Houston, We Have Infrastructure

Last week, we opined that a win by Democrats on the infrastructure bill would eventually translate into Democratic wins in the 2022 and 2024 elections. The vote in the Senate last August had been lopsided—69 to 30 with 19 Republicans joining Democrats in support of the bill, precisely because even Republicans understand how popular infrastructure projects can be. Yesterday’s vote in the House of Representatives was much closer—228 to 206—but only because six far-left progressives decided to take their toys to the Republican sandbox. (They were pouting because Speaker Nancy Pelosi had agreed with the demands of moderate Democrats to separate the infrastructure bill from the “Build Back Better” bill, the latter aimed at funding education, health care, low-income tax credits, and other social ventures.)

What’s in the infrastructure bill? (I’ll spare you the precise dollar amounts.)

  • Highway improvements, including repairs to existing structures as well as new roads and bridges
  • Upgrades for mass transit and rail freight
  • Improvements in the nation’s access to broadband internet service
  • Upgrades for airports and waterways, including port facilities
  • Electric vehicle infrastructure, including funds to purchase low-emission buses and ferries as well as a nationwide network of automobile vehicle charging stations
  • Utility upgrades addressing powerlines and water pipelines, including funds to make those systems more secure against cyberattacks and other threats of sabotage
  • Superfund dollars to accelerate the cleanup of toxic waste sites

Where will the money come from?

Oddly enough, the answer isn’t all that important when it comes to infrastructure. Spirited Reasoners understand the critical difference between infrastructure investment and other forms of social spending. When taxpayer money is spent to improve a structure that is already owned by our government, we are not so much spending as investing. An analogy could be drawn to a homeowner investing $10,000 to repair the damaged roof of the family house after a storm. Sure, one could argue that the homeowner has parted with $10,000 in the form of good old fashioned hard cash. But, on the other hand, the homeowner has gained a new roof of equal value. In essence, the homeowner has traded one asset—cash—for another asset—a solid, protective roof. Failure to spend that $10,000 could result in a substantial reduction of the homeowner’s nest egg if the existing bad roof were, at some point, to allow water damage that could lower the market value of the entire structure.

Thus, when we as a nation spend money on infrastructure, we are really just trading one asset for another: cash we used to carry in our wallets in exchange for real, tangible assets designed to last a lifetime.

What about the “Build Back Better” bill that progressive Democrats had hoped to include in this legislation? We’ll address that legislation in a future post. Suffice it to say that Democrats have already sealed a major victory they can carry home to their constituents in 2022 and 2024: improvements to public facilities that all of us—Democrats, Republicans, and Independents—need and care about. Those who supported this legislation can point to new spending for specific projects in their own respective Congressional districts, whether those projects happen to come in the form of roads, bridges, airports, broadband, or other much needed improvements.