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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A taste of what politics used to be....
Posted by Jill | 7:07 AM
...before Lee Atwater came on the scene and turned presidential races into a contest as to just how dead the corpse of the opposition would be after you finished with him; and his spawn Karl Rove turned a brain-damaged idiot into a president.

There used to be Republicans and Democrats who may have disagreed about the best way to get there, but whose goals weren't really all that dissimilar. Yes, there were always the kind of right-wing elitists who seemed to think the Gilded Age was the optimal American society and that the existence of a middle class had caused the Haves nothing but trouble. But at one time, legislation could be hammered out in a way other than one side capitulating to the other.

As Bob Herbert reports today, Sens. Chuck Hagel and Chris Dodd are working on legislation that would form a kind of WPA for rebuilding this country's crumbling infrastructure:

The country could do itself a favor by paying more attention to the efforts of Senator Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat who is chairman of the Banking Committee, and Senator Hagel, a Nebraska Republican. They have co-sponsored legislation that would create a national infrastructure bank to promote and help finance large-scale projects across the nation.

Part of their mission is to generate a sense of urgency. In an interview yesterday, Senator Dodd told me: “At a time when we’re worried about rising unemployment rates and declining confidence in this country, infrastructure projects have the dual effect of putting people to work — and usually at pretty good salaries and wages — while also creating a sense of optimism, of investing in the future.”

The country has been hit hard by lost jobs in manufacturing and construction. As government and political leaders are scrambling for ways to stimulate the economy in the current downturn, infrastructure improvements would seem to be a natural component of any effective recovery plan.

“In terms of stimulating the economy, there is nothing better than a job,” said Senator Dodd.

The need for investment on a large scale — and for the long term — is undeniable. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, in a study that should have gotten much more attention when it was released in 2005, it would take more than a trillion and a half dollars over a five-year period to bring the U.S. infrastructure into reasonably decent shape.

Will we wait until another New Orleans-style disaster occurs, or another heavily traveled bridge plunges into a river?

As things stand now, the American infrastructure is incapable of meeting the competitive demands of the globalized 21st-century economy. Senator Hagel noted that ports are overwhelmed by the ever-expanding volume of international trade. Rail lines are overloaded. Highways are clogged.

“The basic infrastructure of a country will determine that country’s future,” he said, “and we are far behind.”

We appear to have forgotten the lessons of history. Time and again an economic boom has followed periods of sustained infrastructure improvement. It’s impossible to calculate all of the benefits from (to mention just a few) the Erie Canal, which connected the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean and helped make New York America’s premier city; the rural electrification program and other capital improvements of the New Deal; the interstate highway program of the Eisenhower administration.

The tremendous costs and vast reach of today’s infrastructure requirements means that the federal government has to take a leadership role. It’s inevitable. The only question is when.

The financier Felix Rohatyn, who served as ambassador to France during the Clinton administration, and former Senator Warren Rudman, a Republican, have been sounding the alarm for a number of years now, urging the government to get over its unwillingness to invest adequately in public transportation systems, water projects, schools, dams, the electric grid, and so on.

I remember Mr. Rohatyn telling me, “A modern economy needs a modern platform, and that’s the infrastructure.”

The current concern over the economy should be taken by the government as a signal to finally move ahead on this critically important issue.

Last night in his State of the Union address, George Bush mentioned his record on job creation, never once acknowledging that the number of jobs created during his years in office has never been sufficient to offset new entrants into the workforce, let alone those who have been put out of work by offshoring and corporate mismanagement. What Dodd and Hagel offer is a real opportunity to create jobs for the displaced and at least stop our crumbling infrastructure from turning us into the next superpower to crumble into irrelevance.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...
As long as the jobs don't get sucked up by unregulated bullshit contractors,this is a wonderful idea.

I also think it's way past time for a national energy project,along the lines of what Kennedy suggested with Apollo. Alot of small business people in America are doing this on their own anyway,but putting it under one roof so to speak would be helpful. The answer isn't one thing,it's alot of things.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
If only Halliburton still owned KBR...
They would be pushing real hard for more infrastructure construction jobs..

But since they are so tied up in Iraq at the moment, I guess they don't need the work... And it's probably much easier to graft it out of DoD and Iraq projects than to do the same from State supervision... It's at least much further from sight!!!

But following up 'angry' here:
A major space program -- go to Mars perhaps -- would do wonders to invigorate the US economy, and might actually bring more serious benefit.

You can say what you want about the 'moon race', but the space program of the 60's and '70's did provide economic benefit. You can argue about Teflon and Mylar, but it also brought the microprocessor computer chip as well as improved management processes. And for awhile even provided Americans with a patriotic fervor not seen since!

And we shouldn't overlook the nudge -- if only brief -- it gave to science and engineering education.. Not counting the work it gave to the engineers themselves.

Blogger Distributorcap said...
this is exactly what we need --- to produced something and create jobs --- not just buy more crap from overseas.

look at all the 1930's WPA projects that are still in use or landmarks....

of course knowing how the system now works it would be rife for corruption -- but no matter what congress does it gets tainted.

also if Bush went with a WPA type program his buddies on Wall St wouldnt be able to capitalize as fast

Blogger Citizen Carrie said...
Amen to all of the other comments. The idea is such a no-brainer, too! This would not be a "let's throw money at a problem and hope it goes away" type of program. Real jobs would be created where something of real value would be produced.

This is money that should have been spent all along. Just imagine where this country would be right now if these projects had been properly funded from day one.