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JONATHAN CHAIT JULY 26, 2011

Back To Winning the Future

Jay Newton-Small handicaps some possibilities for the debt ceiling standoff. She ends on this persuasively pessimistic note:

With so few viable options, it’s not hard to imagine that the deadline is missed and the ensuing panic forces Congress to enact some combination of 1-4. Or they go right up to the brink and some combination of 1-4 happens. As Doc Brown from Back to the Future said, “Road? Where we’re going there are no roads.”

She actually gets the quote wrong. It's, "Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads."

It's actually an appropriate quote given the context of a budget imposing massive cuts in domestic discretionary funding. "We don't need roads" turns out to be the Republican Party's philosophy as well:

The next flash point in the debate over the nation’s will to live within its means may emerge this week as House Republicans present a long-term transportation bill expected to cut funding for highways and mass transit by almost one third. ...

The Mica bill is expected to provide between $215 billion and $230 billion over six years, according to congressional staff members.

“It’s pretty devastating,” said one staff member who spoke on background because of the sensitivity of the discussions. “Last year we were looking at $550 [billion] and now we’re looking at $230 [billion]. Big difference.” ...

“According to numerous experts, including the American Society of Civil Engineers, the U.S. needs to invest an additional $1 trillion beyond current levels in the next 10 years just to maintain a state of good repair and meet demand,” the letter said.

Two major studies in the past year have urged increased spending to revitalize the nation’s aging infrastructure. The Urban Land Institute concluded that the United States needed to invest $2 trillion to rebuild roads, bridges, water lines, sewage systems and dams that are reaching the end of their planned life cycles.

Without that investment, the institute warned that the United States would fall dramatically behind much of the world in providing transportation networks needed to remain competitive in the global marketplace.

I'm not worried. The U.S. may have crumbling infrastructure, but our low, low tax rates will encourage the market to provide flying cars.

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posted in: jonathan chait, congress, jay newton-small

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