Time to invest in public infrastructure


When is the right time to invest in national infrastructure? Is it before a bridge collapses? Perhaps when the economy is down and an infusion of jobs is needed? What if the nation’s symbol for democracy – the Capitol – was literally falling down? How about then?

According to the U.S. House of Representatives – controlled by Republicans – the answer to all those questions is, “No.” They claim the U.S. doesn’t have the money to invest to update bridges, parks, airports and highways.

Over the summer, The New York Times reported the U.S. Capitol building is falling apart. So far, they’ve identified 1,300 cracks and areas where water is leaking in. Although the Senate appropriated money to repair it, the House Republicans said no. Really? We don’t have money to repair the roof?

And so like a driver on Interstate Highway 696 or I-275 during rush hour, a bill to repair one of our nation’s most worldly recognized buildings remains caught in what Washington has become synonymous with—gridlock.

It’s no wonder that according to the American Society of Engineers, the U.S. earned a D on their infrastructure report card in 2009. Michigan received a D grade in 2009 and 2011. Grades or no grades, we drive and know Michigan’s roads need improvement.

Will it take another eight-lane bridge to collapse for Republicans to expand their vocabulary beyond, “No?” In 2007, the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis, Minn. collapsed, killing 13 and injuring 145.

According to a report from the Congressional Budget Office, investment in public infrastructure is an effective way to increase employment output. However, even in Michigan Republicans are blocking Republican Governor Rick Snyder’s attempts to build a new international bridge to Canada.

This might all be for show at the federal level. Congressional Republicans don’t want President Barack Obama signing anything more from the White House except the guest book, and even that’s questionable. In Michigan there’s an easier, more transparent answer. Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Maroun has simply showered the state legislature with money to vote no.

In the meantime, the potholes get deeper, the airport waits longer and fees to enter parks will increase. I’ve gotten used to that. I still find it hard to believe there is not money to repair the Capitol’s roof, though.

Just maybe a chunk of the roof will fall and knock some sense into some heads down there.

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