What are we thinking?

Another great New York Times column from Paul Krugman on the importance of infrastructure.  And our current hostility to providing funding for what has always been an important component of the country’s economic strategy and success. How we got to allowing our transportation, water and sewer systems to disintegrate and/or believing we have enough already and don’t need or can’t afford any more is hard to fathom.

Krugman (and Bob Herbert as well) uses the the governor of New Jersey’s cancellation of a second rail tunnel under the Hudson River as the symbol of this self destructive ideology. As Krugman writes: “It was a destructive and incredibly foolish decision on multiple levels. But it shouldn’t have been all that surprising. We are no longer the nation that used to amaze the world with its visionary projects. We have become, instead, a nation whose politicians seem to compete over who can show the least vision, the least concern about the future…”

As Krugman details if there ever were a time for large scale infrastructure spending it is now. It is a job growth strategy in a time when most expect anemic job growth for years, it can be done at a low cost given historically low interest rates and has a proven track record of stimulating long-term economic growth.  America, as Krugman points out, was the place on a bi partisan basis that thought big and funded projects like The Erie Canal, Hoover Dam and the Interstate Highway System. Does anyone believe those investments were bad for the American economy?

If anything our record here in Michigan is worse. We have a history of walking away from the infrastructure investments that would better position us for future growth. Highlighted by the incredibly short sighted decision in the Seventies to turn down President Ford’s offer to fund a regional transit system for metro Detroit. It keeps getting worse. Now not only are we a laggard in investing in the transportation systems of the future, but we no longer are willing to fund maintaining our once great road system.  It’s a path to decline that needs to be changed.

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