The words “tax” and “spend” get thrown around a lot by our beloved politicians – especially by the Republicans. The simpletonistic, cave-man assumption we are all to follow along with is: “Taxes bad, spending bad. Ugh! Atouk zugzug Lana!”
The idea actually is pretty simple – government spending necessitates taxes, and the more taxes, the less money in your pocket. Fair enough, but also myopic.
Everyone, except a handful of fringe lunatics, agrees that some spending is necessary. In general, Democrats believe we have to spend money on some kinds of public health programs and things like that, while Republicans always seem to think we need a more military might.
Right there, something should become obvious – not all spending is created equal. What surprises me is that the anti-spending crowd is opposed to moderate spending now, that would prevent mega-spending becoming necessary later. Now we’re talking about my favorite word: infrastructure.
America’s infrastructure is in a sorry state. That isn’t some nutty, liberal viewpoint, it’s the opinion of the American Society of Civil Engineers. Here’s the report card they gave the U.S. in 2009:
Why do I always harp about this? Because these elements are the life’s blood of America. The individual pieces of our infrastructure are aging and deteriorating, and it will eventually cost us… big.
Even the most hardcore of bottom-liners have to see that our economy will utterly fail if our water, transportation, flood control, energy, waste, and educational systems and facilities start to falter with increased frequency. And, at this point, we’re not even talking about preventative maintenance. We’re trying to keep up with massive failures.
How do you treat your own home, and your own car? Car owners know that skipping their oil changes at “Jiffy Lube” to save $35 will most likely lead to a ruined engine, at a cost just slightly higher than $35.
Homeowners know that “saving” the expense of fixing a little leak in the roof that appears one day will certainly mean a nightmare, where the entire roof will have to be replaced and the house will probably suffer water damage.
Fixing water pipes or levees before they burst, fixing bridges before they fall into the river, and repairing roads before they completely shut down transportation can save ten times what these repair jobs cost.
And the dollar-cost isn’t anywhere near the whole story. Any of these infrastructure failures causes huge logistical catastrophes, as well. Imagine what it would be like if the bridge or the freeway you take to work was out of commission for 6 months, or if you had to go without running water for as long.
Another big reason to start investing more in our infrastructure is that it would create many, many jobs. We could put Americans to work physically fixing America. Sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it? And it wouldn’t be giving away money for the sake of it, it would be directly improving our country in so many ways.
I’m tired of all the anti-spending ranting. We need more spending, not less. We just need to focus our spending on constructive activities.
Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.