I am not a firsthand reader of Ayn Rand’s argument against our working together through government to do important things that society needs, although I have been exposed to its practical implications through the policies advocated by several of her disciples – including Alan Greenspan, Ron Paul and Paul Ryan.

So I cannot say whether she would have argued that our snow-caused problems this past month were exacerbated by our having too much public-sector involvement or that private, individual initiative could have alleviated transportation malfunctions and facilitated quicker snow removal.

But I can confidently note that she would have strongly opposed one approach going forward: increasing our collective resources to repair the physical damage inflicted on our public infrastructure and better equipping public transportation to perform when it snows heavily.

I know this because her influence is already evident in the refusal of congressional Republicans to provide the funding necessary to keep our highways, bridges, railways and subways functioning adequately, even before this past month’s demonstration of their inadequacy. No public policy issue better illustrates the sharp right-wing movement of the Republican Party over the past 10 years than the question of federal funding for transportation.

The creation of the interstate highway system is one of the outstanding achievements of President Dwight Eisenhower. For well over 50 years, there was bipartisan support for providing the money necessary to complete this system and keep it in good condition. The question of federal funding for railroads was potentially controversial. But because this was not a sudden ideological demand for a sharp increase in the federal government’s role, but rather a response to the inability of the private sector to provide either intercity passenger rail service, or mass transportation within metropolitan areas, it soon gained support across party lines.

The justification for this comprehensive policy is that travel is not simply a matter of convenience but an essential part of our being one nation. The interstate highway system and passenger rail service are essential components of a socially and economically cohesive nation. And mass transit supports economic activity in our most important centers of commerce.

This decades-long bipartisan consensus has now fallen victim to the sharp rightward turn of the Republican Party.

The Republican repudiation of any constructive role for our federal government in improving the quality of our lives as a nation now explicitly extends to opposition to preserving Eisenhower’s legacy. What looms is the continued deterioration of our physical infrastructure, threatening safety and retarding economic progress.

The case for an increase in federal transportation funding is overwhelming on every ground except rigid ideological opposition to our coming together as a society to do things as a nation that the private sector cannot do. If states want to fix their bridges or extend their roads, or cities want to improve their transit systems, the conservatives argue, let them do that on their own. The notion that there is a bipartisan interest in a transportation system that serves our national needs has fallen prey to the view that virtually all government is bad, and the federal government particularly bad.

Economically, the stimulus that comes from construction and maintenance projects throughout the country would come at exactly the right time. This is particularly the case because interest rates are at such a low level. We could at this point borrow the money needed to extend and repair socially and economically useful transportation projects useful for decades into the future at the cheapest rates we have seen since the Great Depression.

One explicit part of this conservative opposition to carrying on Dwight Eisenhower’s legacy is that the people who would be employed in the project are being paid too much money. When I debated the issue with a leading conservative thinker on CNBC several weeks ago, he noted that under federal law, federally funded transportation projects require the payment of wages under the Davis-Bacon Act, which are higher than those which would be paid for privately funded projects. In other words, this is one more example of the conservative objection to measures that increase wages for working people.

And it is especially revealing that their response is to leave this up to the states. I noted last month that a major reason that Tennessee Republicans extorted the employees of Volkswagen into voting against a union was that they wished to preserve Tennessee’s competitive advantage in taking businesses away from other states, by keeping Tennessee wages depressed. Their logic applies even more direct state expenditures. We face a right-wing two-step approach to cut back on our capacity as a society to meet our needs for collective action.

First, they oppose programs at the national level, and insist that they be returned to the states. Then they use the argument of interstate competition for businesses as a reason to block the states from doing much. The logic is clear: The more we leave major responsibilities to the states, the less will be spent on them, because interstate competition for industry will be used as a serious constraint.

Increasing federal transportation spending makes sense economically in two ways. First, it provides a continued boost to the economy at a time when we will need that to off-set the recession or near recession in all of those countries which are major customers of our goods. Second, by improving our infrastructure, we improve the economic efficiency of our country.

Even 10 years ago, under the administration of George W. Bush, monolithic Republican opposition to implementing such a program would have been unthinkable. But now seems clear that it will be up to the voters in the election of 2016 to rescue a balanced national transportation system from ideologically inflicted damage.

Barney Frank is a retired congressman and the author of landmark legislation. He divides his time between Maine and Massachusetts.

Twitter: BarneyFrank