U.S. News & World Report’s columnist, Paul Bedard, reports that Transportation secretary Ray LaHood told him that it’s fun playing Santa Claus to states and cities around the nation.
It’s not uncommon to hear the claim made that the “stimulus” would have had a greater economic impact had the money been focused on infrastructure. But proponents of public “investment” in infrastructure seem to forget that the government allocates capital on the basis of politics rather than economics. Government is naturally inefficient because it is immune to the market signals that guide private actors who stand to lose their own money should an investment not pan out.
The Federal Aviation Administration is trying to implement a $35 billion overhaul of the nation’s air traffic control system that would replace old-fashioned radar technology with modern satellite-based GPS navigation. But according to the Associated Press:
It didn’t take a Ph.D. in economics to recognize that the federal “Cash for Clunkers” program would put upward pressure on used-car prices. In nominating it “the dumbest program ever” back in August, Chris Edwards noted that “low-income families, who tend to buy used cars, were harmed because the clunkers program will push up used car prices.”
The New York Times reports that the nation’s only privately financed commercial airport is set to open in Branson, Missouri.
Unlike government transportation projects such as the Big Dig, this private project has gone well so far: “‘I think it’s some kind of record,’ Jeff Bourk, executive director of the airport, said of the speed of the construction. ‘On other projects I’ve been involved in, there’s a lot more red tape.’”
On the broader issue of America’s airports, the Times notes:
Every one of the 552 airports providing commercial air service in the United States receives some kind of federal money, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, and these airports are owned by public entities, municipalities, transportation districts or airport authorities.
In airports, America embraces socialism, while free enterprise has taken hold abroad. Many major cities around the world have privatized their airports in recent decades, as I discuss here.
The growth in private airports faces a number of hurdles in America. One problem is that government airports receive federal, state, and local subsidies, which makes it hard for private companies to compete. Another problem is the tax-deductibility of state/local (”muni”) bonds, which gives government facilities a financing advantage over private projects.