Hillary Clinton has proposed investing $275 billion over five years in American infrastructure – roads, bridges and transit systems. There is just one problem: $275 billion is just a fraction of what is actually needed to restore and repair American infrastructure. The amount that should be invested, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers in their 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, is $3.6 trillion through 2020, an average of about $450 billion a year. That’s about 8x the annual average amount ($55 billion) that Hillary has proposed.
Now, Hillary says all the right things. Here’s and excerpt from the briefing materials on her website, Hillary Clinton’s Infrastructure Plan: Building Tomorrow’s Economy Today:
“According to the White House Council of Economic Advisers, every $1 billion in infrastructure investment creates 13,000 jobs. Moreover, the vast majority of the jobs created by infrastructure investment are good-paying, middle-class jobs — paying above the national median. And beyond creating good-paying jobs today, infrastructure investments promise to enhance the productivity of the American economy tomorrow — helping to boost the incomes of working Americans in the future. Every dollar of infrastructure investment leads to an estimated $1.60 increase in GDP the following year and twice that over the subsequent 20 years.”
The problem is if the need is so great, and the benefits so compelling, why invest so little? Is it because those on the Republican right will attack her for proposing higher spending levels? Probably. And therein lies the problem. Democrats, Hillary included, continue to be intimidated by tax cutting zealots of the Republican right and their big business allies.
Spending on infrastructure is not spending in the traditional sense that the term is used – done right, it is “investment” in the future of our country, in our children and grandchildren, in the creation of good, solid, middle class jobs, increased productivity, and future economic growth.
Democrats need to tell that story. Hillary’s plan is a step in the right direction, but it comes up way short on proposed spending levels.