FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

America Must Renew Its Infrastructure or Face Decline

America is literally falling apart. In Flint, children were poisoned by the lead contamination of the water. In Washington, the subway system is plagued by fires and delays. Arlington Memorial Bridge — which connects the North to the South, the Capitol to Arlington National Cemetery — may have to be closed soon. Kennedy’s eternal flame may burn forever, but the bridge is on its last legs.

The American Society of Civil Engineers released a report last week once more warning the country of a massive investment deficit — an estimated $1.4 trillion shortfall over the next ten years — coming on top of years of underfunding and neglect.

This isn’t a matter of money. The Obama administration has announced it plans to spend over $1 trillion to build a new generation of nuclear weapons and the planes, missiles and submarines that deliver them. These are weapons that can never be used. We have spent over $2 trillion on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to date, with the final costs estimated at $4 to $6 trillion. The war in Afghanistan — an impoverished country where we have no strategic interest — is already the longest in our history and continuing.

We have the money. U.S. corporations stash trillions abroad to avoid paying taxes. If they paid what they owe — now estimated to be $700 billion — it would provide a down payment on rebuilding America. The federal tax on gasoline — dedicated to paying for infrastructure — has not been raised since 1993, even though gas prices have plummeted.

Interest rates on U.S. bonds are now so low that the Treasury could issue Rebuild America bonds, put people to work to rebuild the country — and the growth and increased productivity that results would generate revenues to repay the bonds. Even establishment economists like Lawrence Summers argue that the program would literally pay for itself. And it would respond to the pleas of the bastion of economic conservatism — the International Monetary Fund — that is pleading with the U.S. and other advanced countries to expand public investment to forestall a return to recession. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that the U.S. will suffer a stunning $4 trillion in lost GDP by 2025 from the costs of decaying tunnels, railways, waterways and other basic infrastructure. It will cost us more to decay than it would to rebuild.

But Washington is frozen. The Republican Congress rejects President Obama’s modest plans for infrastructure investment, though they are supported by a massive coalition that includes the conservative Chamber of Commerce as well as the AFL-CIO. All three presidential candidates call for expanding investment in infrastructure (although only Bernie Sanders comes close to meeting the shortfall that the civil engineers warn about). But it will require a wave election — a sweeping rebuke to the obstructionist Republican Congress — for anything to happen.

This is how great nations decline. Investments that are essential to any modern civilized nation — from schools and bridges to electric grids and clean water systems — are neglected. Money is squandered on foreign adventures or lost to the tax evasions of corporations and the rich. Private speculators profit from privatizing public services. We build the most modern and powerful military in the world but are ever more crippled by decaying services that we depend on every day.

Politics as usual won’t change this. It will change only if people rise up and hold their politicians accountable. How many bridges must collapse or children must be poisoned or businesses must be shuttered before that happens?

More articles by:

Jesse Jackson is the founder of Rainbow/PUSH.

January 17, 2019
Stan Cox
That Green Growth at the Heart of the Green New Deal? It’s Malignant
David Schultz
Trump vs the Constitution: Why He Cannot Invoke the Emergencies Act to Build a Wall
Paul Cochrane
Europe’s Strategic Humanitarian Aid: Yemen vs. Syria
Tom Clifford
China: An Ancient Country, Getting Older
Greg Grandin
How Not to Build a “Great, Great Wall”
Ted Rall
Our Pointless, Very American Culture of Shame
John G. Russell
Just Another Brick in the Wall of Lies
Patrick Walker
Referendum 2020: A Green New Deal vs. Racist, Classist Climate Genocide
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Uniting for a Green New Deal
Matt Johnson
The Wall Already Exists — In Our Hearts and Minds
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Flailing will get More Desperate and More Dangerous
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party: Part Three
January 16, 2019
Patrick Bond
Jim Yong Kim’s Mixed Messages to the World Bank and the World
John Grant
Joe Biden, Crime Fighter from Hell
Alvaro Huerta
Brief History Notes on Mexican Immigration to the U.S.
Kenneth Surin
A Great Speaker of the UK’s House of Commons
Elizabeth Henderson
Why Sustainable Agriculture Should Support a Green New Deal
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, Bolton and the Syrian Confusion
Jeff Mackler
Trump’s Syria Exit Tweet Provokes Washington Panic
Barbara Nimri Aziz
How Long Can Nepal Blame Others for Its Woes?
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: When Just One Man Says, “No”
Cesar Chelala
Violence Against Women: A Pandemic No Longer Hidden
Kim C. Domenico
To Make a Vineyard of the Curse: Fate, Fatalism and Freedom
Dave Lindorff
Criminalizing BDS Trashes Free Speech & Association
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: The Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party: Part Two
Edward Curtin
A Gentrified Little Town Goes to Pot
January 15, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
Refugees Are in the English Channel Because of Western Interventions in the Middle East
Howard Lisnoff
The Faux Political System by the Numbers
Lawrence Davidson
Amos Oz and the Real Israel
John W. Whitehead
Beware the Emergency State
John Laforge
Loudmouths against Nuclear Lawlessness
Myles Hoenig
Labor in the Age of Trump
Jeff Cohen
Mainstream Media Bias on 2020 Democratic Race Already in High Gear
Dean Baker
Will Paying for Kidneys Reduce the Transplant Wait List?
George Ochenski
Trump’s Wall and the Montana Senate’s Theater of the Absurd
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: the Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Glenn Sacks
On the Picket Lines: Los Angeles Teachers Go On Strike for First Time in 30 Years
Jonah Raskin
Love in a Cold War Climate
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party
January 14, 2019
Kenn Orphan
The Tears of Justin Trudeau
Julia Stein
California Needs a 10-Year Green New Deal
Dean Baker
Declining Birth Rates: Is the US in Danger of Running Out of People?
Robert Fisk
The US Media has Lost One of Its Sanest Voices on Military Matters
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail