Throughout American history, infrastructure investment has been considered an issue central to national prosperity. Over the centuries, it has breathed new life into a stalled economy, it has fueled the nation’s industrial expansion, and has proven a positive, unifying force.
In 1817, John C. Calhoun urged congressmen to “bind the Republic together with a perfect system of roads and canals.” Franklin Delano Roosevelt designed a public-works program during the Depression, “to put more men back to work, both directly on the public works themselves, and indirectly in the industries supplying the materials for these public works.” And twenty years later, Eisenhower explained to the American people that, “a modern, efficient highway system is essential to meet the needs of our growing population, our expanding economy, and our national security.” In each of these cases, investment in public works reinforced our nation’s framework.
I came across a New York Times article this week with an intriguing suggestion for unifying America amid the nation’s current political division. In the article, author James B. Stewart encourages President-elect Donald Trump to follow in the footsteps of the aforementioned leaders and build something inspiring.
“All he needs to do is what he presumably does best: build something,” Stewart writes. “And I don’t mean a few miles of asphalt or a paint job on a rusting bridge. Build something awe-inspiring. Something Americans can be proud of. Something that will repay the investment many times over for generations to come.”
All eyes are currently on the President-elect’s preliminary initiatives and first 100 days in office. Congressional Republicans have listed their top legislative priorities as repealing Obamacare, lowering taxes for businesses, overhauling the immigration system, and privatizing Medicare. While these policy changes could be contentious in a nation split along partisan lines, building something great could potentially offer a solution that parties on both sides could support. For it’s unequivocal that America’s neglected roads, bridges, and water delivery systems are failing at a remarkable rate.
“Our airports are like from a third-world country,”Mr. Trump said during the first presidential debate. “You land at La Guardia, you land at Kennedy, you land at LAX, you land at Newark, and you come in from Dubai and Qatar and you see these incredible—you come in from China, you see these incredible airports, and you land—we’ve become a third-world country.”
As Stewart explains, infrastructure investment may offer a way to move forward as a nation. However, as both supporters and skeptics have recently pointed out, how Trump plans to fund his proposed $1 trillion dollar infrastructure investment plan is a mystery. Policymakers advocate careful consideration and economic analysis prior to any decision-making in order to ensure the bill’s fiscal solvency.
But perhaps Stewart is on to something in his suggestion that a project to rebuild our infrastructure would patch more than potholes and leaky pipes. Could it address a deeper, more fundamental issue and effectively help repair our nation?What are your thoughts?