Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic candidate in the Massachusetts U.S. Senate race, has released an ad calling for the United States to be more like China by “investing” in roads and bridges. In the TV spot, Warren notes that China spends 9 percent of GDP on infrastructure while our country spends 2.4 percent.
The idea that the repressive China regime should be a model for America is disturbing and has rightly been criticized. But the ad's other message — that electing Democrats like Warren will result in better roads — should also be taken with a grain of salt. Oklahoma's experience shows why.
Over a two-decade period, state funding for roads was gutted. State money allocated for roads in 2005 was the same as in 1985 — $200 million. That's a 45 percent inflation-adjusted reduction that occurred even as traffic increased. Democrats ran the Legislature throughout those two decades. It was only after Republicans won control of the House of Representatives that funding priorities changed.
Why did roads get the short end of the budget stick for so long? Because other interests friendlier to Democrats were competing for that money. In that competition, road funding lost.