CBS: 'Cash-Starved' Governments Must 'Collect...More Tax Dollars' for Infrastructure

A night after CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric, without any consideration for cutting other spending, presumed taxes must be hiked to pay for infrastructure repair, CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson ludicrously described federal and state governments as “cash-starved” as she relayed the expert view of just one person, a Democratic Congressman, whom she said blames the lack of courage to “collect” more taxes. A nice euphemism for raising taxes. On Thursday night, Couric had asked: “Are taxpayers ready to spend the billions, maybe trillions, it would take to fix all the pipelines, tunnels and bridges?” (My NB item)

On Friday night, Attkisson noted that out “of the $2.7 trillion federal budget, it's estimated only around $50 billion a year goes for infrastructure” while “experts say what's needed is $210 billion a year for five years.” After citing a couple of examples of misguided pork barrel spending for road projects when repair work goes wanting, Attkisson pointed out how “Congress only funds about 25 percent of the nation's infrastructure.” She then absurdly asserted that states and local governments which “pick up the rest of the tab” are “cash-starved too.” For her only expert assessment, Attkisson turned to Democratic Congressman Jim Oberstar, Chairman of the very committee which funnels the pork spending, described as “Congress's leading authority on infrastructure” who “says both Congress and the White House have traditionally had trouble making the tough decision to collect and spend more tax dollars on infrastructure.”

Neither Attkisson, nor the on-screen chyron for Oberstar, identified him as a Democrat.

Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Oberstar represents northeastern Minnesota.

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video for the August 3 CBS Evening News story:
KATIE COURIC: Well, in Washington late today the House approved an emergency bill authorizing $250 million to rebuild the 35W bridge. The Senate is expected to follow suit, but it's really just a drop in a very huge bucket when it comes to fixing all of America's bridges and highways and pipelines. As Sharyl Attkisson reports, for years Congress has had other things on its agenda.

SHARYL ATTKISSON: Funding the nation's infrastructure is all a matter of priorities. Out of the $2.7 trillion federal budget, it's estimated only around $50 billion a year goes for infrastructure, just a tiny slice of the pie. Experts say what's needed is $210 billion a year for five years just for upkeep. And the need is felt in all 50 states. Coast to coast there have been sewage leaks, killer chunks of falling concrete, broken pipes in the Midwest, contaminated water in Washington D.C., and New Jersey loses an astonishing 20 million gallons of drinking water a day from leaky pipes.

But when it comes to spending federal dollars, sometimes priorities seem out of whack. In Alaska a third of the bridges are awaiting repair, but Alaska's members of Congress wanted to put $450 million toward pet projects for two new bridges that would only serve a combined population of about 100. In Colorado the highways are corroded and rusting, but the state's members of Congress still saw fit to put a half million dollars toward a future wildlife overpass. That's right, a bridge for wild animals to cross the highway.

But Congress only funds about 25 percent of the nation's infrastructure. States and local governments pick up the rest of the tab, and they're cash-starved too. Congressman Jim Oberstar from Minnesota heads the House Transportation Committee and is Congress's leading authority on infrastructure.

Rep. JAMES OBERSTAR, (D-MN): We need to do far better, and we all know that.

ATTKISSON: He says both Congress and the White House have traditionally had trouble making the tough decision to collect and spend more tax dollars on infrastructure.

OBERSTAR: We have to make those investments, and they don't come like manna from the sky, you have to pay for it. And you either pay now or you pay a whole lot later.

ATTKISSON: The Minnesota bridge collapse may be the catalyst that pushes Congress into making better plans and a bigger investment in the critical facilities that keep the nation running. Sharyl Attkisson, CBS News, Capitol Hill.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center