Last night, I made a rare airport run. Our niece from Chicago is visiting for the long weekend, and rather than send a car, we fought through both U.S. Open and Mets traffic to pick her up at LaGuardia Airport.

Regular readers know my views of U.S. airports in general and LaGuardia in particular. Despite the occasional spectacular views, it is on my list of worst U.S. airports, second only to John F. Kennedy International Airport.

It’s as if we forgot what routine government spending was supposed to accomplish.

In general, American air travel is terribly annoying. Anytime someone we know comes thorough either airport, the conversation invariably touches on the sad state of U.S. infrastructure. Vice President Joe Biden compared LaGuardia to a third-world country. There are improvements coming, but it has been ever-so slow.

It’s a tired but true litany: crumbling bridges and roads; how little the U.S. spends on infrastructure compared with other industrialized nations; the list of states’ unmet infrastructure needs; the opportunity to make needed long-term repairs and improvements while financing costs are so cheap.

Continues here




Category: Economy, Taxes and Policy

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

32 Responses to “Conservatives Discover America’s Infrastructure Problems”

  1. CD4P says:

    A nominee for imitation: Göteborg Landvetter Airport. Sleek, modern, well-organized, and every bathroom is it’s own room! Even the drive in through the countryside to the city passes through oodles of lushly forested lands; not quite sure how to jazz up Queens to compete with that…….0…1ac.1.52.img..

  2. rj chicago says:

    Barry: As an architect I completely agree with your argument / premise of upgrading and better maintaining our national infrastructure. To allow a couple of centuries of investment to crumble as it is doing in our day is nothing short of shameful and immoral. I work exclusively in the airport world and to see the state of many of these facilities nationwide it is like a third world experience. Some are just filthy, neglected. The legacy we leave our children will be evident if we as a republic continue down this road. Two sides bickering as if that matters solves NOTHING!!!
    Government IMHO needs to get with the program and stop arguing as to who has the better plan to fix this mess. They are like Nero playing his violin while Rome burns. And the ‘folks’ are then expected to make up for this failure of leadership. It is just shameful no matter your stripe.

    I do have a minor bone to pick with you as words matter….
    In your piece you note the following: “There is only a small gap between what the liberal left and the reasonable right are both advocating for when it comes to infrastructure.”

    Am I reading in your words that the liberal left is by default ‘reasonable’ while the right is not? That the right is in its entirety by default to be labeled as extreme? I know folks on both sides of the aisle as it were who are quite reasonable and others who in their extreme view I wouldn’t give 5 seconds to.

    Please clarify.

    • James P says:

      Incredible how there was no ongoing fiscal response from congress after the initial bill while we so needed federally funded infrastructure projects. So much complaining about the imperial Fed taking monetary actions but they had no choice because congress was only concerned with repealing Obamacare. It is the unreasonable right that failed us in order to pursue partisan politics. I don’t recall a lot of dissent on the right. So tell me who was reasonable? Not that the left wouldn’t do the same thing if the tables were turned but I wouldn’t call that reasonable if it were the case

    • DeDude says:

      As I read it that sentence does not preclude the existence of a group on the left that are “not reasonable”. Only that they either are not against infrastructure, or they are so marginalized and without influence that they are not worth mentioning (who cares what the Trotskyites think if they have no members in congress).

  3. smallcog2 says:

    I recently drove round trip from Austin (#1 midsize city for traffic congestion) via interstates to eastern shore of Maryland. My God! the roads are a mess…under-sized, over-used, beltways just as jammed up as highways. Endless streams of tractor trailers. Hampton/Virginia Beach area bad, bad, bad. Texas has been working on IH-35 NAFTA highway for a decade+ and sections are very nice where completed …reminds me of excellent German roads. How about less moola for F-35s and more for repairs on last century’s infrastructure. Interest rates are low. Take advantage of it. Corporate america is borrowing like crazy to take advantage of the super low rates. Why does Washington want to wait until inflation starts kicking in?

  4. rd says:

    There is actually a lot of money available to pay for road improvements. Unfortunately, it is currently allocated to car mechanics. My understanding from the Tea Party and GOP is that this is the rational action of the “invisible hand of the market.”

    • rd says:

      BTW – there are some Congressional Republicans from the mid-west that are starting to really push for infrastructure improvements. Their businessmen voters are beginning to complain about inability to get supplies delivered for the work and ship their goods to market. The Erie Canal opened up Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois in the early 1800s. The railroads expanded the expansion. The interstates completed a vast interconnected network. Their businesses were developed relying on this infrastructure. Allowing that infrastructure to crumble is beginning to have real economic impacts. We are already seeing agricultural products get put on sidings to let the oil trains through.

      • bigsteve says:

        I work in a power plant and we are running on the ragged edge at times getting fuel Both coal and natural gas due to bottle necks in trains and pipe lines. All of our transportation networks have always had a strong government hand in getting built and maintain. And that includes trains. With money cost so low and a large part of the population unemployed this should be a golden time to get our infrastructure repaired and up to date. But one of our major political parties has become obstructive just to deny our first Black President any accomplishments. As rd said “Allowing that infrastructure to crumble is beginning to have real economic impacts.” I see the rift getting wider between the Dixiecrats who infest the GOP and the Country Club Republicans.

      • USSofA says:

        If we are not going to have oil pipelines, then agricultural products are going to have to share rail lines with oil trains unless of course we can figure a way to put corn through a pipeline

  5. VennData says:

    The “conservatives” care way more about hurting Obama’s legacy than fixing roads.

    The American Enterprise Institute is a bunch of whores for low tax rates at any costs. Michael R. Srain will be fired for not toeing the party line.

    The Congressional GOP is the problem you investors have to fear most.

  6. wally says:

    They TSA has already wrecked air travel. Fixing up airports won’t help that.

    • willid3 says:

      well had the air lines (when they ran it) actually done the security part of their job, we might never have had the TSA, or 9/11. but they didnt because it interfered with their making money, which was to transport passengers, not make sure they didnt have weapons or bombs when they got on to planes.

    • BennyProfane says:

      “They TSA has already wrecked air travel.”

      Really? Have you seen the numbers on domestic accidents, both pre and post 9/11? It’s a ton safer flying these days. What’s wrecked air travel is the never ending competition for lower air fares, because, you, the traveller, want that before you even think of getting into a plane. So enjoy that person’s seat back in front of you jamming your knees, and the other results of cost efficiencies.

  7. Robert M says:

    There have always been “Conservatives”. The problem is what goes for “conservatives’ these days is neither responsible or conservative. As to reaching those I can only say, shine on you crazy diamond.

    • rj chicago says:

      And Robert -
      The liberals? Are they responsible as well?
      Reason I ask is from my perch – NO ONE in authority wants to be responsible and adult these days. The phrase I use for both those with the red or blue stripe is: “High Chair Tyrants”.
      Happy Weekend!!!

      • VennData says:

        Prove anything you just said.

      • Robert M says:

        Liberals do not have a lock on Responsible either. I was responding to BR’s comment about fantasy worlds and there are liberals who operate in that world to.
        If you have an opportunity go to the 55th St Promontory Point Park, sit out on the rocks and enjoy the view .
        good weekend to you

      • Petey Wheatstraw says:

        Liberals? In the US? Are you yanking my crank?

    • DeDude says:

      This “both are equally bad” narrative is very popular among the “reasonable conservatives” or “Bob Dole GOP’ers”. Their tribalistic instincts maintain a deep mistrust of Democrats even as todays “Blue Dog” democrats have moved to the right of Bob Dole. So in order to defend an instinctive choice of voting for a GOP (they no longer can deny having gone crazy), they desperately need to keep alive the illusion that the “liberals” are just as crazy as the “tea party”. The problem arrives when someone ask for specific examples. Examples of nutcase, lalaland, extremist, actions completely disconnected from reality, coming from the right wing of the GOP congress, are a dime a dozen. When you ask for just a single similar example of lunacy from the left wing of congress, all you get are crickets – because all you get from todays democrats are well anchored and well argued moderate proposals. Democrats purged their “luny-left” fraction long time ago.

  8. ByteMe says:

    Barry, the headline seems optimistic, like more than ONE conservative figured it out. When an op-ed like that appears in the Washington Examiner or Weekly Standard, wake me up. Until then, it’s just a mirage out there in a potholed and crumbling desert.

  9. Whammer says:

    Wow, did the morons ever come out in force in the comments at the Bloomberg site. “There was no impact from the stimulus”, “we’re in favor of infrastructure but BENGHAZI”. SMDH.

    • DeDude says:

      Yes it is kind of interesting how the “ignore the facts – keep to the tribal right wing narrative” crowd is alive and strong on the Bloomberg site and attack our libertarian host for being “a liberal”. We used to have a lot of fun with those types here at TBP, but they have left us. I think they got tired of hammering their opinions into a wall of facts and documentation of a reality that didn’t fit those narratives.

  10. slowkarma says:

    You’re absolutely correct.

    However, I travel by air probably 20 or 30 times a year, and because of my peculiar job, it’s rarely to the same airport twice, except for DFW or Albuquerque, which function as my distribution airports. I am here to tell you that Neither LaGuardia or JFK ranks at the top of the bad airports, in my opinion. Been to Miami lately? Last time I was there, there was a river of…something…flowing from one of the women’s bathrooms. Calling that a third world airport is an insult to the third world. When was the last time you went through LAX? I would take LaGuardia in a minute over LAX. St. Louis isn’t as bad, but the last time I was there, earlier this summer, they were having a flood in the baggage claim area, which must be a regular thing, because they rolled barrels under the roaring leaks…and they had the barrels handy.

    Furthermore, I believe this country desperately needs some substantial re-regulation of the airlines. Currently, the airlines are in a rush to the bottom, cutting every cost possible, jamming more and more people into less and less space, and sometimes engaging in what seems to me as outright fraud, when it comes to ticket prices. Want to check a bag? Give me $25. Now they’re talking about charging for overhead carry-on space. So if you can’t check a bag for free, and if you can’t put it overhead for free, then the only thing you can do for free is travel without a bag — which is ridiculous. The price of the ticket must include some kind of baggage stowage, even if that price has to increase. I see that a European airline is discussing the possibility of charging for use of the bathrooms. I well-done re-regulation (if such a thing is possible) might provide us with decent nationwide airline service that would both provide a profit to the airlines, and make travel bearable again. (And don’t even get me started on the new practice of people buying hot meals in the terminal, and carrying them onto the plane to eat. Nothing like sitting next to a guy eating some spicy east-Indian curry, burping and farting his way through the trip.)

    • ByteMe says:

      Best part of hanging out in Miami International are the chickens that periodically get loose from people’s carry-ons….

  11. cjb says:

    reading the comments of the majority of geniuses over on the Bloomberg site reminds me of my observation that most modern day conservatives I know really pursue the “Santa Clause” society that they accuse liberals of wanting. They think the government is inefficient, so infrastructure would be better built by private industry with no government money. Yet, they don’t want to pay fees and tolls, so private industry might get a decent roi, much less so government can maintain the roads. Shut down LaGuardia or O’Hare for a few days or even weeks with a major infrastructure catastrophe, and see how these financial geniuses are affected. What we have now is the “frog in boiling water” effect. A slow crumbling of everything thanks to those who only will accept free. It has slowed down the business world so slowly over decades that many don’t even realize how it’s hurt us.

  12. oleditor says:

    Last time I was through LaGuardia (2 years ago), it was at least functioning better than Newark. You New Yorkers have all the fun.

  13. tigerlilac says:

    Boston’s infamous “Big Dig” project was lampooned by the right and left at home here in Boston and across the nation. When it was first proposed Barney Frank asked: “Wouldn’t it be cheaper to raise the city than depress the artery” (the elevated highway that bisected the city from the waterfront)? Despite being a boon to Bechtel (a company “the right” loved for its penchant to put Reagan Republicans into its senior positions and distribute campaign cash to one side of the aisle) and having Bill Weld name the first segment to come online the Ted Williams Tunnel (Democrats wanted it named after Tip O’Neil who was instrumental in getting the funding), conservatives constantly harped about the project’s labor costs and political corruption. The reality is that Bostonians can now actually drive to the airport faster than we can walk (before the project it took over an hour on Friday afternoon to travel the 1.5 miles into the city from the airport) and go north-south through the city without a bottleneck of traffic; the project’s beautifully designed Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge is a landmark known worldwide; the project’s Rose Kennedy Greenway is one our the nation’s great urban gardens and walkways that has opened up the city to not only the waterfront but to the historic North End and to the redeveloped South Boston. The “Big Dig” lead to whole sections of the city being refurbishment and redevelopment on a scale unprecedented in any major US city (thank god we did not have a football or baseball stadium built on the waterfront). The boon to Boston, the world’s northeast gateway to the United States, in dollars and prestige is immeasurable. And unlike many expenditures funded in large part by the US government, these expenditures were plowed back into the hands of our own citizens and our own economy. Compare that to the costs necessary to fund the war in Iraq for a week or two and the “Big Dig” cost seems downright cheap (excuse me, affordable).

    • Petey Wheatstraw says:

      Good infrastructure results in inestimable social benefits, no doubt.

      The Big Dig went so far over budget as to be very questionable not only as to it’s overall cost, but also as an Occam’s razor indicator of massive corruption.

      While it might have employed plenty of people, someone go filthy stinkin’ rich off of it.

      If you can’t estimate the cost of a project within 15-18% (and show at least a few jobs that have come in UNDER budget), you don’t have the professional competence to build a major infrastructure project.

      • tigerlilac says:

        Great, we are in agreement: “good infrastructure results in inestimable social benefits.” Alas, we want prudent management in such projects and often find it lacking. One of the great ironies of the “Big Dig” was that during its construction I could look out of my tower window (speaking of “filthy stinkin’ rich”, at the investment bank I worked) across the harbor to a large storage container with the name of one of the major “Big Dig” contractors in big block letters: “CASHMAN”.

  14. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    If one wants to look to a society that represents the ideals of the right (which is so far right that far-right-of-center politicians are considered to be filthy “Socialists”), one need only look to Afghanistan.

    Theocracy? Check.

    Guns everywhere, possessed by people who won’t hesitate to use them in a Kabul minute? Check.

    Small, weak central government? Check.

    Low taxes? Check.

    No regulations? Check.

    Infrastructure, schools, medical facilities, and research left to the free market to develop? Check.

    It’s a full-blown “conservative” paradise.

  15. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    right (which is so far right that far-right-of-center politicians are considered to be filthy “Socialists”), one need only look to Afghanistan.

    Theocracy? Check.

    Guns everywhere, possessed by people who won’t hesitate to use them in a Kabul minute? Check.

    Small, weak central government? Check.

    Low taxes? Check.

    No regulations? Check.

    Infrastructure, schools, medical facilities, and research left to the free market to develop? Check.

    It’s a full-blown “conservative” paradise.

  16. Whammer says:

    As much as I believe we need to engage in a lot more infrastructure projects, I certainly empathize with the folks who are concerned about fraud/waste/bad management. The SF Bay Bridge repair has been a complete debacle — debacle is too mild a word, actually.