President Obama’s recent jobs plan has reignited a fight over infrastructure investment, a priority for Democrats who see investing in improvement projects as a way to address both the nation’s crumbling infrastructure and high unemployment. Republicans have also claimed to support infrastructure improvement, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) saying it was important to bring the country’s roads and bridges “up to 21st century standards.”
Despite McConnell’s rhetoric, Republicans have steadfastly opposed actual attempts to bring America’s infrastructure to 21st century standards, since that would require actually spending money. Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) blasted the GOP’s opposition to infrastructure investment under the guise of saving money today, saying if the U.S. didn’t invest in its crumbling roads, its failing bridges, and other areas of infrastructure development, the country is “destined to become a second-rate nation”:
RENDELL: Infrastructure is important in everything that we do. The World Economic Forum, which rated our infrastructure best in the world as early as 2005, has now placed us 15th. In air transport infrastructure, we’re 32nd behind countries like Panama and Malaysia. In port infrastructure, so important to our economy, we’re 18th. In rail infrastructure, we’re 22nd. That’s embarrassing. This country used the be the greatest country in the world, and I believe it still is. But we were the greatest country in the world because we met our challenges. We knew what we had to do. We didn’t worry about what it was going to cost, we worried about how it was going to benefit our people. [...]
Yes, you spend money to build the infrastructure, to make it safe, to improve the quality of our lives, to increase our economic competitiveness. Stop doing it, and America’s destined to become a second-rate power.
Republicans got an example of exactly what Rendell is talking about this week, when the 50-year-old bridge Sherman Minton Bridge spanning the Ohio River between Louisville, Kentucky and New Albany, Indiana closed because of a crack in its structure. The closure is costing both private businesses and the government, as local economies suffer from lapses in productivity and the states divert funds from other programs to fix the bridge.
Putting off investments like one that could have prevented the Sherman Minton’s closure doesn’t save the country money. The longer Republicans continue to prevent the types of meaningful infrastructure investments the country needs, the more expensive it promises those projects will become, and the farther behind the rest of the world the U.S. will fall.
Take action and tell Congress it’s time to rebuild America.