Friday, June 15, 2012

Solutions to problems

It amazes me how one change can fix so many problems. Right now, the American economy is struggling to come back. Things are getting better, but slowly. The question everyone seems to be asking is, how can we get our economy moving again? How can we create jobs? How can we make America better? I have an answer, but it may not be something everyone can agree on.

My answer is: infrastructure investment. Specifically, investing in threecategories: utilities, transportation, and telecommunications.

First, let's talk utilities. That's water, energy, heat, etc. This is probably the most difficult for us to improve and expand because it's the most expensive and will require a long time to study, test, and implement solutions. But the thing is, it will have to be done at some point anyway. Why not now? As I've stated before, our water system is in desperate need for repair. It is estimated that completing fixing our water system will cost $300 Billion. Then, you have to account for expansion, upgrades, and the price tag reaches nearly $1 Trillion. In the realm of energy, we could develop a massive renewable energy-based power grid that would provide nearly all the energy we would need. Ever. Start by constructing small wind turbines on homeowners' properties for personal use. Construct homes with solar panel roofing. Or, even better, cover those roofs with some of the new centrifugal wind generators that can provide more energy than a large turbine. All of these are possible solutions. And here's the best part: it will save money for individuals, create jobs, and put people to work making good money. That $1 Trillion price tag for updating the water system? Much of that will be for paying the workers. Those workers will then go and spend that money in the marketplace, boosting the economy. And, as I've stated before, you can target high-unemployment or low-income areas to be the first places where these jobs are available to help with the local economy. It's a huge win-win.

Second, we have transportation. This includes roads, runways, railways, subways, and any other public transportation system. Our national highway system used to be a phenomenon of the world. Now, it's falling apart and lagging behind places like China and Europe. Along with our bridges, the roads need immediate attention. Again, this is a huge job creating opportunity that can be targeted to places with high unemployment or low average income, and these projects can be a boon to the economy. Runways, similarly, are in need of repair. Our entire commercial airline system needs to be updated with new technology, better tracking and communication systems, and needs to be expanded to reach more rural populations. Again, all of this means jobs, and a stronger economy. Then we have our rail system. We are woefully deficient when it comes to our railroads. People don't use train transportation anymore because it's slow, expensive, and burdensome. But it doesn't have to be. Look at China and Europe again, to see the positive impact of high-speed rail. Trains moving twice as fast as they do now, able to carry more freight faster at a fraction of the cost for fuel means cheaper goods, more efficient transportation, and reduced cost to travel. All great things. And the additional bonus of spending money on infrastructure is that it will help businesses move their goods faster and cheaper, which will make them cheaper, more affordable, and add another layer of growth to our economy.

Third, we have telecommunications. This is one area that seems to be getting at least some attention on the local and state level. While our telecommunications system is not in a state of major disrepair, we are very behind in terms of speed, efficiency, availability, and value when it comes to internet and phone services. Many people are still forced to use dial-up internet and land lines. Some are not able to afford internet connectivity and phone plans in the same month. Other countries in Europe, China, and even South America have more extensive, efficient, and cost-effective service than we do. Improving our telecommunications would, again, create jobs, improve productivity for businesses, reduce costs for businesses, spur economic growth, and so on.

In just these three areas, there is a huge potential for growth. And it all needs to be done eventually. We can't simply expect roads to fix themselves, water mains to remain whole, and phone lines to keep on operating year in and year out. We can't continue to rely on outdated, well-worn, and decaying machines for our energy and transportation. It is time for us to enter the 21st century with the rest of the world. This is just a brief glimpse into one area where heavy investment by the federal government (deficit spending and borrowing, to be paid back in better times) would make all the difference. As everyone knows, however, getting our government to act on a common-sense proposal is nearly impossible. But it's the job of government, the job of our Congress, to make sure that these areas receive the money and attention they need to continue functioning. I would hope that our government can soon get out of its own way and focus on what needs to be done to make America that land of opportunity and wealth it has been in past.

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