$1.5 trillion might not be enough

Listen to the podcast segment "What does a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan look like?"

A $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan: Briefly hinted at the State of the Union, a giant proposal that ought to have some attention. $1.5 trillion is around $4,600 per American. We probably need to spend that much (or more) on a wide range of infrastructure projects, but the needs range widely and call for a lot of technocratic judgment. 

Saying you'll spend $1.5 trillion on infrastructure is like saying you're going to lose 100 lbs. The admission means you probably need to do it, but it matters a great deal whether you're really changing your lifestyle or just banking it all on a two-week juice cleanse. 

Low interest rates today are a stupendous incentive to borrow for the long term on work that would have lasting value, but whenever "infrastructure" projects are done as a means of putting people to work, the work that is done may not be an efficient use of the capital.

One listener sent me a message while I was discussing this on the air, saying "As a senior, I don't think I should have to pay for this". Aside from the fact that I think all of us have an obligation to try to "pay it forward" to leave a better world to our kids, I think there's a critical short-sightedness to saying "I don't want to pay" when there are extraordinary and immediate needs for infrastructure investments all around us -- things that aren't future needs, but that we depend upon right now and are being held together with the equivalent of chewing gum and baling wire. 

Just because something might last long after you're gone from this earth doesn't mean you won't get some use of it while you're here.

Brian Gongol

Brian Gongol

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