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The Transportation Stimulus: On the Right Road?

I have to admit, the transportation portion of the stimulus package troubles me. It’s not that I have a bad opinion of it; what troubles me is that I have considerable difficulty forming an opinion at all. The process is so hasty, and involves so many different players, and will fund such a vast number of projects, and has so many blanks yet to be filled in, that coming to grips with the totality of the initiative is quite challenging.

“They often feed you a maddening diet of “it depends on the context” and “this is a complex issue” …

This is too bad, because the stakes are certainly high. In my opinion, our efforts to intelligently discuss public finance are sorely handicapped by the fact that conditions on the savanna did not force our ancestors to evolve brains that could process the mathematical concept of a “billion.” So think of the nearly $50 billion price tag at around $150 for every single person in the country.
Would we be better off driving on smoother roads thanks to the stimulus when we could be driving on perfectly smooth virtual roads with the help of the brand new Wii (plus the optional steering wheel and a bunch of driving games) that each American household could have with its share of the money?
Is the transportation stimulus good stimulus? Is it good transportation? Academics can be difficult to pin down when you’re looking for a comforting “yes or no” answer to a question; they often feed you a maddening diet of “it depends on the context” and “this is a complex issue” and “on the other hand.” This can be frustrating, but on an issue this complex I’m afraid nuanced answers are the only ones possible. I’ll have a few, both skeptical and supportive, coming up.