Peterson Foundation president David Walker made a salient point today at the Regional Plan Association’s annual regional assembly: we don’t spend enough on infrastructure, but we probably spend too much on other stuff.

“We have to look at some metrics,” Walker, former comptroller general of the U.S., said.

On national spending, we are the “highest in the world” on education. We are “the highest in the world” on healthcare. “Nobody comes even close.”

On infrastructure, by contrast, we are “below average” in critical new investments, and “below average” in maintenance spending.

Asked whether this education and healthcare spending wasn’t useful, Walker said, quite candidly, that much of it is “totally wasted.”

As for a couple of numbers: Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell said that when President Dwight Eisenhower left office, infrastructure spending was about 12.5 percent of non-military domestic spending. Today, it’s about 2.5 percent.

As we’ve said before, these figures make any comparison of our modest infrastructure stimulus program over the next two years to Japan’s huge infrastructure stimulus programs over the past decade largely irrelevant, in terms of their economic impact — because we’re starting from starting points so far apart that they’re not even on the same map.

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