Larry Summers: We Need to Invest in Infrastructure

Interest rates are low. Construction unemployment is high. There's no better time than now to invest in major infrastructure projects. Economist Larry Summers asks what we're waiting for.
  • Transcript


Larry Summers: If a moment when a long term interest rate of 2.2 percent and a construction unemployment rate that is in double digits, if that kind of moment is not the right moment to fix Kennedy Airport I don’t know when that moment will ever come. We as a country have been chronically under investing in infrastructure for a long time. Almost never in the history of the United States since the second World War have we been devoting as low a proportion of our national output to investments in infrastructure as we are today. And you see the consequences in potholes in our highways. You see it in occasional bridge collapses. You see it in the fact that we have thousands of schools across the country where paint is chipping of the walls even as we tell our children that education is the most important thing. You see it in the fact that we have an air traffic control system in the United States that relies on vacuum tube technology and where it’s almost impossible to get anyone to do a repair who’s under 60 years of age because they don’t have any contact with the relevant technologies. You see it in the fact that in a variety of wireless and broadband technologies the United States lags a number of other countries. So I think there’s enormous opportunity for productive infrastructure investment and certainly at a moment when the long term interest rate is so low there’s a great deal of investment on which we could earn a social return very much in excess of the social cost.

Directed/Produced by Jonathan Fowler, Elizabeth Rodd, and Dillon Fitton