There is consensus across the (sane) spectrum that the country absolutely needs to repair and modernize our infrastructure. There is widespread agreement this will help the economy now and in the future, and will create jobs. But Republicans in Congress refuse to allow infrastructure projects to proceed. Why? Because doing so will help the economy now and in the future, and will create jobs. Republicans in Congress are committing economic sabotage, and they know it.
There is a bipartisan consensus — it even includes the Chamber of Commerce! — that the country has fallen behind and must maintain and modernize our infrastructure for the good of our economy.
President Obama talked about infrastructure in Jacksonville in July, saying,
We know strong infrastructure is a key ingredient to a thriving economy. That’s how the United States became the best place in the world to do business.
On the other end of things the Chamber of Commerce’s “Jobs & Growth Agenda” includes a section on “Reliable and Secure Infrastructure.” The Chamber says,
The U.S. Chamber is leading the charge to improve the quality of America’s infrastructure—whether it’s transportation, energy, or water networks—all of which directly impact our ability to compete in the global economy.
By modernizing our national infrastructure, we can improve commercial efficiency, increase U.S. competitiveness in the global economy, and create much-needed jobs in the near term.
Here are just a few of the other voices supporting a boost in infrastructure spending:
Fareed Zakaria, Fixing infrastructure would help fix economy
Alliance for American Manufacturing, How Infrastructure Investments Support the U.S. Economy: Employment, Productivity and Growth
Business Insider, STUDY: Every $1 Of Infrastructure Spending Boosts The Economy By $2
Consensus vs. Obstruction
The Chamber of Commerce might say they are “leading the charge” but the Republicans in the Congress are obstructing the troops.
After the President asked for just a bit more infrastructure work, please, the Senate Republican leader responded, “No!” The House Republican leader has said that fixing the infrastructure is “more stimulus spending doomed to fail.”
The kook right (perhaps that should read “Koch right”) that really “leads the charge” for Republicans these days says Infrastructure Spending Is Not the Federal Government’s Business or that infrastructure spending is just more “big government.” Heritage Foundation claims here that government spending on infrastructure “takes money out of the economy”. Some of the (Koch-funded) kooks even actually claim that investing in infrastructure hurts the economy.
Obstruction Agenda Is Sabotage, Not Ideology
Look at this chart from the Financial Times’ FT Alphaville, The collapse of US infrastructure spending, charted:
This looks like lots of other recent charts, like the ones that show consumer confidence plunging in the face of Republican obstruction of everything (and especially their repeated hostage-taking over the debt-ceiling and their shutting down the government.) It is clear all of these things hurt the economy, and they continue to do them.
Maintaining the infrastructure is not about ideology. Even the conservative Chamber of Commerce understands that you have to maintain the roads and bridges, etc., and that it damages the economy if you don’t. And yet we don’t, and the obstruction continues.
So this is about a different agenda. Paul Krugman says it best at his blog,
This kind of behavior — ever-shifting rationales for an unchanging policy (see: Bush tax cuts, invasion of Iraq, etc.) — is a “tell”. It says that something else is really motivating the policy advocacy.
It is past time to argue that the Republican obstruction is hurting the economy, because it just is, and they know it. It is also past time to argue that they are doing this for some kind of ideological reason. Investing in infrastructure is not about ideology. Austerity is not about ideology.
Hurting the economy is not about ideology. There is a different agenda at work here. This is not an argument between differing visions of how best to help our economy. When this much is being done, hurting the economy again and again, and when the results of these actions are clearly that we are all being harmed, and yet it continues, this is not an accident. It is an agenda.
Economic Sabotage — Why?
So it is past time to argue if they are hurting the economy – that is settled. It is economic sabotage. There is no longer any question.
Now it is time to talk about why they are doing this.
Is it to damage Democratic election prospects? Are they betting that by making everyone feel enough pain, and blaming Democrats and President Obama, they can make people forget who got us into this mess? Do they think that economic sabotage will get them votes? That is the most charitable theory. Considering that much of the funding of the apparatus of the right that is behind this is secret, there are worse conclusions that could understandably be reached.