WSJ's Moore: Wrong On Infrastructure Funding

Steve MooreThe Wall Street Journal's Steve Moore falsely claimed that there's adequate funding for infrastructure, ignoring sharp declines in infrastructure and construction spending. 

On Fox News' America's Newsroom, guest host Rick Folbaum interviewed the Wall Street Journal's senior economics writer Steve Moore on the state of infrastructure spending and regulation.  During the segment, Folbaum acknowledged successful efforts by Republican lawmakers to block funding for “highways, rail, transit, airports” and questioned whether current spending levels, as opposed to regulation alone, might be a problem for national infrastructure projects.

Moore ignored the claim of Republican obstruction altogether, dismissing “this idea that there's not enough money for infrastructure,” and quickly returning to the question of regulation:

Moore's dismissal of infrastructure underfunding, however, ignores a number of economic realities.

Following the economic downturn in 2008, state and local governments struggled to adequately fund infrastructure and transportation initiatives. As Brad Plumer at The Washington Post's Wonkblog noted: “Congress hasn't filled in the gap” in state and local infrastructure fund shortfalls. He included a chart that shows how sharply national spending on roads and highways has dropped since the end of the recession:

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.)

Joe Weisenthal at Business Insider published a chart of public construction spending after a bridge in Washington state collapsed in May. As Weisenthal explained, public construction spending relative to the economy is at its lowest level in decades.

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.

Public construction spending

This graph, along with Plumer's, shows the current state of infrastructure spending in the U.S. and that there's not, as Moore claimed, “enough money for infrastructure.”