Friday, May 2, 2014

Federal Spending on Ground Transportation

Recently in the US there have been a number of massive road collapses due to flooding, from Baltimore, to Pensacola, and elsewhere. Concerns about climate change notwithstanding, there is arguably a spending problem on our infrastructure--or lack-thereof. The roads, bridges, and other fundamental transportation infrastructure in the United States are deteriorating to the extent that a large percent of these structures are considered deficient by the American Society of Civil Engineers, much of which is well over half a century old. This has followed a persistent decline in infrastructure spending since the onset of Neoliberalism in the Reagan which has consistently argued for eviscerating tax rates (Reagan lowered the top marginal tax rates from 70% to 28%). In this chart I show the drop in outlays for ground transportation spending ( as a percent of GDP (BEA) since 1962 (the earliest available data on ground transportation outlays).

This chart only depicts federal spending. Since a drop in federal spending represents a reduction in essential spending, those burdens have forced onto the state and local level, which have also felt the pressure of the stagflation "tax revolt," so have similarly been reducing tax rates and therefore spending. BCA Research has looked at a plummeting rate of infrastructure spending since 2002 as measured by "non-defense fixed investment" spending (I have not independently verified this data).

A local journalist, Rebecca Townsend, tracked a similar spending decrease in Indianapolis budgets, following flooding assaults on our roads and bridges in 2011.