The emperor indeed has no clothes and it’s apparently a feature of the argument, not a bug:
U.S. on Highway to Flunking Out, by Barry Ritholtz: Roads are crumbling, bridges are collapsing, and what was once considered one of the greatest achievements of any government anywhere has fallen into embarrassing disrepair. I am of course discussing our nation’s infrastructure. … How did this happen? Credit a combination of benign neglect and anti-tax ideology run amok. …
Since 1993, the U.S. federal gasoline tax has been 18.4 cents a gallon, which finances the Highway Trust Fund. Adjusted for inflation, the tax is now about 10 cents a gallon. …
The U.S. interstate highway system, once the envy of the world, is in mediocre and deteriorating condition today … putting the U.S at a competitive disadvantage. …
The solution is simple. Raise the federal gasoline tax five cents a year for the next five years. Index it to inflation starting in the fifth year. It’s the least the U.S. can do to keep up.
Let’s be a little bit like economists here. Taxing and spending are the same thing. It’s a nice political and populist sentiment to blame those nasty intransigent Republicans on not allowing any taxes no way no how not ever. But quite frankly that is a pile or horse dung. A BIG pile. Allowing any spending today is the same as allowing tax increases. Allowing any borrowing today is the same as allowing tax increases. Allowing ANY involvement of the Fed conducting open-market operations is the same as allowing tax increases today. So score your nice political points by preaching to the Kool-Aided masses, but the infrastructure emperor is as naked as I was the day I was born (excepting my fuzziness of course). If the roads are crumbling, that’s on “you” big boys. Deal with it. You spend $6 trillion per year every year, with no signs of that slowing down. It doesn’t matter if you tax to fund it, borrow to fund it, print money to fund it, or even steal real property to fund it, it is being funded and it is not being obstructed. Your failure to get the roads and infrastructure in any condition suitable for a “first world nation” is a blatant, offensive and ugly admission that the whole apparatus is a failure. Yet I am the radical for even suggesting that we rethink things. It’s not like we are actually seeing a rehtinking of things, but having the idea of a more property driven approach to our collective affairs is contributing to the “culture of free-market dogmatism” that pervades, infects and destroys our society.
UPDATE: In other news, Vox reports, “Less than half of 12th-graders can read or do math proficiently” … it must be our intransigence at raising local property taxes … or the “culture” of deregulation, or that the private school monopoly is … um … oops.
As the teeny-boppers like to say. Whatever.