Over the next few weeks, we are going to hear a growing debate over who is to blame for the bridge collapse. So far, I’ve heard:
- Governor Pawlenty (for vetoing a spending bill)
- The Taxpayers’ League of Minnesota (for encouraging smaller government)
- The Hiawatha light-rail line (for spending money that could have been spent on the bridge)
- Congress (for funding new projects but not maintenance)
- Global warming
Who are your nominees?
The other thing that will happen is that everyone will jump on the infrastructure bandwagon. If there is money to be spent on infrastructure, then they will have an infrastructure project for you. The American Society of Civil Engineers thinks we need to spend $1.5 trillion on infrastructure in the next five years. This includes money for water, sewers, parks, transit, highways, airports — fifteen different categories in all. I haven’t looked at their numbers in detail, but I suspect they are heavily inflated and are merely the sum of the wish lists of fifteen different interest groups.
How should we decide where money should be spent? Charge user fees and spend money on things that produce enough revenues to cover their costs. Any other method will be susceptible to pork, which means for sure that the money will not be spent on the highest priority items.