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Fixing Infrastructure Costs You Now; Delaying It Costs More. Here's How Much.

Ignoring U.S. infrastructure needs today means digging deeper tomorrow.

With talk of government waste on the front burner in early 2023, Americans certainly aren’t jazzed about skyrocketing government spending.

According to a recent survey by Gallup, many U.S. adults say that in an era of high inflation and abundant government spending, their taxes are unfairly high. 

In the same survey, Americans seem to favor infrastructure spending in general, until they hear about the high price tag associated with fixing roads, bridges, airports, and other high-priority structural needs.

Looking to highlight voter frustrations on high spending and inflation, Rep. Jason Smith (R-Missouri), noted the U.S. is mired in "an inflation crisis brought on by reckless spending coming out of Washington."

He’s not the only one who thinks this way.

The Gallup survey cited a Penn State poll conducted in May, 2022 that found reducing government spending was the most frequently chosen option as "the best way for the federal government to fight inflation."

Similarly, an April poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies told respondents that "government spending went from $4.4 trillion in 2019 to $6.8 trillion in 2021" and found 73% agreement that this increase has been a major cause of higher prices.

Pay Me Now or Pay Me Later

Nobody’s really arguing that voters enjoy government spending, but when it comes to infrastructure spending, those same voters should take a closer look at both the current and future lenders.

There, statisticians are quick to point out that pausing needed infrastructure spending is only delaying the inevitable, and only jacking up the price for infrastructure fixes that need to be addressed.

A case in point.

According to a recent report from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), America’s long-overdue infrastructure bill will cost the average American household $3,300 by 2039 on an annual basis.

A big chunk of that figure will likely come from rising inflation, which will make everything more expensive by 2039. After all, having $3,000 in 1990 was equivalent in purchasing power to about $6,812.48 today, and having $3,000 in 2023 will be like having $4,814 in 2039, based on an annual 3% inflation rate.

Still, $3,300 represents a big chunk of change for Americans 16 years from now, especially given the fact that the same infrastructure project is relatively more inexpensive today than in 2039.

The ripple effects of infrastructure delay are bigger than you may think, too.

As ASCE pointed out, the U.S. economy could experience $10 trillion in GDP losses and a $23 trillion decline in business productivity cumulatively over the next two decades if current federal and state infrastructure policy delays are continued.

“There's no better way to jump-start the economy, while also lessening the financial burden on businesses and families, than by making a down payment on our infrastructure now – transit systems, bridges, water treatment plants, and the grid – to ensure these systems are sustainable, resilient, and safe for communities across the nation,” ASCE Executive Director Tom Smith noted.

For Americans on the fence over infrastructure spending, the decision is easy: you can pay less now or stick your son or daughter with a bigger bill 20 years from now.