Federal Government, Take Your Hands Off Our Infrastructure

The federal government is not best suited to take care of the nation’s infrastructure needs.  That idea needs to be eradicated from politicians’ minds.  Unfortunately, some politicians see “solutions” to problems only through the lens of the federal government.

Indeed, some pretty harebrained ideas are brewing in Congress.  To accomplish their goals, Politico reports lawmakers are looking at new fees or tax hikes “to generate money.”

Interesting phraseology.  I’m pretty sure the federal government doesn’t “generate” money, though they waste money like it’s their job.

The private sector produces wealth and (this may come as a surprise to liberals) is actually best equipped to spend it efficiently.  And the some U.S. states – despite President Obama’s and his cronies’ wishes otherwise – have made some strides in this direction, taking the lead on infrastructure projects.  This is good, as CATO’s Chris Edwards explains in the Wall Street Journal:

With public-private partnerships and full privatization, investment is less likely to flow to uneconomical projects that are chosen for political or ideological reasons. Private infrastructure is also more likely than government projects to be completed on-time and on-budget.

Politico lays out a bunch of the not so brilliant ideas, like this gem:

Another idea would shift some of the tax burden away from drivers and onto the wholesale market by adding a levy of $1 to $5 per barrel. According to [Rep. Peter] DeFazio’s [D-OR] office, a $1-per-barrel fee would raise $24 billion over six years while $5 per barrel would raise $120 billion, a number that would eliminate the need for general fund transfers.

Historically, it’s not the way things work.  When the wholesale price increases, either through market forces or government fiat, so do consumer prices.

Gimmicky language aside, allowing the federal government to dictate how we should build highways, bridges, or other infrastructure has proven ineffective and costly. The states, on the other hand, can allocate funds in more efficient ways and are equipped to decide how and when to fix our roads and bridges.  They can and should have a place in maintaining our nation’s infrastructure.

Edwards continues (sub. req’d):

Historically, infrastructure in America was frequently provided by the private sector. In the 19th century, more than 2,000 turnpike companies built thousands of miles of toll roads. The great majority of America’s vast railroad system was built without federal subsidies, and most urban rail and bus services were originally private.

The 20th-century takeover of private infrastructure by governments (in the U.S. and abroad) pushed up costs and reduced innovation.Fortunately, some governments have started to reverse course. Hundreds of billions of dollars of railways, highways, seaports, airports and other assets have been partly or fully privatized in Europe, Latin America and elsewhere, but America lags behind.

We agree.  Increasing privatization of infrastructure projects and devolution of authority back to the states are key to a top-notch infrastructure system.

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