A Conservative Infrastructure Program

by Michael R. Strain

My latest column for the Washington Post argues for a “conservative infrastructure program.”

I first argue that our infrastructure needs to be repaired and upgraded. I point out that the left’s approach is lacking, but that that isn’t a reason for the right to ignore the problem.

Instead, a conservative approach to infrastructure would begin with a question: What are some projects that we actually need to fund? We all know by now that “shovel ready” projects are rare. So we should take some time to actually figure out which projects offer the highest value to society. We should put in place a multi-year program of infrastructure investment, not sugar-economics Keynesian stimulus.

Who should pick the projects? Primarily states and localities, where most of the responsibility and relevant knowledge lies. They should be free to figure out how to fund their share of the costs, as well. (And government at all levels should couple the projects with regulatory reforms to ensure they are completed on a private-sector timeline and with minimal expense.)

I also argue that such a program should prioritize helping low-income Americans to earn their own success in the labor market.

More important, a conservative infrastructure program should prioritize a conservative goal: Helping the working class to rise.

What, specifically, could this help look like? We know that urban areas characterized by a high degree of socioeconomic segregation often have relatively low mobility rates and high unemployment rates. One way to support employment and earnings is to spend money on transportation infrastructure to connect low-income workers with jobs.

I encourage you to read the entire column, which you can find here. (And remember, writers don’t get to pick their own headlines!)

— Michael R. Strain is a resident scholar in economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. You can write to him on Twitter at twitter.com/MichaelRStrain.