Collapsing Bridges, Collapsing Spending, And Neil Cavuto's Infrastructure Denialism

In the face of repeated infrastructure related disasters, Fox News host Neil Cavuto has continued to dismiss calls for an increase in infrastructure spending, claiming that spending on infrastructure is high enough. In reality, infrastructure spending has plummeted in recent years.

A Bridge Collapse In Washington “Shines Light On Aging Infrastructure”

The Seattle Times: “An I-5 Bridge Over The Skagit River In Mount Vernon Collapsed Thursday Evening, Sending Cars And People Into The Water.” According to the Seattle Times: 

A chunk of Interstate 5 collapsed into the Skagit River near Mount Vernon on Thursday evening, dumping two vehicles into the icy waters and creating a gaping hole in Washington state's major north-south artery. 


Rescuers pulled three people with minor injuries from the water after the collapse, which authorities say began when a semitruck with an oversized load struck a steel beam at around 7 p.m. [Seattle Times5/23/13]

USA Today: “Bridge Collapse Shines Light On Aging Infrastructure.” According to USA Today on May 24: 

Six years after a Minneapolis bridge collapse that killed 13 people called attention to the state of the nation's bridges, there has been minimal improvement and insufficient funding to repair and replace aging spans. The collapse Thursday of the Interstate Highway 5 in Washington state shined the spotlight once again on troubled bridges. [USA Today5/24/13]

Neil Cavuto Has Repeatedly Dismissed Calls For More Infrastructure Spending

In March 2013, Cavuto Said, “The Issue Isn't More Money Going To Infrastructure.” From Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto on March 29 (emphasis added):

CAVUTO: Well, if you keep talking about building it, the money will come.

The president in Florida today doing just that, arguing for more spending on roads and bridges. But haven't we spent hundreds of billions of dollars on roads and bridges thus far?

Between highway tolls and fees, state excise taxes, federal highway transportation taxes, the issue isn't more money going to infrastructure. The issue could be what the heck happened to all the money we have already spent and committed to infrastructure.


If I had a dime for every time I heard politicians talk about the infrastructure, I would have a lot of dimes. We could have built a bridge to Oz, right? But -- but what happened to all the money that we already committed? [Your World via, 3/29/13, accessed 5/24/13]

Cavuto Claimed: “We Pour A Lot Of Money... For Things Like Roads And Bridges And Highways.” From a May 17 interview with Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) on Fox News' Your World:

CAVUTO: You know, it's a dumb question on my part but last time I checked, I mean we pour a lot of money, commit a lot of money, gasoline taxes, tolls on bridges and roads, et cetera, surtaxes -- our transportation department for things like roads and bridges and highways. So I would like to know where that money has gone before I commit more money. [Fox News, Your World, 5/17/13]

Cavuto On Infrastructure Spending: “There's No Shortage Of Money Going To This Sort Of Thing, It Just Gets Robbed.” From the May 24 edition of Fox News' Your World:

CAVUTO: The bottom line is, you've educated me in the past, Phil: There is no lock box for this highway funding, infrastructure spending. It's a slush fund. And politicians of both parties, by the way, take advantage of it.

FLYNN: Right.

CAVUTO: But there is no shortage of money going to this sort of thing. It just gets robbed and it just gets raided. And my issue with a lot of Americans and politicians otherwise who say 'hey, we need more money for bridges and infrastructure and preventing this sort of thing,' I want to warn you: There's plenty of money there already but first keep track of where that money has gone. [Fox News, Your World, 5/24/13]

But In Fact, Infrastructure Spending Has “Plummeted” And Experts Have Called For Increased Funding

Business Insider: "[P]ublic Construction Spending Is Lower Than Its Been In Over 20 Years." Joe Weisenthal at Business Insider reported on May 24: 

The big news today is that a bridge in Washington collapsed, throwing cars into the water. Amazingly, nobody died. This may revive debate about the need to spend more on infrastructure, which would have multiple positive effects. Nothing is likely to happen, however. That being said, here's a chart of public construction spending (TLPBLCONS) as percentage of GDP. You can see, public construction spending is lower than its [sic] been in over 20 years.

Infrastructure Spending

[Business Insider5/24/13]

Washington Post: “U.S. Infrastructure Spending Has Plummeted Since 2008.” According to Brad Plummer of the Washington Post, “Not surprisingly, the collapse of a bridge along Interstate 5 in Washington state yesterday has revived the long-standing debate over whether Congress should spend more to repair the nation's aging roads and bridges.” After discussing the chart from Business Insider, Plummer continued:

So what if we just look at highways and roads? We get this chart:

Highway and Road Spending

There's still been a big drop-off in recent years, although that also came after a big build-up in the late 2000s. (Sadly, the data series doesn't extend back before 2002, so it's tough to see what this looks like historically.) [Washington Post5/24/13]

USA Today: “Federal Highway Administration Study Shows 11% Of Nation's Bridges Are Structurally Deficient.” According to USA Today on May 24:

In 2012, the Federal Highway Administration said 67,000 -- 11% -- of the nation's 607,000 bridges were structurally deficient. That means the bridges are not unsafe but must be closely monitored and inspected or repaired. That percentage is little changed since 2007 when 12% of the nation's bridges were listed as structurally deficient and the I-35 bridge collapsed in Minneapolis. [USA Today5/24/13]

USA Today: The American Society Of Civil Engineers Called For An Increase In Spending On Bridge Investment. From USA Today on May 24:

[F]unding repairs and replacements continues to be a problem, especially because bridges are getting older, says Andrew Herrmann, an engineer and past president of the American Society of Civil Engineers. The average bridge in the USA is 42 years old, Herrmann says.


The group gave the nation a C+ in its report card for maintaining bridges, saying federal, state and local governments need to increase bridge investment by $8 billion annually to meet the needs of deficient bridges. [USA Today5/24/13]