Op-ed: Congress can stabilize the economy by focusing on infrastructure (Source: Houston Business Journal)

May 22, 2020

By Wayne Swafford

The Covid-19 pandemic has killed thousands of people, disrupted the lives of families and devastated many industries in the public and private sectors. As the pandemic continues to wreak havoc across the country, Congress has passed a series of relief measures to stop the bleeding. But with fears of a deep recession growing every day, more action is needed from Congress to stabilize the economy over the long term.

Talks are underway on a massive infrastructure bill as one of the next pieces of legislation to boost the economy. With federal bonds needed to finance projects at record-low interest rates and infrastructure historically receiving bipartisan support, now is the ideal time to pass this legislation. A robust infrastructure bill offers a rare opportunity to kill two birds with one stone: adding much-needed jobs and jumpstarting the economy at a time when unemployment rates are increasing at an alarming rate; and upgrading the country’s infrastructure that has been deteriorating rapidly after decades of underinvestment.

In its 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave the United States an overall poor grade of “D+.” To maintain a state of good repair and earn a “B” grade, ASCE estimates the total funding needs from 2016-2025 at $4.6 trillion, of which only $2.6 trillion of estimated funding is available leaving a $2 trillion funding gap.

The infrastructure bill, currently under discussion, should not only address reducing this funding gap, but also consider investments that will produce sustained economic growth over the long term. Below are four recommendations that I would encourage Congress to consider in its next infrastructure bill: