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Extreme Makeover: Infrastructure Edition

With winter finally coming to a close, (okay, I hope I didn't just jinx it), the snow and salt-battered state of our roads is once again putting infrastructure spending in focus.

Finding politicians and so-called experts who say America is in dire need of a multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure overhaul is about as hard as finding a pothole after the polar vortex. But just once, I'd like to hear from someone who makes a priority of actually getting what we pay for in infrastructure spending.



"Big Dig" infrastructure project in Boston, 1999.
Pam Berry | The Boston Globe | Getty Images
"Big Dig" infrastructure project in Boston, 1999.

We've heard a lot of experts and more than a few hysterical news anchors who insist that the U.S. spends much less than Europe on infrastructure.

Except — we don't.

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The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development says that we spend about 3.3 percent of our gross domestic product on infrastructure spending compared to the European Union's 3.1-percent rate.

And, the bigger the project, the more staggering the overpayment and questionable the result.

Remember Boston's "Big Dig?" It was supposed to be finished in 1998 and cost $2.8 billion. It didn't actually wrap up until 2007 and the final cost is estimated at $22 billion according to the Boston Globe. (It's not expected to be paid off until 2038.)

New York's plan to extend the Long Island Railroad to Grand Central Terminal is 151 percent over budget, going from a projected $4.3 billion to $10.8 billion. Oh, and it will be at least 14 years late.

And California's Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom just pulled his backing of that state's planned high speed rail link from L.A. to San Francisco, citing the fact that the once $32 billion project is now priced and $68 billion and growing.

And the pushback is relentless: Anyone who dares to ask hard questions about infrastructure spending is demonized and attacked as the kind of guy who wants to see women and children plunge to their deaths in a bridge collapse. Newsom is finding that out the hard way.

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That's why America needs a lovable, but experienced construction guy who can make sure we get good infrastructure results for a fair price ... all while being just too lovable and trustworthy to succumb to personal attacks.

The man I'm talking about is, of course — "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" host Ty Pennington!

Have you seen what they accomplish in each and every episode?

Not only did Ty get things done fast, (we're talking entire home teardowns and constructions in seven days), but he got private companies to donate goods and services, local residents to volunteer, and he was so good at finding the people and places most in need.

Most importantly, in return for all the product placement and other good P.R., Ty got his results at amazingly low cost. Ty's product placement experience would be perfect to help us usher in the next thing we need to really improve our infrastructure: more privatization.

And, the ABC show is no longer a regular series, so I bet he has the time.

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Indiana partially privatized a major toll road in 2006 — despite the predictable attacks from union-friendly Democrats in Congress — and has reaped enormous benefits from the project.

Assessing the results of the deal back in 2011, then-Governor Mitch Daniels summed up the reason why 100 percent government-controlled infrastructure is such a bad deal: "Before our lease was finalized in 2006, the toll road was in substandard condition. After 50 years, it still had a large debt and was losing money. That's what you get when politicians run an enterprise as a patronage operation."

And that really gets to the heart of the matter, doesn't it? America's infrastructure needs help because the people most often in charge of even the most important projects are thinking politics first and quality and cost controls last.

And that's why a non-politician reality show host is just what the doctor ordered.

America, we need Ty to get our politicians to MOVE…THAT…BUS! And train … and road grader …

— By Jake Novak

Jake Novak is supervising producer of "The Kudlow Report." Follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny.