Bernie Sanders on Infrastructure

America has one of the oldest rail systems in the world — woefully inadequate for a 21st-century society. Many of us may remember the images of the Minneapolis Bridge collapsing in Minnesota in 2007. Bernie sees rebuilding our infrastructure as a way to both create jobs and address the rampant infrastructure problems that are accumulating in our country.

Rebuild America’s Infrastructure

Bernie believes we are long overdue to refurbish our country’s infrastructure. Any American who deals with potholes, slow internet service, and the unavailability of public transit – among other numerous and regular inconveniences – knows this first-hand.

What is infrastructure?

Infrastructure is the basic physical stuff which makes our civilization work: roads, bridges, dams, electrical grids, railways, airports, waterways, and phone and internet lines. Well-maintained infrastructure increases transportation efficiency, decreases threats posed by natural disasters, and promotes economic growth.

The most identifiable piece of American infrastructure is the Interstate Highway System. This development was signed into law by Republican president Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956. Its benefits have been overwhelmingly positive for both business and everyday citizens.

Is our infrastructure really “crumbling”?

Yes. In its annual report card on the nation’s infrastructure, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave the United States a cumulative grade of D+. In 2010 alone, it was estimated that deficiencies in surface infrastructure from potholes and outdated rail lines to collapsing bridges cost us $130 billion between property damage and lost time.

Recent examples of bridge collapses in California, Washington, Texas, Missouri, and Minnesota only serve to underline this growing problem. Here’s the video from Minnesota in 2007

While arguing to garner to support for his proposed infrastructure legislation, Bernie expounded:

“America once led the world in building and maintaining a nationwide network of safe and reliable bridges and roads. Today, nearly a quarter of the nation’s 600,000 bridges have been designated as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. Let’s rebuild our crumbling infrastructure. Let’s make our country safer and more efficient. Let’s put millions of Americans back to work.”

How can we afford investing $1 trillion in infrastructure?

We can’t afford not to! According to a report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), federal spending on transportation and water infrastructure since 2003 has decreased by 19 percent (23 percent with respect to new infrastructure) while only a 6 percent increase in spending on operations and maintenance has developed in its place. According to the aforementioned ACSE report:

  • 24.9 percent of bridges are functionally obsolete or structurally deficient, over which more than 200 million trips are taken daily
  • 42 percent of major urban highways are congested, costing us $101 billion annually and increasing carbon emissions
  • 32 percent of roads are in poor or mediocre condition, which adds up to a cost of $324 per motorist every year

It’s clear that our infrastructure needs serious help. But where’s the money coming from?

The most important point is that rebuilding our infrastructure is an investment in our economic future. Independent studies show that, in the short-term, non-residential construction generates nearly twice as much economic activity as money spent ($1.92 per $1 spent). This means that for every dollar we put into our infrastructure, we get almost two dollars back in immediate economic impact. The long-term impact is even more significant at well over three times what we spend ($3.21 per $1 spent).

More, as Bernie has noted, the cost of the Iraq war — which included rebuilding much of the infrastructure that was destroyed  is now hovering at $1.7 trillion dollars. Bernie has introduced a number of bills to curb corporate tax dodging, which would account for over half of the required revenue in addition to the previously mentioned savings. Investing in infrastructure boosts our economy now and saves money long-term.

Rebuilding Will Provide Jobs

Bernie believes that the fastest way to create millions of jobs is to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure; he’s been saying so for decades! In his introduction to the The Rebuild America Act of 2015, he noted, “There’s a reason that investing in our infrastructure has traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress. It’s a good idea. It creates jobs, income, profits and tax revenues. It lays a foundation for the efficient operation of our economy in the future.”

How does investing in infrastructure help the economy?

Fixing our infrastructure would give American workers good-paying jobs, stimulate our economy, and boost our national productivity.

According to a research paper by Standard & Poor, infrastructure investment would create about 29,000 construction jobs for a mere $1.3 billion in spending, and many more jobs indirectly. Additionally it estimated a $2 billion growth in real GDP for the same amount, making it a deficit-negative investment.

Bernie has suggested a conservative estimate of 13 million good paying jobs for the 5-year, $1 trillion investment. Forbes, on the other hand, puts the estimate at closer to 27 million for a similar $1.2 trillion investment over 5 years.

Increased jobs result in increased spending among average Americans, which further stimulates economic growth in other sectors. Increased efficiency results in lower transportation costs, as well as saving companies and individual citizens money on both fuel and time. Last, but not least, increasing the safety and reliability of infrastructure prevents extended damage and emergency repairs, avoiding the costs of medical emergencies, related property damage, and human lives.

What has Bernie specifically proposed to improve our infrastructure?

Bernie recently introduced the The Rebuild America Act of 2015, which would invest $1 trillion over the next 5 years toward rebuilding and expanding on our country’s infrastructure.