What's Our $1 Trillion Infrastructure Stimulus Going to Be Spent on?

Moneybox
A blog about business and economics.
Dec. 10 2013 3:51 PM

What's Our $1 Trillion Infrastructure Stimulus Going to Be Spent on?

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What're we building again?

Photo by GREG WOOD/AFP/Getty Images

In the course of a somewhat puzzling QE-bashing article, conservative economist Martin Feldstein called for $1 trillion in public infrastructure spending as fiscal stimulus.

Since we've got conservatives calling for big government spending programs, let me play the role of conservative here and suggest that before you talk about $1 trillion infrastructure bill you should say something about what the money's going to be spent on. That kind of spending could be macroeconomically useful even if it's entirely wasted, but you could also just cut everyone a check for $3,000 per head and things would be much simpler. Does America really need $1 trillion of extra highway expansion projects? I'm skeptical. Meanwhile, a lot of progressive cities have hopped aboard a bizarre fad for building mixed-traffic streetcars that actually run slower than buses, since buses can at least switch lanes to avoid obstacles.

Now there are plenty of real infrastructure needs in this country, and it's absurd not to be doing stepped-up maintenance during a severe recession. But it's really irresponsible to just start flinging gigantic sums of money around without any kind of talk about what you want to spend the money on.

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

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