As the Amtrak derailment showed (again), the refusal to spend on infrastructure literally kills. Also, infrastructure spending: (i) is necessary and unavoidable (failure to timely spend on infrastructure increases the deficit in real terms), (ii) improves the gross domestic product and competitiveness, and (iii) is an obvious source for increased employment, particularly in currently hard hit segments. Moreover, infrastructure spending remains unambiguously popular. Indeed, infrastructure spending historically has had bipartisan support.
So, why are modern Republicans ideologically opposed to infrastructure spending today? For example:
In 2012, House Republicans introduced a transportation bill (including cuts in Amtrak subsidies and increases in truck-weight limits) that Ray LaHood, secretary of transportation during Obama's first term, called "the worst transportation bill I've ever seen during 35 years of public service." LaHood himself had been a seven-term Republican congressman from Illinois before he agreed to serve in Obama's cabinet.
The most accepted (or easily reported) explanation is that today's Republican party is dominated by Southern states, the center of heavy infrastructure (and costs) is located in the Northeast, and Republicans refuse to spend on states that don't vote Republican. There is truth to this explanation and, frankly, it is not properly reported as part of the wider partisan scandal that it is. For example, although federal disaster relief is uniformly passed in the wake of hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, etc., the Hurricane Sandy relief bill was passed only when (as one of a few instances) the "Boehner Rule" was lifted to allow a bill to pass with largely Democratic votes. Why? Because only 70 House Republicans could be found who were willing to vote for federal emergency hurricane relief if the affected area was the the East Coast. Nice.
While as egregious as that geographic partisanship is, there are also at least four other fundamental reasons that explain the new Republican refusal to invest in infrastructure - all of which are largely undiscussed in general reporting.