December 9, 2008

"Manhattan, Kansas can finally (finally!) coordinate the traffic lights on Fort Riley Boulevard for a measly $71,250..."

Nick Gillespie is horrified at "the infrastructure flim-flam."

13 comments:

Simon said...

Don't the states have to agree to the feds coming in and building all this infrastructure stuff? If not, there's this island in Alaska that needs a bridge...

Original George said...

I'll bet we see cities and states go wacky spending money in the next few years the way consumers did in the years after 9/11. Then what?

Here's a map of the 50 states showing how bad the public employee pension problem is in each state.

As of 2007, Kansas was a "one-alarm" state with a multi-billion shortfall that will start to contract in 2020. Its portfolio lost 27% of its value this year. Says the state pension chief: "The only way benefits would be in danger would be another serious round of stock losses and the state reneging on its contributions."

save_the_rustbelt said...

One more reason not to read Reason.

If it standard stuff to look for oddball items in any government program.

I wonder if this guy has any concept of how the highway system, water and sewer systems, university infrastructure, etc. came to be, or does he believe in the infrastructure fairy?

Answer: government funding and private contractors, coordinated through state and local governments.

Certainly the government wastes money. So?

Simon said...

And while we're at it, where's the recovery plan for female workers? Does Obama really foresee women out there with pickaxes digging up roads? Of course some women work in the construction, a few more could, but the simple reality is that most women don't, and have little desire to develop the inclination or the physical capacity. So what are we to make of a recovery plan that appears directed primarily at male workers? One problem with a New New Deal is that these aren't the old 1930s.

Richard Dolan said...

Save the Rustbelt misses the point of Gillespie's criticism. Highways and other major infrastructure projects will still be gov't financed, and will still get done. Spending on infrastructure makes sense when it adds to efficiencies. It doesn't make any economic sense when the justification for the spending is that it adds X number of jobs. In all events infrastructure projects (the real ones) are not the sort of thing from which "stimulus packages" are made. The reason is that real infrastructure projects require lots of planning, and aren't trotted out in a few months to create "stimulus."

Instead, these "stimulus" plans fall into the category of a crisis too good to waste, a phrase beloved of some in Team O that it bears to keep in mind. What happens is just what you would expect to happen when (a) the main object is just to spend money fast, on the theory that spending per se is an economic good, and (b) politicians with no skin in the game and who don't have to pay the price are deciding on where the money will be spent.

The two basic problems with "stimulus" plans generally is that the gov't is too slow at doing anything, including shoving money mindlessly out the door, to have the immediate impact imagined by the politicians; and it always remains true that there is no free lunch. In the end, the projects get paid for either by raising taxes or raising inflation. Adding to the mess is the fact that, by the time the money starts showing up, the basic economics will have changed (in what direction and in what particulars it being impossible to say beforehand).

Looking at it all with a little perspective, what you would expect is a lot of useless spending directed mostly at the politicos' pet projects, that end up costing far more than they were ever worth and add nothing to the overall efficiency or productivity of the economy. That's pretty much what Gillespie is describing.

AllenS said...

Does anybody want to drive over a bridge that was constructed by this new workforce?

Zach said...

Remember, the stimulus program has a "use it or lose it" rule. If states don't come up with a list right away, they don't get the money. This kind of project -- the kind that states and towns want, but aren't willing to pay for themselves -- is exactly what's going to get funded under that arrangement.

Chip Ahoy said...

Wow. I'm going to love this incredible wonderful myth you guys are making. Do, please keep at it. It'll be just like living in a real-live Ayn Rand fiction.

Joe said...

I just want to know if this is going to fund grinding down the horrible bump in the left lane on I-15 just above 106th South in Salt Lake City.

PatCA said...

The worst part of the "stimulus program" is the Community Block Grants program. That is essentially money to political supporters like Acorn to...do stuff with. These are not projects with shovels ready to hit the dirt.

Daryl said...

If coordinating the lights saves 100 people 1 minute every work day for the next year, that would mean about:

30,000 minutes saved, which is to say

500 people-hours saved. If people's time is worth $20/hour, that's $10,000 in savings.

So the coordination would pay back its benefits to society in 7 years.

And those are just made-up figures. It might save a lot more time than that.

It will also mean less gas wasted, and less CO2 in the atmosphere (if you believe in the global warming hoax)

Pete said...

I went to college in Manhattan at Kansas State, and I know what traffic lights they're referring to. The lights really were annoying, and maybe they will finally be fixed, but I doubt it.

knox said...

The worst part of the "stimulus program" is the Community Block Grants program. That is essentially money to political supporters like Acorn to...do stuff with. These are not projects with shovels ready to hit the dirt.

inevitable, with or without a stimulus program.