There is bi-partisan agreement in Washington, D.C. that America needs to shore up its creaky infrastructure. How to fix it is a different matter. As the nation’s chief cheerleader for more building at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue might put it, there’s a yuge problem.
America is a geographically huge country, sure. But that’s not the problem.
The problem is that we are overpaying for many kinds of infrastructure. In fact, one cottage industry of economic study is dedicated to discovering not IF America is overpaying compared to roads, bridges, rail, waterways and electricity generation in other countries, but WHY in the world we are doing that.
Which brings us to a timely and relevant open letter to Congress, signed by more than a dozen free market groups and think tanks. They urge members of Congress who are putting together an infrastructure spending bill to “include language that clearly requires and open, competitive bidding process for materials that will be used in infrastructure projects.”
This is important because many states, countries, and other local governments have put up a gauntlet of limitations on what products may be used in infrastructure. These limitations are used to cut down on competitive bidding to favor certain firms that know how to game the system.
Incidentally, this is not about safety. The local restrictions may be in the name of that but they often also prohibit new materials that can keep safer from even being considered.
If Congress were to put its foot down and insist that, “No, we’re paying for this and so we shall have transparency of materials and costs, thank you,” it would save a lot of money. We’re talking sums that might even make Congress sit up and notice.
For instance, according to one recent study by the National Taxpayers Union, taxpayers could save over $371 billion of the projected total bill of $1.32 trillion to fix the nation’s aging water infrastructure if we simply had open competition for materials.
Think about that. Competition could drive costs in that one are alone down to under a trillion dollars.
Imagine those sorts of savings spread out over all the federal roadways, bridges and other kinds of infrastructure and you may begin to realize just how yuge a difference this change in how we do things could make. We ought to insist that Congress pass this common sense reform as part of any infrastructure package.