In February 1955, Senator Harry Byrd of Virginia took to the floor to decry the results of a government study estimating that a highway bill under consideration would cost American taxpayers $27.2 billion. Does the tune sound vaguely familiar? Excerpted from Earl Swift’s new book, The Big Road: The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers Who Created the American Highway System.

Nothing has been proposed during my twenty-two years in the United States Senate that would do more to wreck our fiscal budget system…As we spend and spend and borrow and borrow, the least we can do for future generations—our children and grandchildren, on whom we would place astronomical burdens—is to keep an honest set of books so they will know what debts we of this generation have incurred for them to pay.

Weren’t those children…us?

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