Wasted Opportunity

05/12/2020

In my blog two weeks ago, I discussed Ed Sullivan’s (from PCA) “gloomy” predictions for the economy. I was criticized for my negativity, but I was only reporting on Sullivan’s presentation and tried to highlight one potential bright spot—funding for infrastructure improvement as part of another stimulus package. One problem with the previous money being doled out in the CARES Act is that it’s not a stimulus at all but rather an attempt to prevent total disaster. But as Ed Sullivan pointed out, money spent to improve infrastructure is a true stimulus--$1 billion in infrastructure spending creates 30,000 to 40,000 jobs.

In the House, Nancy Pelosi proposed a $760 billion infrastructure package. The Washington Post reported that “the speaker said the country needs ‘bold action to renew America’s infrastructure.’” But, according to The Hill, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has indicated that infrastructure will not be included in any future Covid-19 relief package. "We have an equal interest in doing an infrastructure bill. We don't have an equal interest in borrowing money from future generations to pay for it. In other words, it's unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic," McConnell said. He did, however, say that a “more modest” infrastructure bill would be pushed forward “in the near future.”

Another approach, though, might be to include in whatever bill gets passed, some money for infrastructure workers. The Brooking Institution has proposed funding for recruitment and training. “The infrastructure jobs opportunity is a chance to establish a foundation for growth by fixing and improving our infrastructure while preparing a new generation of workers for stable, long-term careers.”

We’ve been hearing that infrastructure funding is coming soon since before the 2016 presidential election and seen nothing but a lot of posturing and bickering from both sides of the aisle and from the administration. The concrete industry and the construction industry as a whole should be doing everything it can to make the point that it would be wise to use this crisis as leverage to invest in our nation’s future through infrastructure improvement and development of workers. It would be a shame to waste a good crisis!