The Fallacy of America's "Crumbling Infrastructure"

1. America’s Crumbling Infrastructure Claims are Way Overblown

2. Presidents Perpetuate the “Crumbling Infrastructure” Myth

3. Politics Often Dictate Where Infrastructure Money is Spent


President Trump wants to spend $1.5 trillion rebuilding America’s infrastructure – roads, bridges, airports, railroads, ports, water systems and whatnot – over the next decade. In his latest record-breaking $4.4 trillion federal budget for FY2019, Mr. Trump included an initial $200 billion for infrastructure spending, which he hopes to leverage to $1.5 trillion by getting state and local governments to put up the remaining $1.3 trillion. Good luck with that!

Nevertheless, Trump’s new infrastructure spending plan is expected to garner support on both sides of the aisle in Congress. Some Republicans seem ready to go along, and most Democrats have never met a big government spending program they didn’t like. Of course, the mainstream media says, bring it on!

Yet what I will argue today is that America doesn’t need a huge new infrastructure spending plan. Between the federal, state and local governments, we already spend over $400 billion a year on infrastructure, which today is in the best shape in years. That’s not to say we don’t have some problems. There are always some infrastructure problems that need addressing. But the problem is nowhere near as dire as President Trump and the media would have us believe. I’ll give you the facts as we go along.

America’s Crumbling Infrastructure Claims are Way Overblown

Expect to hear the term "crumbling infrastructure" a lot in the days ahead, as Washington debates the merits of President Trump's plan to boost spending on the nation's roads, bridges, airports, railroads, etc. by $1.5 trillion over the next decade.

What's unlikely to come up in these discussions, however, is the question of whether the nation's infrastructure is really "crumbling" at all.

For the past four decades, there's been a steady stream of dire warnings about how our aging infrastructure was rapidly falling apart, and that without a massive influx of government spending, roads would be impassable, bridges would collapse, airports would be unusable, etc., etc.

Yet for the most part, these dire warnings have failed to materialize. The question is, why? Here’s the answer: federal, state and local spending on infrastructure has averaged 2.5% of national GDP annually for the last 40 years. With Gross Domestic Product running from $16 trillion to above $19 trillion in recent years, this means that federal, state and local spending on infrastructure has averaged near or over $400 billion a year recently. That’s a LOT of money!

Such a huge amount of annual spending has gone a long way toward maintaining, and even improving, much of our infrastructure – not to mention building new infrastructure to keep up with population growth. Despite all those urgent warnings about how we were vastly underspending on roads and bridges and the like, the country's infrastructure never actually crumbled.