Surely both sides can agree on the need for infrastructure repairs

People in both parties already agree that these improvements are needed — even apart from their impact on employment.

In its 2009 assessment of the nation’s roads, bridges and other infrastructure, the American Society of Civil Engineers identified more than $2 trillion in long-overdue repairs. Of course, when maintenance is postponed, its cost rises rapidly. If Interstate highway repairs are delayed even briefly, damage from heavy trucks and winter weather can cause costs to rise several fold. According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, substandard roads also cause $335 in annual damage per vehicle on the road. Still more troubling, those roads cause many easily preventable deaths and injuries. What could possibly justify further delay?

Some people object to the additional government debt that infrastructure repairs would require. As austerity proponents like to say, governments can’t spend beyond their means indefinitely, any more than businesses or families can. It’s a fair statement if we’re talking about the long run. But in the short run, it’s utterly false. When prudent investment opportunities arise, families, businesses, and governments can and should spend more than they take in…

Our lingering economic doldrums reinforce the case. Many skilled people who can do these jobs are unemployed today. If we wait, we’ll have to bid them away from other useful work. And with much of the world still in a downturn, the required materials are cheap. If we wait, they’ll become more costly.