Sunday, February 3, 2008

Herbert Calls for Expanded Infrastructure Investment

Among national writers, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert is in the forefront of those calling for a major national program to rebuild America and create good jobs that will stay in America.

In his January 19 column, entitled "Good Jobs Are Where the Money Is," Herbert says:

I’d start with a broad program to rebuild the American infrastructure. This would have the dual benefit of putting large numbers of people to work and answering a crying need. The infrastructure is in sorry shape. New Orleans comes to mind, and the tragic bridge collapse in Minneapolis.

The country that gave us the Marshall Plan to rebuild postwar Europe ought to be able, 60 years later, to reconstitute its own sagging infrastructure.There are also untold numbers of jobs and myriad societal benefits to be reaped from a sustained, good-faith effort to achieve energy self-sufficiency.

Think Manhattan Project. The possibilities are limitless. We could create an entire generation of new jobs and build a bigger and fairer economy for the 21st century. If only we were serious.
Then, on January 29, in "Investing in America," Herbert discussed the little-noticed proposal from Senators Hagel and Dodd to create a national infrastructure bank, which they announced to little fanfare last August. Herbert notes that the American Society of Civil Engineers has estimated that the U.S. needs a trillion and a half in investment over a five year period to modernize its physical infrastructure, including roads, bridges, dams and water systems. This level of investment would bring the infrastructure into "reasonably decent" shape.

Senator Dodd comments that:
“At a time when we’re worried about rising unemployment rates and declining confidence in this country, infrastructure projects have the dual effect of putting people to work — and usually at pretty good salaries and wages — while also creating a sense of optimism, of investing in the future.”

“The basic infrastructure of a country will determine that country’s future,” he said, “and we are far behind," says Sen. Hagel, a Republican.

A national infrastructure bank could have the important benefit of creating a national, transparent mechanism for both increasing investment and addressing priority physical infrastructure needs in a coherent, accountable way. The National Jobs for All Coalition (NJFAC) supports this proposal, but we also call for public job creation in many other fields such as renewable energy and conservation, housing, child care, after school programs, youth conservation, and elder care. Such jobs would not only address our nation's myriad unmet needs, they would also offer a broader range of opportunities to women, minorities and rural workers, not all of whom could obtain jobs fixing roads and bridges.

Reinvesting in American communities to create jobs and improve the quality of life for workers makes enormous sense. A balanced program will begin to address the huge backlog of needs, and create the essential foundation for long-term economic renewal.

For more information, please see the NJFAC's publication, Shared Prosperity and the Drive for Decent Work, available at

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