A Federal Infrastructure Bank? Not if Congress Has Anything to Say About it

Posted on September 14, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

President Obama recently unveiled a new $50 billion stimulus package to create construction jobs and rebuild the nation’s crumbling infrastructure.

Opponents, including some Democrats, immediately questioned the plan, wondering if this latest stimulus package will have any more success than early packages which have so far failed to rev America’s still idling economic engines.

But what really scared lawmakers on Capitol Hill was a common-sense proposal that was part of the latest plan that would create a National Infrastructure Bank, a panel of independent experts that would weigh each infrastructure program to make sure the funds are not wasted on pork.

Whether or not you believe further stimulus spending will help reverse America’s economic decline, there’s no doubt that the federal government needs to end waste. And basing federal spending decisions on cost benefit analysis rather than politics is clearly a worthy idea. Seriously, do we need any more bridges to nowhere?
Unveiling the plan last week in Milwaukee, Obama said it would rebuild 150,000 miles of roads, maintain 4,000 miles of railway and restore 150 miles of airport runways.

“We want to cut waste and bureaucracy and consolidate and collapse more than 100 different programs that too often duplicate each other. So we want to change the way Washington spends your tax dollars. We want to reform a haphazard, patchwork way of doing business. We want to focus on less wasteful approaches than we’ve got right now. We want competition and innovation that gives us the best bang for the buck,” Obama said.

But lawmakers were unconvinced. Members of Congress are, of course, very protective of their political power and the establishment of an independent agency to oversee federal spending would strip Congress of the power to direct money into projects for their home states and districts.

Opponents have suggested the plan will simply shift the power to dictate pork barrel spending to the White House, which presumably would exercise some control over the decision-makers it appoints to oversee the bank.

Sadly, the plan seemed doomed just a week after leaving the drawing board, with even some Democrats balking at the idea of adding to the deficit to pump more cash into the economy.

Typical of vulnerable Democrats is Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), who already faced a tough primary challenge this year. “I will not support additional spending in a second stimulus package…. Public-private partnerships that improve our infrastructure are a good idea, but must be paid for, should not add a dime to the deficit,” he said.

If the latest stimulus plan dies as expected, the infrastructure bank idea should be revisited. After all, with America’s opinion of Washington at an all-time low, any plan that would take decision making out of the hands of politicians is worthy of consideration.

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One Response to “A Federal Infrastructure Bank? Not if Congress Has Anything to Say About it”

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We certainly don’t need any bridges to knowhere but we as a country are in desperate need of sound and safe bridges, roads and infrastructure. If handled right killing 2 birds with the infrastructure sotne is possible

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