Our View: Infrastructure over tax breaks

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 4:26 PM

Editorial Board

We need infrastructure renewal across the nation. Our energy grids are too old and too big. Our highways, bridges, dams, tunnels, sewer lines, railroads, etc., all could use major facelifts. If we don’t upgrade the infrastructure that keeps the United States running smoothly, it will hurt us big time over the next couple of generations.

Talk to any big-city mayor or state governor, and you’ll find a fan of an infrastructure boom. And, why, not? It’ll bring jobs, money and tax revenues to various states and municipalities. But there’s big fiscal catch to all this talk of an infrastructure stimulus — it’s very costly, anywhere from scores of billions of dollars to more than $1 trillion if we tried to replicate the infrastructure boom of the 1950s.

And frankly, our current model of fiscal USA, saddled with debt, can’t afford a massive reboot of infrastructure. Trying to do that on a credit, as many pols would like to do, is simply not feasible. The main priority in America is trimming deficit growth, not increasing it.

Nevertheless, there is one way to free close to $100 billion a year that could be devoted to repairing and upgrading infrastructure across the nation. It’s to stop giving tax breaks to big corporations. The U.S. Congress does it all the time; consider the billions of dollars that Big Oil gets in tax advantages. And, across the nation, states and municipalities provide roughly $70 billion in tax advantages to lure businesses here and there.

We need smart, out-of-the-box ideas to start the infrastructure renewal we need in this nation. Not every tax break is a waste of money, but it’s time to take a close look at every tax break provided a corporation by our pols. The ones that don’t pass muster — revoke them and start earmarking those savings for infrastructure. If we save a couple score billion of dollars, or more, there won’t be a problem finding an infrastructure need for it.

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