Caroline Baum explains:
Larry Summers was stuck in traffic, waiting to cross the Anderson Memorial Bridge en route to his office in Cambridge, Mass.
No, this isn’t the start of a-man-walked-into-a-bar joke, although it could be. Summers’s May 26 op-ed in the Washington Post, a consolidated version of a column he wrote for the Boston Globe, details how “routine maintenance” on a bridge that took 11 months to build in 1912 turned into a five-year, budget-busting boondoggle.
Coming from Summers — economist extraordinaire, former U.S. Treasury secretary, former president of Harvard University, father of Secular Stagnation 2.0 — such criticism of infrastructure investment is a big deal. Summers has been arguing for the last few years that the only way to get the U.S. economy out of its rut (no pun intended) is for the government to take advantage of historically low interest rates and borrow the money needed to repair and rebuild the nation’s crumbling infrastructure.
“How could our society have regressed to the point where a bridge that could be built in less than a year one century ago takes five times as long to repair today?” Summers asks.
It was not a rhetorical question as Summers provides us with answers. In short, a bloated regulatory state: that’s how. Welcome to our world, Dr. Summers...
Summers says the time has come for “reforms in procurement policies, regulatory policies and government procedures to make the investment process more efficient and effective.”
In other words, if only the government could be more like the private sector — except that it can’t. No one spends someone else’s money as efficiently as we spend our own earnings. Those paid to dig at the Anderson Bridge keep digging — at someone else’s expense!
“Where is the outrage?” Summers wants to know.