Economy & Business

The Corner

Throwing Infrastructure Money Down a Red-Tape Rathole

According to a new report by Philip K. Howard of the Common Good Foundation, streamlining the approval process for new infrastructure projects could yield trillions of dollars in economic benefits over the next decade. I’m generally skeptical of over-the-top projections of this kind, but as Tracy Gordon and David Schleicher  recently observed, there is no question that infrastructure projects in the U.S. are vastly more expensive than those in other rich market democracies, and the regulatory burden facing U.S. infrastructure projects is as plausible an explanation for why this is so as any. Roughly speaking, the approval process for major projects takes ten years. In Canada and Germany, it takes two years or less. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing many Canadians and Germans, and while I’ve found them perfectly charming and bright, they do not belong to some superior race of space aliens, who possess mysterious infrastructure secrets totally impenetrable to us Yankees. There is no reason why our approval process should take five times as long as theirs. Howard offers a roadmap for how we can close the gap. The short of it is that we need “a coherent hierarchy of authority in which accountable officials can can balance different regulatory interests,” which is to say we need a place where the buck stops.  

The next time you hear a politician touting the benefits of increased infrastructure spending, please ask them what exactly they intend to do about the fact that so much of what we currently spend on infrastructure is wasted. 

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

Broward’s Cowards

It is impossible to imagine circumstances under which Broward County sheriff Scott Israel could attempt to perform his duties with the confidence of the public. He should resign immediately, and if, as he promises, he refuses to go quietly, then he should be shown the door by the people he professes to ... Read More

Courage: The Greatest of Virtues

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays. Dear Reader (Or Listener), As the reporter assigned the job of writing the article about all of Sidney Blumenthal’s friends and supporters told his ... Read More

My American Dream

This morning, at 8 a.m., I did something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember: I became an American. I first applied for a visa in early 2011, and since then I have slowly worked my way through the system — first as a visa-holder, then as a permanent resident (green card), and, finally, as a ... Read More
Politics & Policy

CNN’s Shameful Town Hall

CNN recently hosted an anti-gun town hall featuring a number of grieving children and parents from Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., who aimed their ire at the National Rifle Association, politicians peripherally associated with the NRA, and anyone who didn’t say exactly what they wanted to hear. ... Read More

The Gun-Control Debate Could Break America

Last night, the nation witnessed what looked a lot like an extended version of the famous “two minutes hate” from George Orwell’s novel 1984. During a CNN town hall on gun control, a furious crowd of Americans jeered at two conservatives, Marco Rubio and Dana Loesch, who stood in defense of the Second ... Read More