|The Erie Canal
Gateway to Explosive Economic Growth
Roads are infrastructure. Bridges are infrastructure. Things made of concrete and steel that help move people and product around the country in cheaper, safer modes are infrastructure.
President Joe Biden’s so-called “infrastructure” proposal is not infrastructure. It is a colossal boondoggle.
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand tweeted her support of the bill by scrambling any normative understanding of the word “infrastructure”: “Paid leave is infrastructure. Child care is infrastructure. Caregiving is infrastructure.”
Those programs are social welfare programs. They should be debated and funded separately from any bill concerning our nation’s highway, railroad and airport systems.
Joe Biden proposed $115 billion to fix or replace aging bridges, re-pave or build thousands of miles of our highway network, and provide upgrades to our airports and rail-transport system. In 2019, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) estimated it would cost $164 billion alone just to repair or replace all of the 231,000 bridges that are structurally deficient or in poor condition, roughly a third of all bridges across the nation.
Let’s fix every bridge right away. No one wants to be driving across a bridge when it crumbles into the river below.
While we are at it, let’s spend the entire $2 trillion to leapfrog electric vehicles completely and transition to a Jetsons-esque flying car transportation network fueled by hydrogen or the next generation of nuclear fusion cells.
If we are going to modernize our transportation system, let’s make it future-oriented for the 22nd century, not backwards-looking to the mid-1900s. There is $80 billion in Biden’s proposal for Amtrak which has lost money every year since inception in 1971. Amtrak looks and operates as if it is run in Cuba, not the most technologically advanced country in the world.
About 94% of the money in Biden’s Boondoggle is not going anywhere close to modernizing and updating the transportation system of America. Unless, of course, $400 billion for home-based care for elderly and disabled, $35 billion for climate-change-related R&D, $50 billion to monitor domestic industrial production, and $213 billion for home sustainability and public housing can somehow magically reduce the amount of time and money it takes to move people and product from Point A to Point Z in America.
There is one example from history that clearly shows how spending money on true infrastructure would benefit us all as a nation.
The Erie Canal was completed in 1825 and stretched 363 miles from Lake Erie through Buffalo to Albany, New York, to connect with the Hudson River to flow to New York City. The final cost of construction absorbed a third of all banking and insurance capital available in New York at the time.
Over the next 25 years, the GDP of the United States tripled solely due to commercial traffic through the Erie Canal. It is estimated the Erie Canal added 2% more economic growth annually over what it would have been had the “Clinton Ditch,” as detractors labeled New York Gov. DeWitt Clinton’s favored project, never been constructed. The cost of transporting grain and foodstuffs from the Midwest plummeted by 95%, which opened up massive export markets to Europe. New York City became the finance and distribution center of the world almost solely because of the Erie Canal.
If President Biden and socialist liberal Democrats could promise 2% annual increases to GDP growth baselines with their approach, there might be some merit in it. But they can’t. They would be insulting the intelligence of every American if they tried.
The most troubling aspect of this misguided infrastructure bill, as well as the recently-passed COVID relief bill, is that 90%+ of both bills do not go directly to solve the underlying public-policy problem as advertised. It is false advertising at best and deceptive leadership at worst.
It is really discouraging for the nation that hopes for sane leadership and federal public policy now solidly rest on the shoulders of West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and him alone. In days gone by, Biden’s infrastructure bill would have been laughed out of Washington by dozens of moderate Democrats who could count and understand economics.
We should all hope and pray Sen. Manchin lives long and prospers… and does the right thing.
(first published in North State Journal 4/14/21)