Friday, February 3, 2012

Crumbling

One of the most important investments in America is our infrastructure. While education and health are vital to our survival as a nation, infrastructure is sort of the key to unlocking economic growth. With infrastructure, there's practically a limitless supply of work to be done, jobs to be filled, and money to be made. There are millions of miles of road that need to be maintained, train lines to be fixed, airports and bus terminals to be repaired and maintained, and homes and highways to be built. And just when you think everything's done, something will break and the process will start all over again. The work of maintaining our roads, rails, and runways is not only a great investment, it's the key to solving a lot of problems.

Unfortunately, America is not very good at tapping into this cash cow. For one thing, we spend less on infrastructure than most of the developed world. We have constant arguments about it in Washington, and quibble over what should and should not be funded. The Keystone XL pipeline, for example, may create plenty of jobs, and it sounds like it's already being worked on. The problem is, where we will jump on board for a pipeline that does nothing to help gas prices or anything but jobs, the same people will oppose high-speed rail projects that will bring in many more jobs and will have a greater impact. High-speed rail means less time and energy moving things from place to place, cutting the cost for those things, and thus helping the economy. Not only that, but the project would have added a lot of jobs to the economy. However, at the time, we were told that the jobs would just be a drop in the bucket and not worth the investment. But when the Keystone XL pipeline comes along, it's a different story...

This is all a way of saying that we need to invest more money in ourselves. Where I live, there is a desperate need for road repair and new energy solutions. The roads alone could add thousands of jobs. And, these jobs pay well. Think of how many people could go back to work fixing up their neighborhoods, filling in potholes, and rebuilding our nation's network of commerce?

The problem is, things like infrastructure cost money, and lots of it. There needs to be a steady stream of funding for projects nationwide, and people who work those jobs tend to get good pay and benefits. That translates into a high cost for the work that needs to be done. Unfortunately, the money that traditionally goes to funding highway projects is drying up. Thanks to more fuel-efficient vehicles, gas is being consumed at a lower rate than it was in the past, and gas tax is one of the primary ways that states secure funding for infrastructure projects. So, we're in a catch-22. We either drive more fuel-consuming vehicles to raise gas tax money for roads, or we save money on gas and lose out.

The solution would be to come up with a different way to fund infrastructure, such as through tax increases and surtaxes on certain items. The added money could be used to fill the gap left behind by falling fuel sales, and would translate into more funding for road, bridge, and waterway projects. It could work, but it will take legislative action to see it come about. Obama has already asked for several billion to be put towards infrastructure, and Congress has been fighting over funding. I hope they come to an agreement soon, and that we start to see just how government money can create jobs in America.

1 comment:

samp said...

I agree that we need to get our infrastructure done. BUT where is the more than 750 Billion that went to the "shovel ready" projects a couple of years ago? That too was to take care of the infrastructure. Obama is once again requesting billions for this (the same thing) and yet I see no accounting or accountability for the that last time the taxpayers were on the hook for billions for infrastructure improvement. Nor have I seen any noticeable improvements or even heard of one. WHO got the money? Exactly what projects were completed with money? Wouldn't you like to know how the earlier billions were spent BEFORE you just give billions more for what appears to be the same thing? I would.