America’s infrastructure is so hard to fix in part because it is so much more expensive to do stuff here than in many other countries. It’s a bit like our health care system, in that regulatory capture, cronyism, and sweetheart deals involving both business and labor combine to drive up public costs. It ought to be getting cheaper to fix infrastructure—we use materials more efficiently, the machines are more powerful and faster, designs have improved—but costs are instead exploding. Our infrastructure policy, like our health care policy and our education policy, is being held hostage by producer lobbies and cabals. There are some legitimate reasons for higher costs (mostly related to safety and environmental factors), but overall it’s ridiculous that the country can’t afford to repair infrastructure that it built decades ago when we were all much poorer.First thing the journalists might do is understand that "bipartisanship" is a bug in the system, precisely because "bipartisanship" is Democrats work one side of the cow, Republicans the other.
Finally, we need to acknowledge that policy deadlock reflects political gridlock: The inmates have captured the asylum and the rent seekers control the political process. In every statehouse, in every county seat in America, the businesses and unions who control the building and repairing of expensive pieces of public infrastructure are deeply integrated into the political power structure and have their tentacles into both parties. Again, something similar is true in the other areas of chronic policy failure in the U.S., like health care. The special interests, some “lefty” and some “business friendly”, agree on one thing: The public is a cow to be milked for their mutual benefit.
These issues get to the heart of what is wrong with American government today, and they require a sweeping set of reforms that right now our politics seems incapable of providing. That’s too bad; the decay of essential pillars of national health and safety is not a small problem. And the failures of policy in these critical areas has a lot to do with the increasingly angry tone of politics right, left, and center.
It may be too much to hope that politicians will solve these problems quickly, but it would be a good start if journalism did a better job of covering some of the most important stories in the United States today.
Second, they might understand that a lot of the crumbling of (government) infrastructure is a consequence precisely of past bi-partisanship.
Third, they might think carefully about why "rail" rarely comes up in these laments about infrastructure. Hint: faster freight trains through town mean less delay at the level crossings. That goes a long way toward mitigating permitting hassles. Plus shareholder value varies directly with productivity of the freight trains. Clarity trumps rent-seeking.