A Thought On Infrastructure Investment

They are lining up for money from the Obama administration. Infrastructure investment is the catch word of the day and there are no shortage of projects. Here for your consideration, courtesy of today’s Wall Street Journal, are some examples of what we are being asked to pay for:

A wish list that is 11,391 projects strong! What vital infrastructure projects would cash-strapped taxpayers get for their $73 billion? Here’s a sampling:

- Hercules, Calif., wants $2.5 million in hard-earned taxpayer money for a “Waterfront Duck Pond Park,” and another $200,000 for a dog park.

- Euless, Texas, wants $15 million for the Midway Park Family Life Center, which, you’ll be glad to note, includes both a senior center and aquatic facility.

- Natchez, Miss., “needs” a new $9.5 million sports complex “which would allow our city to host major regional and national sports tournaments.”

- Henderson, Nev., is asking for $20 million to help “develop a 60 acre multi-use sports field complex.”

- Brigham City, Utah, wants $15 million for a sports park.

- Arlington, Texas, needs $4 million to expand its tennis center.

- Miami, Fla., needs $15 million for a “Moore Park Community Center, Tennis Center and Day Care” facility. The city is also desperate for $3.6 million to build a covered basketball court and a new tennis court at Robert King High Park. Then there’s the $94 million Orange Bowl parking garage you are being asked to pay for.

- La Porte, Texas, wants $7.6 million for a “Life Style Center.” And Oakland, Calif., needs $1 million for Fruitvale Latino Cultural and Performing Arts Center.

The wish list in the true Christmas spirit was presented to Congress on Monday by the National Conference of Mayors. Now count me in the camp that reluctantly agrees that we need more than a dash of stimulus to turn things around. I am convinced that this is a nasty recession that has the potential to turn into something much worse. So let’s not get hung up on ideology. It’s fire, ready aim to some extent. But let’s at least think things through a little bit.

I can easily get on board with infrastructure that improves efficiency. Want to repair those roads and bridges and maybe even build some more. Go right ahead. The payoff in reduced transportation times is there. Green initiatives, OK if you twist my arm. Even better if you spend the money improving transmission grids and I’m all in if you figure out a way to fast track nuclear. But tennis courts don’t do too much for me.

Here is an idea that has absolutely no chance of getting advanced. After two protracted wars our military assets are sorely depleted. How about carving out a half a trillion to reequip the troops. We will have to do it sooner or later anyway, so why not now.

Bruce Bartlett had an excellent article in Forbes which I featured earlier. Bartlett wrote that even Keynes was vexed as to how to employ his theories in the midst of the Great Depression. He felt that government should buy “stuff” but it took the advent of World War 11 for government to get to the place in which it was buying “stuff” in massive quantities. We don’t have to have a war but we do have the opportunity to buy a lot of material that we need and that will arguably have a bigger “multiplier effect” than many of the other proposals floating around.

Putting worker to work building fighter jets, tanks, transport vehicles, armored personnell carriers and on and is likely to have much more of a positive effect than tennis courts. Expect more tennis courts.

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