Invest in public works, invest in American workers

By Stephen Seufert, The Seufert Papers,  June 22, 2012

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Infrastructure, or public works, is the backbone of any nation. That being said, our nation’s back is broken. Roads, bridges, canals, levies, water lines, sewer pipes, communication networks, power grids, railways, seaports and airports are falling apart faster then can be repaired. Unfortunately, lawmakers in Washington refuse to seriously address this growing crisis. Instead of focusing on a problem, finding solutions and implementing a planned course of action; members of Congress stick to non-informative talking points. It’s clear that something must be done, yet there seems to be no political courage to act boldly and decisively.

We as a nation have surrendered to the fiscally conservative dogma that we need to cut taxes and reduce spending to return to economic prosperity. However, the Constitution explicitly grants the legislator the power to “provide for the general welfare” of the nation by collecting taxes to either pay down the debt or in this specific case create a proper public works system that serves the interests of all Americans. Fiscal conservatives are wrong and moreover they are cowards because when strong, responsible governing is the needed prescription, they shy away from taking action.

The American Society of Civil Engineers did a study in 2009, which concluded that it would take $2.2 trillion just to repair and restore existing infrastructure. Overall, our current infrastructure was graded at a D-minus. For the wealthiest, most powerful nation on Earth, that’s an absolute embarrassment. The 2009 stimulus plan allocated $105 billion to repairing our nation’s infrastructure; short of the $2.2 trillion needed to restore it completely.

Unlike the United States, emerging economic powers such as China, India and Brazil understand the need for an effective and strong public works system. They have invested far more toward public works than the United States. It’s simple. The faster goods and services are provided, the faster the economy grows. The United States cannot become hampered by a weak and tattered infrastructure; otherwise, businesses will look elsewhere. I don’t care how low taxes are, companies will not want to do business with a nation that can’t fully function because roads are crumbling and congested, trains break down and power grids are inconsistent and overburdened.

In an age where our government spent hundreds of billions on nation-building overseas, I think the desire to focus on the restoration of the American homeland will grow stronger each day. Stronger even than the desire by many on the political right to drastically cut spending and lower taxes. In 1952, the highest tax brackets had to pay 92 percent of their incomes to the IRS. In 2012, the highest tax brackets pay 35 percent. Some today complain that income taxes are too high. Maybe they should go back to 1952 and then complain about high taxes.

If we are to have a full economic recovery, it will not be solved by fewer taxes and less spending, but by investing in America’s infrastructure. This notion of small, limited government may have worked in 1791, when the total population of the United States barely broke 4 million, but the nation has a population that now exceeds 300 million and is steadily rising each day.

Somebody has to believe in the American worker again or we’re in for a long, painful recovery. Give the American worker something to grab a hold of, something real. There’s nothing quite like building something with your own hands. At the end of the day an individual can take pride in a job well done. American workers need to recapture that feeling.

This much is true; the American homeland has been neglected in order to favor the interests of the few, not the many. Solutions to our problems must begin at home, and to accomplish this task the United States must show that it can be governed properly once more. If our elected representatives in Congress cannot create a proper infrastructure plan, then they have failed at their most basic duties to this nation, providing for the general welfare.