Opinion | Susan Knopf: Infrastructure
For The Record
In high school, we had a cheer: “Defense, defense, what makes the grass grow.” It came to mind as I sat down to write this column. Infrastructure, infrastructure, what makes the economy grow. Somehow it doesn’t quite have the same ring. But it’s true.
Infrastructure is the difference between a robust, functioning economy and one that just limps along. The lack of infrastructure is what holds back developing nations. High-speed transit allows workers to live in less congested, less polluted, less expensive areas and commute to work, quickly and painlessly.
“The problem (is) we’re spending hours in traffic jams, on disrupted flights, and in slow-moving trains,“ former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich said in an op-ed for the Baltimore Sun. ”… We’re sacrificing billions in lost productivity, avoidable health problems and increased carbon emissions.”
Every businessman knows better highways, better transportation and a better energy grid is good for business. President Donald Trump stumped on infrastructure investment in 2016. The self-proclaimed “grim reaper,” Mitch McConnell, let Trump know that was a nonstarter.
Why is McConnell against infrastructure if it’s good for business and means good paying jobs? The Koch brothers. I know one died. But the tree of poison fruit is always yielding a bountiful harvest.
For the record, the Koch brothers have constructed a vast, well-financed network to promote their politics, which include shrinking government budgets for transportation, infrastructure and myriad projects for the public good.
“The Kochs are on a whole different level,“ wrote Charles Lewis, founder of the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan watchdog group. ”There’s no one else who has spent this much money. The sheer dimension of it is what sets them apart. They have a pattern of law-breaking, political manipulation and obfuscation. … I’ve never seen anything like it.”
In my column in 2019, I listed some of the more than 45 groups in the Koch network that manipulate our politics in the Kochs’ best interest. You think you’re reading conservative journalism at the American Institute for Economic Research? Nope, a Koch mouthpiece. Bought and paid for.
Do you like our highways? What if they were in better shape and traffic moved better? That’s infrastructure. Remember that a publicly funded project creates work for private industry and employs our people.
Every dollar we spend on infrastructure yields $1.92, according to Reich.
Every dollar we invest in early childhood education returns 80% to the general public, according to an article from the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank. The returns are not just for the individuals in the programs. Participants in early childhood development programs made more money and had fewer problems with the law. That’s a benefit we all enjoy. The beneficiary pays more taxes on better wages. Fewer people in jail is good for everyone.
The rapid creation, production and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine is a great example of beneficial investment in public health and the value of public-private partnerships.
According to Forbes, “The U.S. needs an immediate infrastructure stimulus of roughly $300 billion, and we need a long-term transformational infrastructure initiative on the order of $3 trillion.”
Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Bill Shuster told the Washington Post, “Rather than focusing on a reelection campaign, I thought it wiser to spend my last year as chairman (of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee) focusing 100% on working with President Trump and my Republican and Democratic colleagues in both chambers to pass a much-needed infrastructure bill to rebuild America.”
Trump’s failure to launch real infrastructure improvements leaves a tremendous opportunity for President-elect Joe Biden, if he can run the ball past McConnell and Koch propaganda.
Biden says he will work to pass a $2 trillion infrastructure plan, less than Forbes recommends. The plan addresses the need to improve roads, bridges, establish clean public transportation, fortify the American auto industry, improve the energy grid, improve the energy efficiency of 4 million buildings and 2 million homes, spur construction of 1.5 million homes and create jobs in climate-smart agriculture.
Forbes insists a nationwide visionary 5G rollout is essential for the U.S. to keep pace in the global marketplace.
“The returns from these and other public investments are huge,“ Reich wrote in an op-ed for The Guardian. ”The cost of not making them are astronomical.”
This new year, let’s create a better future with infrastructure investment.
Susan Knopf’s column “For The Record” publishes Fridays in the Summit Daily News. Knopf lives in Silverthorne. She is a certified ski instructor and an award-winning journalist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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