Fix It First

Moneybox
A blog about business and economics.
Feb. 12 2013 9:47 PM

Fix It First

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The 91 freeway in Buena Park, Calif.

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Speaking tonight, the president touted not just infrastructure spending, but specifically a "fix it first" approach to infrastructure.

Matthew Kahn and David Levinson have the longer, wonkier take on what this means, but the basic idea is to remediate some dysfunction in the existing process. Basically, politicians and real-estate developers like to open brand new roads with fun ribbon-cutting ceremonies and new subdivisions. Finding money to actually maintain roads we already have is less appealing. Consequently, we get too many miles of road (and too much sprawl), but the roads suck. The fix-it-first concept is to flip this and make sure we're maximizing the value of our existing roads before we build new ones.

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As a fun note, back when Mitt Romney was a moderate governor of Massachusetts, he was a big fix it first proponent.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.