Neglecting any thought about cutting spending anywhere within the federal budget, for instance some of the soaring entitlement spending, CBS's Katie Couric on Thursday night wondered if taxpayers are “ready to spend” the “trillions” needed to repair the nation's infrastructure. Just the night before, Couric's newscast illustrated why entitlement spending keeps rising faster than inflation and population growth, as she aired a sympathetic look at “getting medical coverage for the millions of American children who don't have it,” a relatively (compared to total entitlement spending) small plan which would hike spending by $50 billion over five years.
Couric's assumption about higher taxes came as she introduced an August 2 CBS Evening News story from Nancy Cordes on the estimate by the American Society of Civil Engineers, a group obviously in favor of additional public works project spending, that it will cost $1.6 trillion to address infrastructure needs. Live from Minneapolis, Couric asked: “Experts have been warning for years that this country's infrastructure is crumbling. But are taxpayers ready to spend the billions, maybe trillions, it would take to fix all the pipelines, tunnels and bridges?” (Comparative budget numbers below)
To put the $1.6 trillion in some perspective, in 2006 the federal government distributed $1.4 trillion in entitlements, up approximately 60 percent from 1990 in inflation-adjusted dollars. In just the one single year of 2006 that means entitlement spending consumed about 50 percent of the $2.6 trillion total budget which included $227 billion in interest and $248 billion as the deficit, leaving about $1 trillion for everything else (PDF of a Heritage Foundation package of budget tables). And a June Heritage analysis estimated that the Senate immigration reform bill would cost taxpayers $2.6 trillion:
“Although it is difficult to provide a precise estimate, it seems likely that if 10 million adult illegal immigrants currently in the U.S. were granted amnesty, the net retirement cost to government (benefits minus taxes) could be over $2.6 trillion.”