Tag Archives: infrastructure

The Boring Stuff

At work I'm called the King of BS, which stands for "boring stuff."  My job is to pay attention to things that most people don't want to think about (ordinances, regulatory agencies, market/economic issues, etc.) and I'm such a geek that I even volunteer my time to pay attention to the same kind of stuff on the Lewisville Planning Board.  I'm not going to sit here and tell you I'm doing it for any kind of noble purpose – I get paid for it at work and I don't consider the Planning Board work a sacrifice because I'm truly interested and for the most part I find it enjoyable.

What I've learned is that studying and debating issues like how far apart driveways should be and how to handle stormwater in developments can be incredibly tedious, but if we don't think about these things we could end up with at best an aesthetically unappealing town, and at worst a town with broken infrastructure that's literally a hazard to live in.

That's why I read the Washington Post story on the country's crumbling infrastructure with such interest.  We're literally in deep sh** and I think most people are totally unaware:

And just like roads and bridges, the vast majority of the country’s water systems are in urgent need of repair and replacement. At a Senate hearing last month, it was estimated that, on average, 25 percent of drinking water leaks from water system pipes before reaching the faucet. The same committee was told it will take $335 billion to resurrect water systems and $300 billion to fix sewer systems. 

So we need $635 billion dollars to keep our water and sewer systems going strong. Not so long ago I'd have found that number very daunting, but when you consider we spent $700 billion to bail out a bunch of bankers I think spending $650 billion to make sure we don't all die of dysentary isn't such a bad idea.  Of course it's probably a terrible idea because it would be a, gasp!, public works project and by God we can't have one of those socialist atrocities around here.  I mean why would we want to do something that's literally an investment in our community, would put people to work, and would go a long way towards insuring continued good health for future generations?  I know, I'm just a wild-eyed radical.

Cheaper Than Cash

I just read a very interesting post over at Lex's place.  In a nutshell it says that right now it would be cheaper for the government to borrow money to complete infrastructure projects than it would be to wait and pay cash later.  Sounds crazy right?  Here's the scoop:

Karl Smith, an assistant professor of public economics and government at UNC, makes a counterintuitive but deeply important point: Because the real (i.e., inflation-adjusted) rate of return on 5-year Treasury notes is currently negative, it would be cheaper to do the work now, with borrowed money, than it would be to pay cash later on.

As a person who struggles understanding accrual accounting, much less economic theory, I find this theory hard to wrap my brain around but I have to say that even I can see the logic in using money that's cheaper than cash.