Stimulus Checks: Building A Bridge To Nowhere?

If you want to understand the degree to which politicians make shortsighted decisions intended to win favor with the voters at home, look no further than the passage of the $168 billion dollar economic stimulus package.

If you want to see how ill-advised such decisions may be, take a moment to look at a new report by Pew Research. The report grades each of the states on the management and maintenance of their infrastructure…and the results aren’t encouraging.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Almost half of the states in the United States are falling behind in their infrastructure maintenance and fiscal systems, according to a report released Monday by the Pew Center on the States and Governing Magazine.

The groups gave 23 states grades for infrastructure that were below the national average in their study called “Grading the States.” Using a scale similar to those found in U.S. schools, where an A is excellent and an F failure, they decided 23 states had grades below C+.

In the money category, which encompassed budget balancing, contracting, and other fiscal categories, 20 states received C+ and below, while 19 states garnered grades of B and above. The average among 50 states was B-.

It’s clear that our infrastructure has been in need of a capital infusion for a number of years. It’s also clear that our economy has been kept afloat by a housing bubble driven by artificially low interest rates rather than by sustainable economic growth that creates a stable increase in jobs and the kind of expansion that is cumulative in nature.

Politicians and voters have become accustomed to stop gap measures designed to dispel consumer doubt and forestall recessionary pressures. Unfortunately, while such measures may provide a temporary economic boost, they also promote a boom and bust mindset and the hills and valleys that accompany it.

In truth, it’s a form of bait and switch. Politicians choose to offer voters a few hundred dollars, and thus the ability to buy a new television set, rather than making the difficult decisions to enact measures that would provide long term stability. In our consumption is king construct, we’ve adopted the pathology that comes with the need for instant gratification.

The political calculations that flow from our short election cycles simply promote more of the same. We’re not only raiding the cookie jar; our elected officials are handing out cookies without considering the need to manage and maintain the bakery.

Prior to the millennium, numerous politicians mouthed the metaphor of building a bridge to the 21st century. As it turns out, we not only refuse to fund the bridges needed to take us there, we’ve taken a shine to building bridges to nowhere.

I struggle to find the silver lining in rolling out billions of dollars in refund checks while the wheels are falling off the wagon. Then again, perhaps our politicians want to be sure we can watch the news coverage of the next bridge collapse…on our shiny new high definition televisions.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

4 Responses to “Stimulus Checks: Building A Bridge To Nowhere?”

  1. rube cretin Says:

    If we consider mankind as a whole and substitute it for a single individual, we discover that it too has developed delusions which are inaccessible to logical criticism and which contradict reality. . . . [I]nvestigation leads us to the same explanation as in the case of the single individual. They owe their power to the element of historical truth which they have brought up from the repression of the forgotten and primeval past.
    — Sigmund Freud

    Daniel,
    I just wrote, but decided not to post a rather extensive comment to your post. i confess i re framed the issue and suggested a review of Julian Edney’s essay on Greed to gain a better understanding of what is going on in our culture and world. Human nature, which is your game,and you play it as well as anyone i read, is a strange creature and the enigmas it contains will forever be a mystery to me. I, for example, never thought the american people would vote for Bush over Gore. they did, and would you believe the worst i believed would happen, has happened? Does that make me delusional?

  2. christopher Radulich Says:

    Reagan sold us on the idea that we did not have to pay for government or anything associated with it. Thirty years later we still believe it. Even Huckabee got into trouble for fixing his roads. He had the audacity to expect his constituents to pay for the roads they use.

  3. manapp99 Says:

    The problem is not with the amount of money the various government entities take from the 13 trillion dollar GDP, it is how they spend it. Defense and infrastructure should be number 1 and number 2 however social programs have taken over lead hogs at the money trough.
    Ask your self, and your congressperson, would you rather have safe roads and bridges or NPR and PBS?
    Is NEA funding for artwork by failed artists that cannot produce sellable product more important than safe infrastructure? Government funding of headstart may make sense but only after you make sure the roads the kids travel on to get there are safe.
    The federal budget is 3 trillion for FY 2008, add in the amounts the states, cities, counties and school boards take and you have a number approaching 1/2 of the GDP. There is no excuse for the lapse of care of our infrastucture. It is clearly a question of priorities, not funding. Perhaps if we start charging politcians with murder when someone dies on the bridges they are supposed to be taking care of they will look harder at how they misuse the money they take from us.
    Amazing that some think we should be sending them even more.

  4. Christopher Radulich Says:

    except that Social security and medicare have been in the black for decades. It is military spending that has primeraly been the problem. If you stop both programs tomorrow and just gave back the money the programs are owed, the government would probably be twice as much in the hole.

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