Greece is expected to default on its government debts tomorrow as its bailout package from the European Union (EU) expires. The country will also hold a referendum on Friday on whether to accept the latest round of terms from its EU funders. Greece continues to grab all the headlines, but there is another government closer to home that is in a similar situation: Puerto Rico. Over the weekend, the governor of the island announced that Puerto Rico is unable to repay its $70 billion in debt.
I testified to the House Budget Committee yesterday on the history of federal debt and reasons to balance the budget. John Taylor, Jared Bernstein, and Ryan Silvey also testified.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has another failure on its hands. In recent tests, undercover investigators smuggled mock explosives and banned weapons through U.S. airport checkpoints 96 percent of the time. According to ABC, “In one case, agents failed to detect a fake explosive taped to an agent’s back, even after performing a pat down that was prompted after the agent set off the magnetometer alarm.”
The Senate Commerce Committee held a fascinating hearing on Wednesday regarding air traffic control (ATC). The hearing showcased the momentum to proceed with ATC restructuring. Because aviation is crucial to the economy, such a reform would create wide-ranging benefits.
On large and complex government projects, costs will double from the original estimates. This tendency is called Edwards’ Law of Cost Doubling.The Wall Street Journal reports on the PATH rail station at the World Trade Center. Edwards’ Law was in effect:
For more than a century, the federal government has pursued a misguided witch hunt against perceived monopolies in the private sector. But in a glaring hypocrisy, Congress has long protected one of the nation’s largest businesses against competition. The legal monopoly conferred on the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is a relic. Government-run mail makes no sense in our email-dominated economy, and other nations are showing that postal privatization works. If the centuries-old Royal Mail can be privatized, then so can our USPS.
Tomorrow at CPAC, I will discuss some advantages of infrastructure privatization. Perhaps the largest advantage is innovation. Unlike government bureaucracies, private firms in a competitive environment are eager to maximize the net returns of projects, so they find new ways to reduce costs and improve quality.
The U.S. Congress hoards real estate like proud pack rats. For example, the Department of Defense has 562,000 facilities that cover 24.7 million acres—an area about the size of Virginia.
President Obama’s budget would raise taxes to fund a $478 billion infrastructure spending plan for highways, transit, and other items. The budget (on page 26) cites an International Monetary Fund study that “highlights the importance of choosing high-efficiency infrastructure projects based on rigorous benefit-cost analysis.”
Congress created the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2002 by combining 22 agencies that are responsible for a vast array of activities. President George W. Bush promised that the new department would “improve efficiency without growing government” and would cut out “duplicative and redundant activities that drain critical homeland security resources.”