North America's Strongest Union

It’s Time to Stop Starving U.S. Investment

Lack of Infrastructure Spending Impacts Teamsters

Next time you hit a pothole, blame Congress. Government spending on infrastructure needs has plummeted in recent decades.

An analysis of infrastructure spending by the Financial Times shows U.S. public investment is at its lowest level since World War II. Public sector investment is now just 3.6 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, and austerity is hurting everything from building roads to investing in science and education. The cuts caused by sequestration threaten future growth.

“U.S. infrastructure, from roads to rails to ports, is in terrible shape,” said Jim Hoffa, Teamsters General President. “Our members see it every day. The Teamsters Union is the largest transportation union in the world, so no union’s members are more affected by shoddy infrastructure than ours.”

It is not just highways in need of repair. Over a tenth of American bridges need significant repair and maintenance. Every day, 260 million trips are taken across these dangerous bridges.

“Schools and transportation networks—these are fundamental building blocks of a state’s economy,” Michael Leachman, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ director of state fiscal research told the Financial Times. “If a state’s unable to make investments in these things then its long-term growth will suffer.”

The reduction in spending shows an overall change in the American mentality. In 1969, government investment in such things as infrastructure, education and scientific research made up a third of the federal budget. But that has now fallen to 14 percent. Federal infrastructure spending has fallen from around $300 billion in 2010 to around $240 billion now.

The American Society of Civil Engineer estimates the U.S. will need to spend around $450 billion a year on infrastructure needs by 2020. Doing so would boost economic performance, while continued neglect would cost businesses upwards of $1 trillion in lost sales and 3.5 million U.S. jobs.

Economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin told the Financial Times it doesn’t make sense to slash public investment now, especially when it isn’t the cause of deficit spending. He said the way to garner bipartisan support is to makes sure dollars are spent well. He suggested that there should be fewer individual pots of money for infrastructure.

“Congress mustn’t forget that it is workers who pay the price when lawmakers fail to spend money to improve this country,” Hoffa said. “That’s less people paving streets or repairing bridges or laying track for light rail. And everyone suffers from having crumbling infrastructure.”

So as those in Capitol Hill start moving on a budget for fiscal year 2014, they should remember it is in all their best interests to invest in the U.S. Such dollars are money well spent.

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