Build Soon, Build Smart

President-elect Donald Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon has said he wants the new administration to fund a “trillion-dollar infrastructure plan.” Bannon’s vision is an 1850s dream of shipyards and iron works, neither of which is actually infrastructure and both of which are oversupplied in today’s world economy. If the incoming administration and the Republican Congress really want to make American infrastructure great again, they can do so by financing upgrades, aligning risk and reward through privatization, and streamlining procurement and permitting processes. No one has a firm idea on the amount of infrastructure upgrades that America needs. Bannon and Trump’s $1 trillion figure appears to be a guess. In 2013, the American Society of Civil Engineers estimated the cost of repairing the nation’s infrastructure at $3.6 trillion (including a $1.6 trillion funding gap), but their assessment was a consultant’s wish-list ignoring the reasonably good condition of U.S. infrastructure by developed-world standards.

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