Thursday, February 21, 2008

Obama's Infrastructure Bank

Polprint has been intrigued by the concept of a National Infrastructure Bank, ever since Obama announced support for the concept at a speech in Wisconsin last week.

It turns out that the idea is not new. Last year, even before the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis collapsed, Sens Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Chuck Hagel (R-Neb) had introduced a bill to create such a bank. One old Washington hand who is related to Polprint says that the concept dates back earlier, to the mid-1980s. Lee Hamilton and James Howard, House Democrats respectively from the Joint Economic Committee and the Public Works Committee, introduced a bill containing the proposal.

States can and do, of course, borrow at low interest rates to fund roads and sewage pipes. But their revenue intake can change quite a bit from year to year. A bank would shield them from these economic fluctuations, and also help ward off the politicization of state and local bond issues. A dedicated bank would also boost the importance of infrastructure in the public mind.

Of course, making infrastructure a priority would be expensive. Obama proposed a bank that would distribute $60 billion over 10 years. Polprint, a resident of Massachusetts, notes that the Big Dig alone gobbled up $15 billion.

With thanks to Polprint’s relative for his assistance.

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