By Howard Marlowe
Normally, I'm not that negative. I mean, over-the-top headlines get readers, but this one is meant to reflect my utter disappointment. The system of representative democracy our Founders established is one that works. I've seen firsthand what can be done when local and state elected officials organize to fight back against government policies that are short-sighted and harmful. But lately I've begun to wonder if we as a nation have begun to accept less-than-the-best. I'm talking about education, healthcare, and infrastructure. For example, our surface infrastructure has decayed to a point where lives have been lost and each of us pays more for the food we eat and the goods we purchase. The roads and bridges we travel are often second-rate. Most of us never see the decaying locks on inland waterways that delay vessels when they break down. But their invisibility to us is quite real because their aged condition runs up the price of things we buy and makes U.S. agriculture and businesses less competitive on the world market.
Like many people, I held out hope that Donald Trump's focus on infrastructure would mean that both public and private resources could be harnessed to the tune of $1 trillion to start us back on the path to getting us first-rate 21st century roads, waterways and airways. Now, it seems like a hoax. The President's top economic adviser and architect of this so-called infrastructure plan, Gary Cohn, said "the administration aims to encourage states and cities to bear much of the burden...to make sure that they can use their tax dollars as efficiently....We can be a good partner with them in helping them to enhance their infrastructure projects.” Main Street to White House: We don't have the money to be the kind of "good partner" you're looking for.
Who does? The folks on Wall Street certainly have gobs of money looking for investments that will make the 1 percent even richer. But how many toll booths do you want erected on our roads? How many environmental regulations do you want to see scrapped to rid infrastructure projects of "inefficiencies" and thereby increase profits. There is definitely a place for increased private investment in modernizing American infrastructure, but it's not a replacement for the Federal government actually being more than a minor partner. Asking states and cities to take on the burden is totally unrealistic. That's why I say this latest infrastructure plan is a hoax.
We need leadership from the White House and Congress! That means both parties. Infrastructure leadership. Yes, climate change, sea level rise, and coastal resilience leadership, too. Enough with speeches, rallies, photo ops and press releases. The Federal government has to put significant skin in the game to show that it's serious about making our infrastructure first-rate again. It also has to put some thought that goes beyond political gains. That may be too much to hope for, but not too much to expect.
I welcome your thoughts. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org