The question is whether, when all the money is spent, anyone will point to any transformative change in the country attributable to the legislation. Or whether, like the Obama stimulus, it will be completely forgettable, money strewn over the landscape without leaving much of a trace.
Certainly, the need for infrastructure spending over and beyond what the federal government, states and localities already spend is oversold.
A recent paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research noted, “Over the past generation, the condition of the interstate highway network improved consistently, its extent increased modestly, and traffic about doubled. Over about the same time period, the condition of bridges remained about the same, the number of bridges increased slowly, and bridge traffic increased modestly.”
Shooting money out of a bazooka isn’t self-evidently what the state of America’s infrastructure calls for. But when the only tool you have is huge reconciliation spending bills, everything looks like a crisis urgently requiring more profligacy.