“Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s short-lived policy of requiring state troopers to conduct secondary inspections of trucks crossing into Texas from Mexico cost the United States almost $9 billion in just 10 days, Axios reported Tuesday.
The policy, which Abbott enacted on April 6, snarled truck traffic at the border and led to a protest by Mexican truckers that stopped trade at some major crossings. On April 15, Abbott ended the double inspections, for which he’d received withering criticism from both sides of the border and the aisle, after striking deals with the governors of the four Mexican states that border Texas.
Per Axios, Abbott implemented the policy “in response to the Biden administration’s announcement that it would lift Title 42,” a Trump-era public health policy that denied migrants entry into the United States.
An analysis by the Perryman Group showed that the U.S. lost an estimated $8.97 billion in GDP due to delays at the border, while Texas alone lost $4.23 billion.”
“On Jan. 18, 1943, a ban on sliced bread was imposed by Secretary of Agriculture Claude R. Wickard, who held the position of Food Administrator. According to the New York Times, officials explained that “the ready-sliced loaf must have a heavier wrapping than an unsliced one if it is not to dry out.” The outcry among homemakers was loud enough for Wickard to discover that there was enough wrapping paper to rescind the ban — giving permanent life to the compliment, “the greatest thing since sliced bread.””
“You can understand why the White House would welcome a new Reuters poll finding more than three in five Americans say they’d “willingly” pay more at the gas pump to support Ukraine in its war with Russia.
Of course, Americans also say they plan to exercise more, eat more vegetables and watch more documentaries on television.”
“In the absence of a direct attack, the patience of Americans fades. The shocks at the gas pumps in 1973 and 1979 were inflicted by OPEC, but Richard Nixon and later Jimmy Carter bore the political cost. Today, Republicans may stand and cheer during the State of the Union address when Biden assails Russia, but they are already blaming the president’s environmental and energy policies as the cost of gasoline rises, and that blame is likely to have political resonance.
All of which suggests that Biden and the Democrats may be wise not to put much stock in those encouraging poll numbers. History suggests they will have a half-life that will fade well before November.”
“The bill is also larded up with provisions that will make infrastructure projects more costly for taxpayers. That matters, of course, because if you inflate the cost of building a bridge and you have a fixed amount of money to spend on new bridges, you’ll get fewer bridges.
For example, the bill’s “Buy American” provision is nothing more than performative patriotism and a handout to politically powerful unions. By mandating that materials used in road, bridge, and rail projects come primarily from the United States, Congress will effectively hike prices and engage in arbitrary protectionism.”
“The infrastructure bill could have been an opportunity to reform other federal rules that unnecessarily drive up the cost of building infrastructure. Like the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires that most workers on federally subsidized building projects are paid the local “prevailing wage” negotiated by unions even if the workers themselves are not unionized—and only about 13 percent of construction workers are part of a union. The Davis-Bacon Act rules can increase the costs of infrastructure projects by as much as 20 percent.
Similarly, the infrastructure package could have suspended or eliminated parts of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in order to streamline environmental reviews of infrastructure projects. Currently, NEPA reviews take more than four years on average, and they are frequently used as tools to block development for reasons that often have little to do with the environment.”
“If legislators were determined to “save lives, period, whatever it costs,” they would set the speed limit at 5 miles per hour, or perhaps ban automobiles altogether, which would prevent nearly 40,000 traffic-related deaths every year. Those policies seem reasonable only if you ignore the countervailing costs. In public policy, economist Thomas Sowell famously observed, there are no solutions; there are only tradeoffs.
“Logically,” Bourne writes, “there must be some negative consequences of government lockdowns, and some point at which they might become self-defeating.” To figure out when that might be, policy makers needed to estimate the public health payoff from lockdowns and compare it to the harm they caused.
Contrary to Cuomo’s framing of the issue, this is not a matter of weighing “the economic cost” of maintaining lockdowns against “the human cost” of lifting them, as if those categories were mutually exclusive. Even in life-and-death terms, lockdowns had a downside, since they plausibly contributed to a spike in drug-related deaths, discouraged potentially lifesaving medical care, and inflicted financial and psychological distress, neither of which is good for your health. And as Bourne emphasizes, “economic welfare” goes beyond household finances or GDP, encompassing everything people value.”
“The United States Postal Service started slowing its mail delivery on Friday, part of an effort by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to cut costs over the next 10 years.
The most widespread and significant change will affect first-class mail — things like letters, small packages, bills, and tax documents. Prior to the changes, customers throughout the US could expect first-class mail to reach its destination in one to three days; now, that timeframe will extend to between one and five days.
That “means mail delivery will be slower than in the 1970s,” for an estimated 40 percent of first-class mail, Paul Steidler, an expert on the postal service and supply chains at the Lexington Institute, told CBS.
That’s because the USPS is set to reduce its reliance on planes to transport mail as part of a broader cost-saving effort, instead shifting some deliveries within the continental US to ground transportation. According to the Washington Post, the Postal Service will reduce the amount of mail transported via plane from 20 percent to 12 percent.
According to an August notice from USPS in the Federal Register, using cargo planes and passenger aircraft to transport mail is more expensive and less reliable because of “weather delays, network congestion, and air traffic control ground stops.””
“In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the United States invaded and occupied two countries, bombed four others, helped create 21 million refugees and cause over 800,000 deaths, and spent over $6 trillion on combat and anti-terrorism measures. Republican and Democratic presidents and congressional leaders authorized sweeping new initiatives that effectively put all American citizens under surveillance.
Even as the United States has left Afghanistan, ending our longest war, many of the programs and mindsets born out of events 20 years ago are still firmly in place. In Reign of Terror, national security reporter Spencer Ackerman argues that the war on terror also profoundly destabilized American politics and helped to produce the Donald Trump presidency by stoking fears of a racialized Other. “The longer America viewed itself as under siege,” he writes, “the easier it became to see enemies everywhere.””
“Thanks to the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931, which mandates that all infrastructure projects receiving federal funding pay “prevailing” (generally union) wages, organized labor has been getting a piece of the action for nearly a century. This requirement raises labor costs by as much as 22 percent, according to an analysis by Suffolk University’s Beacon Hill Institute.
The president’s insistence that he’ll sign off on a contract only if it’s with “an American company with American products all the way down the line and American workers” will raise costs even further. Existing “Buy American” provisions are a well-established driver of transportation project costs.
A 2019 report from the Congressional Research Service found that buying American steel costs around twice as much as importing it from China. Requiring road builders to use pricier domestic steel raised the cost of highway construction by about $2 billion from 2009 to 2011, back when then–Vice President Biden was overseeing the spending of stimulus dollars on infrastructure projects.
If the president’s goal were truly to “build, baby, build,” he would be making every effort to pare back regulations that raise the labor and material costs of federal infrastructure projects. Instead, Biden wants to double down on those rules.”
“What forces, then, did drive the cost escalation? One key finding, the authors say, is that if a given community is wealthier, the state will wind up spending more to build a given mile of interstate. This effect increased over time.
To some extent, correlations of this sort might manifest themselves even if affluent neighborhoods do not exert any particular clout. Amenities that attract well-off residents, such as water views, may be the same ones highway builders take pains to avoid spoiling; municipalities may have reason to press for features such as noise barriers in places where property tax collections are high and officials have an incentive to keep property values from falling, and so forth.
Another possibility, however, is that wealthier persons are simply “more effective at voicing their interests in the political process.” The highway route gets diverted in a way that protects their amenity, but spoils some equally valued amenity in a less affluent neighborhood. The unwelcome extension is completed far behind schedule, with concomitant expense, because opponents have been skillful at working the system by stretching out hearings and reviews and then suing.”
“Brooks and Liscow pinpoint the early 1970s as the inflection point for increased spending on highway projects. What was happening around that time? The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires environmental impact review for federally funded projects, was passed in 1970. California passed its considerably more stringent CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) the same year, and it was signed by none other than Gov. Ronald Reagan. In 1972 and 1973, Congress added additional federal laws that provided key leverage in fighting construction projects on the basis of loss of species habitat and wetlands. The U.S. Supreme Court helped out with the 1971 case of Citizens To Preserve Overton Park v. Volpe, which multiplied the chances to go to court over development by curtailing judges’ deference to agency decision making. All of these laws and decisions have made it much easier for citizens to contest infrastructure projects, driving up their cost and delaying their implementation and completion.
Among Brooks and Liscow’s most interesting findings is this: The relationship between local resident income and project expense took off just as these changes in law were coming online. Before 1970, the two were related modestly enough that the correlation failed to score as statistically significant. It then proceeded to quintuple.”
“the new “citizen voice” laws brought some authentic benefits; objectors could bring genuinely useful information to the highway planners about ways to avoid environmental harm.”
“A prominent takeaway is the massive amount of land it would take to reimagine energy production and distribution nationally, including figuring out where to site a multitude of new solar arrays and wind turbines and constructing thousands of miles of transmission lines. “The current power grid took 150 years to build,” one of the study researchers said. “Now, to get to net-zero emissions by 2050, we have to build that amount of transmission again in the next 15 years and then build that much more again in the 15 years after that. It’s a huge amount of change.””