Transportation bill back in play?

Facing unrelentingly bad employment news the White House and Congress seem to be floating some trial balloons about the possibility of a second stimulus bill  favorable to transportation infrastructure, according to Bloomberg’s news service. Key quote:

“If there was to be another round of stimulus, additional infrastructure would be at the top of the list,” Van Hollen said in an interview. Money for roads, transit and bridges would be a priority.”

We’re all in favor of infrastructure spending, but didn’t they have a chance to do this just nine months ago? The infrastructure portion of that bill got whittled down by a cabal of special interest groups who collared White House advisor Larry Summers and told him in no uncertain terms that the stimulus bill money was not to be used just to create “jobs for burly men.”  With unemployment 50 percent higher for men than for women and unemployment in the construction industry over 20 percent in most of the country it looks like those special interests got their wish.

Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice….

The feds don’t really need another massive stimulus bill. If they would simply reauthorize another 5 year transportation bill, same as they’ve been doing for 50 years now, that would be enough. Only this time adjust highway infrastructure spending for inflation so that we’re spending at least as much as we were in the Clinton years. Even better, if we would spend as much on infrastructure relative to our GDP as we did from the Eisenhower administration through the Carter years–6 percent of GDP instead of the 3 percent of GDP we spend on infrastructure now–most of these unemployment problems would vanish.