INFRASTRUCTURE: LET'S SPEND MONEY ON IT
By Alan Caruba
As a youth, I can recall President Dwight David Eisenhower, and, from the vantage point of many decades later, I am amazed at how effective and foresighted he was. As President, perhaps his greatest legacy was the creation of a system of interstate highways. He funded it with a gas tax, and it literally transformed the nation economically and socially.
Today, those highways, begun in 1972 and not finished until 1993 at a total cost of $130 billion, are in need of some serious maintenance and upgrade, as are other elements of our infrastructure.
Attending to this vital national need will generate lots of jobs, well beyond construction. These are not the “green jobs” that Obama talks of, but real jobs that will produce real results in the form of an improved highway system, as well as the expansion of our ports and other transportation facilities.
Writing recently, Anthony Coscia, Chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, had this to say about the nation’s infrastructure:
Back in September, 2008, the Washington Post reported that the Highway Trust Fund was about to run out of money before the end of the year. Left unmentioned, however, was why. Billions of the Fund’s money have been diverted to boost the production of ethanol. When the ethanol lobby realized it was going to be rightly blamed for potholes and collapsing bridges, it got the Energy Policy Act of 2005 passed to facilitate direct financing from the U.S. Treasury. Who voted for this? U.S Senators Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Tom Harkin, and Richard Lugar, to name a few.
Part of the problem is that the states are responsible for some 75 percent of the cost of all infrastructure projects with the U.S. national government picking up the rest. Governors, being politicians, know that highway repair is not a big vote-getter, so they have tended to ignore it. Some have actually leased parts of the nation’s highway system to foreign companies. Infrastructure is an American priority and should be funded by Americans.
This would be money well spent. Right now, there are $79 billion in projects whose plans have been completed and could begin tomorrow, if the money was available. The Obama administration and Congress need to make it available.
At issue, too, is where those projects are located. Bear in mind that 65 percent of America’s population lives in metropolitan areas and accounts for 75 percent of the economy. This is no time for more “bridges to nowhere.” The nation’s cities should be first in line to upgrade existing structures and add new ones.
Among those structures in desperate need of upgrade, are the crumbling water mains in cities from Boston to Tampa to San Antonio and elsewhere, most of which were built generations ago. The estimated bill will be $277 billion, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. What is more vital to life than water? Spend the money!
This is, ironically, a quintessential Conservative cause, even if it will take a recession and a nation’s capitol filled with Liberals to make it happen. Republicans in office should embrace infrastructure as a key issue, now that Congress has returned.
As Emil W. Henry, Jr., Assistant Treasury Secretary from 2005 to 2007, wrote recently:
He, like so many others, says: “Our infrastructure needs are at a critical juncture.”
There will be voices opposing this task, and they will all be from environmentalist groups, like Friends of the Earth and the Sierra Club -- groups that are already on record as being against building new highways, new coal-fired or nuclear electrical energy generation plants, and just about anything else that will ensure that our complex society can function and our economy can keep pace with the rest of the world.
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Alan Caruba is a veteran business, science and political writer, a Public Relations Counselor, and Founder of the National Anxiety Center, a clearinghouse for information about media-driven scare campaigns. Caruba writes a weekly commentary, "Warning Signs," posted on the Internet website of the National Anxiety Center, which is located at www.anxietycenter.com.
Caruba has a daily blog at http://factsnotfantasy.blogspot.com.
Caruba’s most recent book, Right Answers: Separating Fact from Fantasy, has been published by Merril Press. Books previously authored by Caruba include A Pocket Guide to Militant Islam, The United Nations Versus the United States: The UN's Plan to Control Planet Earth, and America: A Nation Without Borders -- A Pocket Guide to Immigration Issues.
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