State Of The Union—Infrastructure And Jobs: Two Problems, One Solution

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
Tonight, when President Obama gives his State of the Union address, he will be facing a nation that has millions of infrastructure jobs that need doing and millions of people out of work.
The President is planning to address these two problems with a proposal to modernize our infrastructure to bring our economy back to world-class competitiveness. Two problems, one solution. And, for good measure, we are hearing that he plans to throw in investment in education.
Last weekend, President Obama gave a preview of his State of the Union speech to Organizing For America:

A New Course
The idea of investing in our people is a new course after 30-plus years of cutbacks and lowered expectations. Since the Reagan tax cuts for the rich we have been told that there just isn’t the money for government to involve itself in big projects, that we are on our own, government won’t be there for us. So people fear that our economy in a long-term decline. All around us we see crumbling infrastructure, people out of work, people who work but had their pay cut or have not seen a raise in a long time.
A new course turns us away from the conservative on-our-own model and sees us as a nation again, concerned about protecting and empowering and investing in our people.
Investing in Our People — Dividends For Decades
Investing in our people is an idea that got lost sometime back during the Reagan Revolution, and now this lack of investment has come home to roost. As a result of tax cuts and cutbacks we have fallen behind China and Germany and many others. The first-class competitiveness that we used to take for granted has fallen behind too much of the world. Fallen behind, fallen behind — we hear this again and again.
Investing in our people will pay dividends for decades. Investing in modernizing our infrastructure will pay for itself by restoring competitiveness.
Infrastructure work—the rail, bridges, roads, schools, courts, power systems and everything else that makes our way of life better and makes our economy stronger by providing the soil in which business thrives—needs to be maintained and modernized. We have fallen behind and have to do it anyway one of these days. Modernizing our infrastructure will put millions back to work and help our businesses in the world.

More To Do
But modernizing our infrastructure is just catching up. We need to go beyond that. Investment is great but is not enough. It is not just our fallen-behind infrastructure that is hampering competitiveness. There are other things that have to change. Our trade policies are also holding us back. We need to develop and follow a national economic/industrial strategy. We have to take on mercantilist nations, and move toward more balanced trade that actually trades rather than big-corporate schemes to pit workers against each other to destroy unions and drive down wages. We need to make China bring its currency up to market rates. We need to renegotiate all the NAFTA-style anti-worker “free trade” scams.
When you close the factory we can’t make a living! Will we take the steps necessary to revive American manufacturing, and revive American wages? To lift the economy, lift wages. If we can bring back good jobs with good benefits and start to rebuild our middle class, we can start to have a good standard of living again, for all of us, not just a wealthy few.
Here are Scott Paul and Richard Florida discussing manufacturing and innovation on the Dylan Ratigan show today:

Conservative Austerity — The Wrong Approach
On the other side of the aisle there are calls to cut back, to reduce investment in our people, to reduce education, to send even more to the wealthy few. This austerity is premature and unjust. It is just weeks since another round of huge tax cuts for the rich, and now they are arguing for slashing programs vital to the survival of the middle class and poor. The way to get out of the debt is to invest and grow out of the debt!
The President is taking us in the right direction tonight, and should be thanked and congratulated.
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