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It’s this Myth that Should be Crumbling

Here’s a letter to Quinn Klinefelter, a reporter for Marketplace:

Dear Mr. Klinefelter:

On today’s Marketplace Morning Report, you told how “Teacher Robert Brown likes President Obama’s call to … create new jobs by rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure” (“Detroit hopeful for jobs action from Obama“).

If America’s infrastructure truly is crumbling, the culprit isn’t reduced, or even stagnant, government spending on infrastructure.  As the New York Times reported on November 19, 2008 about infrastructure (see here) “money isn’t the main problem.”  We learn why elsewhere in the report: “Government spending on infrastructure fell after the construction of the Interstate highway system, but has risen gradually over the past 25 years.”  Indeed, such spending – not only absolutely, but also as a percent of GDP – was higher in 2008 than it had been at any time since 1981.

And note also: these facts combined with the economic crash of 2008 should caution you and other business reporters against accepting so gullibly, and without ample qualification, the commonplace assertion that government spending on infrastructure is an economic stimulant.

Donald J. Boudreaux