Why Johnny can't afford new infrastructure by David Brooks
Sometimes a local issue perfectly illuminates a larger national problem. Such is the case with the opposition of the New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, to construction of a new tunnel between his state and New York.
Christie argues that a state that is currently facing multibillion-dollar annual deficits cannot afford a huge new spending project that is already looking to be $5 billion overbudget. His critics argue that this tunnel is exactly the sort of infrastructure project that New Jersey needs if it’s to prosper in the decades ahead.
Both sides are right. But what nobody seems to be asking is: Why are important projects now unaffordable? Decades ago, when the federal and state governments were much smaller, they had the means to undertake gigantic new projects, like the Interstate Highway System and the space program. But now, when governments are bigger, they don’t.
Well, I read recently that at least for Oregon, state government is actually slightly smaller than it was 30 or 40 years ago. But the problem that Brooks identifies is public employee unions and their featherbedding and sweetheart deals, and how they're neither competitive with nor comparable to public sector jobs.