The Campaign Spot

Those Perennially-Crumbling Roads and Bridges

Just about a year ago, I observed that no matter how much the federal government spends on “infrastructure,” we still get predictable cries that “we need to do something about our crumbling infrastructure.” The need to fix “crumbling roads and bridges” a perennial rallying cry in President Obama’s speeches, even though he touts the stimulus as “the largest new investment in our nation’s infrastructure since Eisenhower.” The government spends enormous sums of money, but there’s never any sign of it having an impact, at least in the rhetoric of those who want to spend more.

From the Congressional Budget Office last month: “From 2008 to 2011, total government spending on surface transportation infrastructure—highways, mass transit, and passenger rail—surpassed $200 billion a year. The federal government spent more than $50 billion a year—mostly in the form of grants to state and local entities, which then determined what projects to fund—and state and local governments spent more than $150 billion a year of their own funds. The private sector also invested in such infrastructure.”

Now in a new television ad, Massachusetts Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren asks, “Why aren’t we rebuilding America?”

The U.S. Department of Transportation had a budget of $72 billion last year. Looking through the DOT budget, I see $441 million for “administrative expenses” in the Federal Highway Administration, $25 million in “administrative expenses” for the Federal Highway Traffic Safety Grants. According to, as of July 20, $765.2 billion in stimulus funding has been paid out — meaning $74.8 billion is still not paid out, three years later. (The stimulus is scored at $840 billion under the CBO’s new figures, not the previously-discussed $787 billion figure.)

Is the problem really that America isn’t spending enough on its infrastructure, or that it doesn’t spend its already-gargantuan sums well enough?

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

O’Rourke’s America

With apologies to Margaret Atwood and a thousand other dystopian novelists, we do not have to theorize about what an American police state would look like, because we know what it looks like: the airport, that familiar totalitarian environment where Americans are disarmed, stripped of their privacy, divested of ... Read More

Is America Becoming Sinicized?

A little over 40 years ago, Chinese Communist strongman and reformer Deng Xiaoping began 15 years of sweeping economic reforms. They were designed to end the disastrous, even murderous planned economy of Mao Zedong, who died in 1976. The results of Deng’s revolution astonished the world. In four decades, ... Read More

Kurdish, Syrian, and Turkish Ironies

Outrage met Donald Trump’s supposedly rash decision to pull back U.S. troops from possible confrontational zones between our Kurdish friends in Syria and Recep Erdogan’s expeditionary forces. Turkey claims that it will punish the Syrian Kurds for a variety of supposed provocations, including aiding and ... Read More

LeBron James Looks Like a Fraud

So, LeBron James claimed that Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey was simply “misinformed or not really educated on the situation” when he tweeted his support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. “I don’t want to get into a feud with Daryl Morey, but I believe he wasn’t educated on the situation at ... Read More