The collapse of the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River Thursday night is a sign of a failing infrastructure. A Republican-led filibuster killed the presidents $60 billion infrastructure bill, the latest of a series of failures to invest in this nations infrastructure. With the new collapse, we also have numbers to show how much the “fiscally conservatives” are actually saving from the government budget, and it is not a savings at all.
The I-5 corridor is one of the busiest trade routes between the United States and Canada, linking the port of Vancouver to the western half of the continental United States. It is so important to the nations GDP that it has been nicknamed the “Link to the World.” Almost $20 billion of trade went along the I-5 corridor between the two nations in 2006 alone, and it has only grown since. The need to renovate, upgrade, and improve this key corridor has been clear for years.
Now, instead of the $7 million in renovations and upgrades, the cost to replace the collapsed bridge will run $15 million and take up to a year. The collapse will cost an estimated $47 million in reduced productivity and trade. With the current average tax revenue from this total for trade and productivity in dealing with trade to Canada to be around 22%, the result is that this bridge collapse will cost the federal government $10 million in revenue for the period of repair, which when added to the $15 million pricetag means that we are looking at a total impact of $25 million. All in order to save $7 million.
The Republicans are no fiscal conservatives. They are no budget hawks. They do not understand that the government is not a business, and never can be. They operate on fundamentally different principles. A business is designed to maximize return to its investors, be they shareholders or the proprietor. A government is the opposite of this, and is designed to maximize productivity of its citizens. There are no “shareholders” to return profit to, so cutting in order to maximize profits is pointless, and only generates a drag on the economy. They simply do not understand economics, and that infrastructure investments are the key to growth.
But the Republicans would rather cherry pick economic papers which fit their ideology and then refuse to admit failure. And they are ready to lead us off the cliff, quite literally, and cause another economic collapse rather than admit failure. When a government invests in infrastructure, in growth, budget issues disappear. Those who argue anything else are the economic version of faith healers, and can be safely ignored. Only by understanding the difference between a viable economic idea, and ideology can we move forward.
In the GOP’s masterful move to “save money” they have cost tens of millions more than the initial pricetag. This is repeated elsewhere when the Republicans enact policies which are guaranteed to waste more money than saved. They are not the party of fiscal responsibility, they are the big spenders, the party of money wasting. The I-5 bridge collapse thankfully did not cause any fatalities, unlike the I-35W bridge collapse which killed thirteen people in 2007. Both have the same root cause, slashed budgets in the name of “austerity.” And it only demonstrates how much of a failure the modern Republican Party is.