$3.6 trillion borrowed at 4% for 40 years (the typical rate and term combination for US infrastructure projects) would cost about $64 per capita per month or $773 per year, assuming 200 million adult taxpayers. At the median wage of $17.09/hour (Citation) each adult would have to work about 52 minutes more per week to earn that extra tax money; of course better infrastructure would reduce that time requirement and improve the general economy, but my spreadsheet has no column for that. Of course we could do nothing and save that pittance of time and money, but why not be remembered as those who built or restored the bridge over the Columbia or the playground in our neighborhood?
In contrast, every year we spend $2,141 per capita (Citation) for our military, and that's for all citizens, not just taxpayers; using the 200MM taxpayers figure, the yearly amount is more like $3,500.
There are other costs. Many infrastructure projects are dangerous; in the current era about 9.5 workers per hundred thousand die in construction accidents yearly (2008-12, est., Citation). The senator estimates 13,000,000 "jobs," but it's not clear how many would be employed at any given time. If that number is half those who would ever be employed in such a work plan, or 6.5 million, then the number of annual deaths would be 9.5 ÷ 100,000 X 6,500,000, or 617, or about 15 per year over 40 years. For comparison, since the era of G.W. (Great Warrior) Bush, we've been burying about 4,000 soldiers per year.
|Item||Expenditure (40 yrs)||Monthly||Yr. Per Capita||Mo. Per Capita||Deaths/Yr|
So the annual decision matrix reduces to $773 and 15 deaths for the infrastructure model vs. $3,200 per year (which over the same 40 years would come to about $28 trillion) and 4,000 deaths for the military model. If you are still finding that to be a tough call, consider that two generations of technological progress in infrastructure development would also be a "product" we could sell to the world, potentially giving us permanent national income in the future. And the buyers would probably not be inclined to undo their progress by engaging in warfare against their neighbors or those who provided the support services to keep that infrastructure functional. In contrast, every military sortie creates a new pocket of hatred somewhere, which unless we do something smarter will continue to create nihilistic revenge seekers, many of whom will act reflexively, to paraphrase Jesus, knowing not what they do.
Of course this is a facile analysis. We probably cannot do away with all national security expense, but given that it will be generations before anyone other than a couple of traditional enemies could mount an existential attack on the USA without committing national suicide, mightn't we move a few millimeters* in a more rational direction?
(Apologies to The Six Million Dollar Man.)
* Millimeter: a unit of linear measurement used in construction worldwide; see also inch.
Some multiples may not come out even due to rounding.
Revised with minor corrections 6 Oct 2015.