The Corner

The Infrastructure Panacea

Hillary Clinton has an op-ed on her plan to fight poverty in the New York Times. Step one:

“As president, one of my top priorities will be increasing economic growth that’s strong, fair and lasting. I will work with Democrats and Republicans to make a historic investment in good-paying jobs — jobs in infrastructure and manufacturing, technology and innovation, small businesses and clean energy.”

I would not be shocked if in an earlier draft of the op-ed, that last sentence included “[add other good things that focus-group well and we want to subsidize].” In any event, those who think that infrastructure investment is a good way to create jobs should read this essay by Edward Glaeser. He explains that it’s the returns to infrastructure spending that matter, not the number of jobs tied up in that spending; that those returns are often low; and that the federal government is unlikely to select the best projects. His conclusion:

No one denies that the United States suffers gaping infrastructure deficiencies, including potholed roads, unsafe bridges, and awful airports. But we also have a dreary history of federally supported infrastructure boondoggles. America spends too much time arguing about whether to spend more money or less on infrastructure—including as a jobs program—and far too little time on how to construct and maintain infrastructure wisely. Treating transportation infrastructure as yet another public-works program ensures the mediocrity that we see all around us. A wise approach means, contrary to Bernie Sanders, a much diminished federal role and a lot more transportation initiatives that look like private industry, with users paying for the services they receive.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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