In a piece out today on WashingtonPost.com, Ezra Klein highlights the fact that smart federal investments are a big part of solving country’s budget deficit. In particular, he points out that certain types of spending cuts might save the country money now but ultimately cost us more in the long run. One example is cuts to inspection procedures, which can lead to costly subsequent recalls or contamination. Another is cuts to enforcement, including the type of enforcement meant to reduce waste within the budget. And thirdly, there’s deferred maintenance of national infrastructure like roads, highways and bridges. While cutting infrastructure spending now might save money this year, it will ultimately cost the country more as those roads degrade further and further. As Klein explains:
In 2009, the Society of Civil Engineers gave America’s existing infrastructure a grade of D. They estimated that simply maintaining America’s existing stock would require up to $2.2 trillion in investment. But Republicans have been cool to Obama’s calls to increase infrastructure investment. Just “another tax-and-spend proposal,” Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) said when the initiative was announced. But a dollar in maintenance delayed — or cut — isn’t a dollar saved. It’s a dollar that needs to be spent later. And waiting can be costly. It’s cheaper to strengthen a bridge that’s standing than repair one that’s fallen down.
Smart Growth America’s February report Recent Lessons from the Stimulus advocates strongly for road repair and maintenance not only because it prevents high future costs but because it also creates more jobs per dollar which helps the economy even more.
Cuts to several other federal programs proposed in this year’s budget are similarly short-sighted attempts to solve long-term problems. Notably, the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, a successful collaboration between the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation and Department of Housing and Urban Development, is being hit with several proposed cuts in this year’s budget despite the benefits this program brings to local communities. The Partnership helps community leaders get the most out of each federal or state dollar invested in their neighborhoods. By leveraging private sector investment, saving money in municipal budgets, helping families save on things like transportation and creating jobs, programs like the Partnership for Sustainable Communities make sure federal funds go far to rebuild our economy.
Investing wisely can help balance the federal budget AND create jobs in a time of economic hardship. Tell your Senators to preserve federal funding for local smart growth investments: click here to send a letter voicing your support.