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February 21, 2010

Create Real Jobs That Pay Off: Update Our 1970'S Infrastructure

-- by Dave Johnson

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.

One legacy of the Reagan tax cuts is that we stopped maintaining - and never mind modernizing - our infrastructure. As a result there is a LOT of work that needs doing. And there are a very, very large number of unemployed people. Hmmm...

There are so many more ways our economy suffers as the consequences of Reagan-era choices come home to roost. The current economic doldrums are in great part the result of Reagan-era choices:

* The deferred infrastructure maintenance and modernization that resulted from the tax cuts mean that our economy is no longer world-class. Bob Herbert has been writing about this problem for a while. From his most recent,

Schools, highways, the electric grid, water systems, ports, dams, levees — the list can seem endless — have to be maintained, upgraded, rebuilt or replaced if the U.S. is to remain a first-class nation with a first-class economy over the next several decades. And some entirely new infrastructure systems will have to be developed.
So here we are with a massive infrastructure deficit that is harming our ability to compete economically in the world. Just one example: China has 42 high-speed rail lines coming into operation connecting their major cities, and we are just starting our first one connecting ... Tampa to Orlando?

* The education cutbacks then are really hurting now.

* Energy. Cancelling all of Carter's efforts to solve our energy problems has left the economy dependent on last century's expensive and polluting energy sources and the monopolistic giants that control them.

* Debt. Tax cuts creating "structural deficits" have built up tremendous debt and the accompanying burden of paying interest on that debt and dependence on those who fund our borrowing habit.

* Militarization. We spend more on military than every other country on earth combined. The big defense corporations keep us from doing anything about it. Historically this kind of military spending and the resulting debt has ruined empires and kingdoms, and here we are.

* Government. Outsourcing/cutting/destroying/hating government and the commons has left us ill-equipped to catch up with China and others, and deal with monopolistic multinational corporate giants.

Schools, highways, power grid, ... everything. And all this work needs to be done on top of the need to retrofit all of our country's buildings to be energy efficient. Or we will just continue to fall forther behind. There is so much work that needs to be done. I wonder how the cost compares to the amounts that have been transferred to the very rich since the tax cuts started.

Hmmm... Let's see ... high unemployment ... lots of work that needs doing ... massive wealth accumulated at the very top ... hmmm... dot. dot. dot. And on top of that, there is all that evidence that past investment in infrastructure leads to great prosperity in the years following the investment ... dot. dot. dot. hmmm... Ideas are forming... connections are being made...

I can hear the shrieking from the "free market" conservative bunch now, just for thinking such thoughts: "But ... but .. that would be just WRONG to just ... give people jobs doing what needs to be done!!! and taxing the RICH -- the very beneficiaries of past infrastructure investment -- to pay for it? How can you even dare suggest such a thing???!!!"

Public works projects -- infrastructure. Example: In the 1950s, with top tax rates at 90%, we started the massive public works project that is the Interstate Highway System. How did that investment work out for our economy? How many companies benefitted from the ability to deliver trucked goods across the country in a short time? How did those top taxpayers do economically as a result of such investments?

Hmmm...

Posted by Dave Johnson at February 21, 2010 12:12 PM


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