Financing the Future

The COVID-19 pandemic has dominated the news cycle for several months now and that news cycle shows no signs of abating. There is nothing we can talk about regarding our present situation that has not been covered ad nauseum.

But what about the future?

After the 1929 stock market crash, the New Deal got America back on its feet. Well it is time for Renewed New Deal. That means rebuilding our roads, bridges and more.

A new infrastructure bill has to be part of any upcoming stimulus package. It is the one bipartisan issue that can easily be put into action, and the one economic stimulus idea that both puts people back to work and impacts all 50 states.

In short, infrastructure is a win-win.

Our country has already spent trillions and trillions of dollars for stimulus programs, adding to our debt and imperiling our economic future. So how would we pay for an infrastructure bill?

If we take a hypothetical $1 trillion infrastructure bill – $100 billion a year for 10 years, for roads and bridges only, not fiber optics, broadband or other elements that have co-opted the word ‘infrastructure’ – we would need an initial infusion of cash to get it going. But where do we go from there?

As I am sure you are all aware, a confluence of factors, not the least of which is the coronavirus, has resulted in a severe downturn in the world market for oil. Gasoline prices are currently at lows we have not seen for years.

There has never been a better time to raise the federal gasoline tax and refill the Highway Trust Fund. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has endorsed a 25-cent increase over five years. A 25-cent bump wouldn’t raise an eyebrow right now.

With people driving less, monies to the Highway Trust Fund won’t be available in the short term, but as soon as people start driving again, that move will pay big dividends.

The longer we wait, the harder it will get. Pass an infrastructure bill and raise the gas tax immediately.

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