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We’re Spending Fewer Federal Dollars On Infrastructure Than We Have In 20 Years

Memo Pad Politics

We’re Spending Fewer Federal Dollars On Infrastructure Than We Have In 20 Years



It usually takes a bridge collapsing to get America talking about our crumbling infrastructure, and it’s happening again.

Apparently a truck caused the collapse of a bridge in Washington state that recently had been declared “structurally deficient.” Luckily it seems that no lives were lost in this disaster.

“In 2012, the Federal Highway Administration said 67,000 — 11 percent — of the nation’s 607,000 bridges were structurally deficient,” USA Today‘s Marisol Bello reports. “That means the bridges are not unsafe but must be closely monitored and inspected or repaired.”

President Obama proposed $50 billion in infrastructure spending as part of his 2011 American Jobs Bill. Congress passed zero of that.

The chart above from Business Insider‘s Joe Weisenthal illustrates just how little money the federal government is spending on public construction. Despite this, proposals like an infrastructure bank can’t even get a vote in the House of Representativea.

The average bridge is 42 years old —  just a bit younger than Paul Ryan (R-WI), whose budgets would like to cut federal spending, drastically slashing our already anemic investments in our future.

President Obama, who often is derided as a big spender, has actually grown the government less than any president since Eisenhower. This accident, and this chart, explain why that is not such a good thing.


  1. DemInExile May 24, 2013

    GOP response: “It doesn’t fit our political world view or agenda, so it is not true. Talk to us when we control the White House again.”

    I’m sure Paul Ryan is going to start spouting off about how nobody ever dies because of a falling bridge (cough, I-35, cough) or some such nonsense. Just like nobody ever dies because they don’t have insurance.

    1. RobertCHastings May 24, 2013

      Ryan was probably still reading his Ayn Rand books when the I-35 bridge collapsed. However, the one in Washington state apparently didn’t make much of an impression either. Most intelligent economists are saying the Return On Investment for infrastructure building is north of 7:1. Europe and Japan, as well as China, have spent much larger sums on infrastructure over the past 15 years than the US, the wealthiest country, by far, on the planet, with a larger GDP than the next 5 wealthiest countries, combined. The recent derailing in Iowa (? is just the tip of the iceberg for rails, the collapsed bridge in Washington is just one of thousands in danger of failure around the country, everyone is familiar with at least one stretch of main roads in their area that is sorely in need of repair, and conservatives say we can’t afford it. EVERYONE benefits from an adequate infrastructure, INCLUDING conservatives, especially large businesses who rely on infrastructure to get their products to market. Small hints over the past several years about the condition of our infrastructure should get the attention of most reasonable people, a category that apparently excludes, by definition, conservatives.

      1. FredAppell May 24, 2013

        What I don’t understand is, conservatives tout investments as part of the entrepreneurial spirit of America but when it comes to investing in America’s infrastructure, creating long term jobs in the process, they simply don’t see the value in that especially if it’s Democrats proposing it.

        1. RobertCHastings May 25, 2013

          You appear confused with your response. Conservatives are ALL for investment, in the improvement of the lot for the wealthy. It is too big an intellectual leap for them to grasp the concept that infrastructure investment is good for the wealthy, and for business. However, their sticking point is that it might be good for EVERYONE, and they just couldn’t have that. “We will be happy to invest in anything, as long as it does not have any positive effect on the 47%”. Sounds like a Republican policy statement to me.

          1. idamag May 25, 2013

            You said a lot when you said it is too big a leap for them to grasp the concept that infrastructure is good for the wealthy. It is also good for the country and it is good for the people who need jobs. They also cannot grasp the concept that working people pay taxes and will pay down the national debt. They also cannot understand, the working person, with money is a consumer.

          2. RobertCHastings May 25, 2013

            And since 2/3 of our economy is based upon consumerism, the wealthy should be more than happy to see a wealthy middle-class. When the middle class can ONLY meet current bills and not spend on new purchases, entertainment, vacations, etc. then the entire economy suffers.

          3. docb May 26, 2013

            It is not a matter of can’t grasp but WILL NOT for repubs. With ROI being 7:1 for infrastructure that would mean jobs and a returning economy under a Dem Black President.. The repub baggers can not have that!

          4. RobertCHastings May 26, 2013

            A direct hit. It is becoming all too obvious that the GOP(Good Old boys Party) is racist. Obama has already done more good for this country than it ever occurred to W to even think about. The points on that should be obvious – wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Great Recession, middle-class jobs, etc., ad nauseam, ad infinitum.

          5. Garry Owen Ault May 28, 2013

            It has been more than a in your face period of going on FIVE Long years that they have been, not in favor of any Black Faces.

          6. RobertCHastings May 28, 2013

            Well, there sure was a revival atmosphere when the interim senator to replace Jim DeMint from SC was appointed. And they pretty much love anything Clarence Thomas does. And who’s the guy that appears frequently on “The Week in Crazy”?

          7. FredAppell May 25, 2013

            I’m always confused with my responses according to the right wing trolls. Besides, they don’t think that our system made it possible for their success, they believe that everything they ever
            accomplished,they did on their own.

          8. RobertCHastings May 25, 2013

            One of the messiest things about our democracy and its roots is the touting of the individual, without the much needed caveat that countries like Japan see the individual as a part of the whole, and the whole is unable to function without the cooperation and contribution of all of its individuals. What a country accomplishes it does so with the input of all, and conversely, what the individual accomplishes is done ONLY with the input of society. In all ways, it does take a village.

          9. FredAppell May 25, 2013

            Extremely well put Robert.That truly is the essence of nation.
            Their so consumed with hyper-individualism that they miss the big picture. They act like every person is a small nation unto
            themselves. The words “The Common Good” mean nothing to them. They forget that the rights of man must still be obeyed by the rules of man and those rights, while still protecting their individual liberties and personhood, should not supersede that of the greater nation. They are not autonomous.

          10. RobertCHastings May 25, 2013

            Thumbs up, friend.

          11. plc97477 May 26, 2013

            I think you have nailed it. If we could come up with a way of saying it will not help the poor and middle class we could get it done.

        2. idamag May 25, 2013

          By investments, they are talking about multi-national corporations.

          1. FredAppell May 25, 2013

            You’re right, why would they want to invest in the infrastructure.
            After all, if it doesn’t positively reflect their portfolio or bank accounts immediately, it simply isn’t worth consideration.

          2. BDC_57 May 27, 2013

            Then where does the gas and diesel tax go? It suppose to pay for the repairs on the roads. somebody must be using that money for something else.

      2. lana ward May 28, 2013

        OHitler gives billions to our enemies. Maybe America could use that money???

        1. RobertCHastings May 28, 2013

          The US distributes, annually, approximately, $12B. in Foreign Aid. While that certainly is billions, as you say, that is a drop in a very big pot. And you must realize that much of that goes to allies like Israel. Maybe America could use the close to $2T spent so far on the unnecessary war in Iraq, a much bigger chunk of change than the little we spend on Foreign Aid. Maybe America could use the $450B Bush gave to big Pharma with no strings attached. Maybe America could use the $700B in the Bush unrestricted stimulus. I don’t know, but all that sounds like a lot of money we could really put to good purpose here in things like rebuilding infrastructure.

  2. Archie's Boy May 24, 2013

    They don’t call L.A. “Pothole Paradise” for nothing…

    1. idamag May 25, 2013

      And you ought to take a look at the California roads that are not on the coast.

      1. BDC_57 May 27, 2013

        Yeah I go to california every week and I have been to Ohio to ca. as the worst roads.

    2. Michael Kollmorgen May 25, 2013

      One of the biggest problems is that they are making vehicles now with very slim tires known as Low Profile Tires, directly out of the factory.

      My 2001 Ford Focus came with Low Profile Tires. I’ve replaced the Wheel and Tire both at least 3 times already when I hit a bad chuckhole – minimum $300 cost. I didn’t buy the car either. It was given to me. Don’t ever buy a Focus.

      And, in Ohio, it’s reputed we have the worst roads in the country.

      1. FredAppell May 25, 2013

        You probably just drive like a madman.

        1. Michael Kollmorgen May 25, 2013


          I’ve been known to:)

      2. Independent1 May 31, 2013

        Michael, if you think Ohio has bad roads, don’t ever drive down to Mississippi. In an article on Yahoo a few months back, Mississippi was awarded the distinction of having the worst roads on the planet (that’s the planet not the nation).

  3. Michael Kollmorgen May 24, 2013

    Not improving infrastructure is nothing new around here in Canton Ohio.

    We have a stretch of highway Rt. 30 that stretches from Canton all the way west and beyond the Ohio border with very nice highway, two lanes in both directions.

    East of Canton is nothing more than a Cow Path. It’s been a political football for many many years trying to get it modernized. Some communities have actually built housing project directly in the path of where it would go, IF it was approved.

    I guess Ohio don’t want “eastern” business, at least not going into Canton.

  4. tranz2deep May 25, 2013

    We do not *have* a federal government, we have a Civil Servant’s Civil War.

    1. FredAppell May 25, 2013

      Well said, it took a minute for it to sink in but I agree. The right better wake up.
      They seem to ignore the fact that they use the infrastructure as well.

      1. lana ward May 28, 2013

        If OHitler would quit giving billions to our enemies, we would have plenty of money

        1. FredAppell May 28, 2013

          Listen fool, America has been playing politics with money around the globe since the day we became a world super power. How is it Obama’s fault when Reagan did it too and so have other presidents of both parties. That’s how politics works weather you
          approve or not. So here are your choices, you can either learn to lighten up a little and except the truth and learn to live with it or you can be miserable and be steamrolled over. Your choice,
          choose wisely.

          1. Dominick Vila May 28, 2013

            One of the tactics used by the Tea Party is to blame President Obama for things that have been going on for decades, and give the illusion that what is happening – and the tools we use to expand our interests and improve our national security – are an unprecedented circumstance. Bear in mind that the people that criticize Barack Obama for foreign aid are the same ones that would crucify him if he cut aid to Israel, the recipient of half of our foreign aid. Egypt receives $1B as a bribe to leave Israel alone. Pakistan was getting close to $1B because some former presidents thought they were allies on the war on terror. The sad part is that very little goes to countries afflicted by famine and horrendous natural disasters. Most of our foreign aid goes to buy influence, advance our global interests, help Israel, and maintain our global hegemony.

          2. FredAppell May 28, 2013

            You’re absolutely right Dominick. They didn’t seem to mind all that money going overseas when they were benefiting from it themselves. The only tactic the Tea Party has in their arsenal is to play the old misdirection game. They say, hay! look over here, then over there, then back to here and so on and so on.

            By the way, have you ever given serious thought to why you draw so ire from the trolls on here? I’ll give you a hint:) It isn’t
            because they think you are wrong. They’re afraid of you Dominick because you speak the truth and they can’t defeat the truth. You do it intelligently and articulately and there really is no counter to that. Thank You.

          3. RobertCHastings May 28, 2013

            In 2001, George W attended a conference in Monterey, MX to study approaches to world-wide poverty. At the time, he agreed to pledge less than 1% of US GDP to combat poverty. As with many of his promises, this one was never followed through. With a GDP of around $3T (?), how much would that be, and how much misery would it alleviate?

          4. lana ward May 28, 2013

            Listen fool, our country has never been in this bad a shape as it is under OHitler. We NEED that money here, not in the enemys hands. He just gave Morsi what 4 of our jet fighters, weapons, tons of money. He wants us broke, that is part of his plan to destroy us

          5. FredAppell May 28, 2013

            The Great Depression was much worse that this. If he wanted us broke than I’m sure he could have come up with a better plan. You’re not one of those conspiracy theorists that believe Obama
            is part of larger cabal are you? This talk is really getting old. Oh,
            and don’t fret about those 4 jet fighters. They’re most likely 20-30 years old and don’t have the same avionics that our military jets have. Unless of course those jets were sold to Egypt as a private sale which our private military contractors are free to sell to whomever they please. Even if the Jets were made yesterday, they are still 20-30 year old designs which is not the same planes as our country deploys. Don’t spread fear when you don’t have all the facts.

        2. howa4x May 28, 2013

          If you think Obama is like Hitler you really need to go back to High school or at least read a book if you can. Making statements like this makes you look like a real idiot

  5. I Zheet M'Drawz May 26, 2013

    This is because we’re spending our money making weapons of destruction & deploying them against other nations. Then we spend more money re-building that nations infrastructure and even more money building more weapons of destruction & deploying them against nations.
    Rise & repeat.

  6. charleo1 May 26, 2013

    As it so happens. Whatever we’ve been doing with our tax dollars, for the
    past, 40, or 50 years, it has not been in investing, building, and modernizing
    our infrastructure. Now, isn’t it just a rotten shame? That while our roads, and
    bridges, electric grid, water treatment facilities, have needed fixing for years,
    all over the Country. And, there are flood control levies to be built of fixed. Or,
    growing cities, like Atlanta, GA. that need reservoir enhancements, to increase
    the public water supplies, where population growth, and recent drought con-
    ditions, threaten to hamper one of the most dynamic, and fastest growing cities
    in the Country. To ignore, or discount public investment there, is malfeasance.
    Especially when, all of these vital, and necessary improvements and more,
    can now be done for a fraction of their normal costs. Because, the silver lining
    of the economic recession, is rock bottom prices for materials. And, with the
    world practically begging us to hold their money for them. Financing such an endeavor, with low interest T-Bills, would mean the total cost of the financing,
    would be, literally, next to nothing. Now, I say it’s really a shame. Because,
    there is a certain set of people that would need to sign on, before we could
    start these projects. But unfortunately, for the rest of us, and let’s just rip the
    scab off. Doing this, would not fit in with their politics. Because, for one thing,
    all those construction type people, that were building houses, before that
    industry crashed? Turns out, a good deal of their skill, and equipment, that’s
    just been going to waste, could be back in business in no time. But, I’m afraid
    that, doesn’t mesh very well with their politics either. Now, we have a President,
    this group calls a dictator. That has been begging them, for well over two
    years now, to stop making their decisions on the pure politics of the matter.
    And, think about what’s right for the Country. I could tell them, the American
    voters, would be a whole lot more likely to vote for them, if they did. Whatever
    happened to good public policy, leads to great political success? Unless, there
    is some other reason why this group, or their benefactors that finance their
    campaigns, don’t believe in America anymore. And, have decided their best
    bet for improving, and modernizing infrastructure, is in another country, out there
    some place. If that’s it. We’re all adults here. So I think, if that’s the case.
    At least, they owe us the truth.

  7. Guy P. Fraser May 28, 2013

    LOWEST IN 20 YEARS, wow….isn’t this the reason our bridges are falling down?

  8. latebloomingrandma May 28, 2013

    The next time a bridge collapses, the bill should be sent to Grover Norquist.

  9. howa4x May 28, 2013

    The tearepublicans are mainly responsible as is Grover Norquist with his no new tax pledge. The reality is that if we were a corporation we would maintain our physical plant and make investments in new technologies and material. So why are we neglecting our physical plant which is roads Bridges and Airports. It is much more costly to replace a fallen bridge than to maintain it. States for years have raided their transportation trust funds to balance budgets or give tax cuts to wealthy citizens. In NJ Christie wanted to take 370 million out of the TTF for a tax cut. He was stopped by the legislature. We have squandered billions in wars that got us nothing. The military industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us about had to be fed and any president that tries to reduce it is bombarded by hawks like McCain and Graham. We need to do nation building at home and fix what was once the best hwy system in the world. That will take taxes and we all need to pony up.

  10. Richard Kiefer May 28, 2013

    Why don’t they call the Re-PUBLIC-cant (or “wont'”) Party the Re-PRIVATE-can Party for its attitude toward taxes and the public – as well as private – infrastructure?


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