-size-fits-all solution to infrastructure is flawed. Essentially, we don’t need a federal solution to our many infrastructure woes.
With recent tragedies such as the Amtrak train crash in Washington State in December, politicians are declaring that these instances are why we need to spend even more on our roads and bridges and train tracks. President Trump already has. He tweeted out recently, “The train accident that just occurred in DuPont, WA shows more than ever why our soon to be submitted infrastructure plan must be approved quickly…” Our nation is not in disrepair and we do spend very much on infrastructure already. The Washington State track was part of a $180 million expansion of the train system.
“But that leaves us with a another question: why is a local bridge a matter of national concern? Why must a New Yorker be taxed to fund a stretch of highway in Boise?” McMaken asks. It is more wise to keep the money closer to the taxpayer because the states and cities have more than enough wealth and wherewithal to construct and repair infrastructure. American states generate ample amounts of wealth, more than that of many other countries.
It is not true that state and local governments are inept at handling infrastructure projects. However, DC has its hand in just about everything these days as we continue to throw massive amounts of money at what many times ends up being a boondoggle of a project. Politicians regularly use more infrastructure spending in order to win more votes as Trump has done since his campaign.
State governments tend to actually stick to some kind of sustainable budget, unlike the federal government which increases its deficit spending year after year. Therefore, with almost all of the 50 states having a balanced-budget requirement written into its constitution, if spending increases somewhere, then taxes must be raised in order to cover that debt. DC continually grows the nation’s debt no matter what political party has control of Congress or the presidency while bankrupting us in the process by not raising taxes appropriately to cover the increased debt load.
So of course, federal spending has vastly outspent state and local governments’ spending. “Since the dot-com peak of 2000,” McMaken begins, “federal expenditures have increased 116 percent at the federal level. For all state and local governments combined, however, expenditures have increased 89 percent.” In doing this, our duly elected representatives are heaping the taxpayer with loads and loads of debt in both federal and state and local government.
But no one seems to care. We will continue to spend far much more than we take in. We will likely keep throwing large sums of money at ineffective infrastructure projects on a national level. We will never care about all the debt until it really starts to hurt us. We will keep chucking unproductive rhetorical bombs at each other. And nothing will be done right.
This is tragic. But this is true.
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By Robert Carbery