(Bloomberg View) — My wife leaves for work earlier than I do, giving her first choice of which car to drive. She has a longer drive than my three-minute jaunt to the train station, so I don’t mind. That often means I get the rear-wheel drive convertible in the snowy winter months, and the all-wheel drive Jeep in the summer.
But recently she keeps taking the bouncy Orange Crush Rubicon. The reason? The broken roads and potholes make the tight suspension of the BMW a horror to drive, despite the fair- weather retractable hardtop.
I was thinking about this as we kick off a new federal budget season. About this time, I usually lament the state of U.S. infrastructure, the highway-fund gas tax stuck in the early 1990s and other assorted indignities (see this, this, this and this). The people who live in civilized nations shouldn’t have to face this sort of failure of basic government.
And yet this year a few things are giving me a small measure of hope that we could see an uptick in infrastructure fundings:
– States such as Utah have been raising local gas taxes to pay for infrastructure needs;
– Various disasters (Amtrak derailment) and media coverage (“60 Minutes” on bridge collapses) are raising the public’s awareness and increasing pressure on a do-nothing Congress;
– A major White House push to make infrastructure a priority.
There is something unusual in that last bullet point, one that might make it possible to accomplish something. The clever twist is that President Barack Obama has taken boosting infrastructure spending — a favorite policy of Democrats — and tied it to a favorite policy of Republicans — reforming corporate taxes. Thus, this opening bid has generated some interest from both sides of the aisle.