You don’t open the Sunday comics expecting a satirical attack against private-sector investment in U.S. infrastructure projects, but there it was, the subject of a “Candorville” spoofing the other day. And, yes, it elicited a laugh.
Shows you that the public policy debate over infrastructure is spreading. The comics’ first mention is of an Australian bidder, perhaps a reference to Macquarie, the world leader in private financing of infrastructure. Macquarie has been in the U.S. news in recent years because of its investments — long-term leases — of the Indiana Toll Road, the Dulles Greenway, the Chicago Skyway, and the South Bay Expressway (San Diego). All of these leases prompted controversy, and there are legitimate arguments pro-and-con as to private operation of infrastructure like roads and bridges. Sometimes the arguments against spill into populist protectionism, particularly around election-time.
The thing is, as government takes on more and more responsibilities, and demographics meet financing meet overpromising politicians (Social Security, Medicare), well, there’s less public money available to do the things the public demands. Try building the Interstate Highway System from scratch nowadays.
So you can see where this sort of project becomes more and more attractive: Florida seeks qualified bidder for Alligator Alley.
There’s opposition, yes. But is there a better idea?
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