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February 24, 2012 / compassioninpolitics

How to beat the economy advantage on the transportation debate topic

Infrastructure projects aren’t economically simulative
Rugy 11

“Why Infrastructure Spending Is a Bad Bet” By Veronique de Rugy September 8, 2011 12:49 P.M. http://www.nationalr…ronique-de-rugy

As we know, one of the things the president will call for tonight is more infrastructure spending. We have heard many times that infrastructure spending, in one form or another, is the key to growth and job creation — and, in the president’s defense, he certainly isn’t the only one who refers to stimulus and government spending as “investing” in infrastructure. No one disputes that American public works need improving, and economists have long recognized the value of infrastructure. Roads, bridges, airports, and canals are the conduits through which goods are exchanged. However, whatever its merits, infrastructure spending is unlikely to provide much of a stimulus — and it certainly won’t provide the boost that the president will promise the American people tonight. For one thing, even though Mark Zandi claims that the bang for the buck is significant when the government spends $1 on infrastructure ($1.44 in growth), that’s just his opinion. The reality is that economists are far from having reached a consensus on what the actual return on infrastructure spending is. As economists Eric Leeper, Todd Walker, and Shu-Chum Yang put it in a recent paper for the IMF: “Economists have offered an embarrassingly wide range of estimated multipliers.” Among respected economists, some find larger multipliers and some find negative ones. (Thanks Matt Mitchell for this great paper). Second, according to Keynesian economists, for spending to be stimulative, it has to be timely, targeted, and temporary. Infrastructure spending isn’t any of that. That’s because infrastructure projects involve planning, bidding, contracting, construction, and evaluation. Only $28 billion of the $45 billion in DOT money included in the stimulus has been spent so far. We know that the stimulus money wasn’t targeted toward the areas that were hit the most by the recession, but even if the funding were targeted, it still might not be stimulative. First, the same level of job poaching from existing jobs would have happened; construction workers tend to be highly specialized, and skilled workers rarely suffer from high unemployment. Many of the areas that were hardest hit by the recession are in decline because they have been producing goods and services that are not, and will never be, in great demand. The overall value added by improving their roads is probably a lot less than that of new infrastructure in growing areas that might have relatively little unemployment but do have great demand for more roads, schools, and other types of long-term infrastructure. As for being temporary — which stimulus spending needs to be to work — what the president will propose tonight is likely to cost the American people money for a very long time. Infrastructure spending tends to suffer from massive cost overruns, waste, fraud, and abuse. A comprehensive study examining 20 nations on five continents (“Underestimating Costs in Public Works Projects: Error or Lie?” by Bent Flyvbjerg, Mette K. Skamris Holm, and Søren L. Buhl) found that nine out of ten public-works projects come in over budget. Cost overruns routinely range from 50 to 100 percent of the original estimate. For rail, the average cost is 44.7 percent greater than the estimated cost at the time the decision was made. For bridges and tunnels, the equivalent figure is 33.8 percent, for roads 20.4 percent.

Major strategies versus the economy advantage on the transportation topic:
1. Inflation disad–improving the economy causes overheat (even though the cards aren’t that hot–this is a pretty decent strat. I remember Westminster I think running this on the Social Services topic)–its also a round-winning strategy if you can win
2. De-dev disad
3. Capitalism K/Neo-liberalism
4. K other than capitalism (although it could be libertarianism or funding privates to do the plan is socialism–and thats bad–or its crony capitalism)
5. Counterplan plus disad that doesn’t link to the counterplan–executive order or states will likely be prominent.
6. Spending Disad/Funding or budget tradeoff disad with an economy or bad roads/bad transportation impact (which obviously is an economy impact leveraging aff evidence)
7. Politics Disad
8. Other Disad with economy or hege impact
9. Backfile check strategy (malthus, etc..)
10. Waste & fraud is bad in infrastructure/contracts/government. Destroys economy. You might also think about the possibility of a waste/fraud impact card to read as an extension of this. For instance, waste/fraud in government funded projects is a net drag on the economy. The government is bad at picking winners/assigning & monitoring contracts. Contractors do back work….with an economy impact.
11. Free market tradeoff–you distort the free market, which solves better.

Government creep….bureaucracy expands…..would likely be impact multipliers for # 6, 10, & 11.

More evidence on the following issues:
Supply side economics doesn’t work. Jump starting the economy doesn’t work or has low paybacks. Keynsian economics fails or has a long time frame. (obviously it will help to have transportation specific)

You might also find decent research at Brookings:

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