Burton Folsom, Jr. and Anita Folsom: Washington Shouldn't Be Responsible for Infrastructure





Burton Folsom, Jr. is professor of history at Hillsdale College and author of New Deal or Raw Deal? (Simon & Schuster, 2008). His new book, co-authored with Anita Folsom, is FDR Goes to War: How Expanded Executive Power, Spiraling National Debt, and Restricted Civil Liberties Shaped Wartime America (Simon & Schuster, 2011). Anita Folsom works at Hillsdale College and is co-author of FDR Goes to War: How Expanded Executive Power, Spiraling National Debt, and Restricted Civil Liberties Shaped Wartime America (Simon & Schuster, 2011).

Who should build and fix the nation's roads? The Democrats clearly believe road building and repair is best done by the federal government. President Obama, in fact, made infrastructure improvements a major part of his $787 billion stimulus package. And in the New Hampshire debate on Saturday night, the Republicans sadly seemed to look to Washington as well.

When asked during the debate about the federal government's role in improving the nation's roads, Newt Gingrich seemed resigned to a strong federal role. So did Mitt Romney, although he also seemed open to state efforts. According to Romney, "There are certain things government can do to grow the economy. Rebuilding infrastructure that is aging is one of them." He went on to describe bridges and highways that needed repair.

These Republicans are right in pointing to a strong infrastructure as being essential to economic growth. But "Let Washington do it" should not be our battle cry. If we look first to the Constitution, and second to competency, we will discover that we should ask Washington to hit the road, not build it....

...[T]he Constitution leaves road building as a state and local function. In 1817, when Congress passed a bill allowing the federal government to build roads and canals in various states, President James Madison vetoed it. "I am constrained by the insuperable difficulty I feel in reconciling the bill with the Constitution," Madison said....



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