We have known for a long time now — at least two presidencies — that the American infrastructure is in need of repair. Engineers worry about whether bridges are going to fall down. Many roads and highways are in disrepair, or are inadequate because of increased traffic. Many water and sewer systems are rusting out or breaking apart.
President George W. Bush promised he would do something about this, but was blindsided by the 9/11 attack on New York City and the wars that followed. That took his attention and any money that might have been available.
President Obama, when selling his economic stimulus package, said the billions would go into “shovel-ready” projects. But he never got around to saying what those would be. And he later admitted there weren’t very many such projects.
His most recent promise, that the money saved by ending the Mideast wars would be used on fixing things up at home, is likely to be one he wouldn’t be able to keep — nor would any president.
First, the money being spent on the wars has been borrowed. Ending the wars won’t create a cash bonanza for anybody. Second, large public works projects, in general, are not much further along than they were a decade ago.
Even modest ones take a lot of time to get going, but they do get going, and therein lies a lesson.
Our own Ellis Street overcrossing, the rebuilding of 4th Street and new Madera County courthouse are good examples. In the pantheon of public works, these are small projects, even though by our standards, they’re pretty good-sized. And, work has proceeded apace. The Ellis Street overcrossing is due to be opened within a week or so, the 4th Street job will be finished next year and the courthouse is due to open in two years. That’s shovel-ready. That’s progress.
If the next president wants to rebuild America, the best strategy would be to get out of the way of communities that want to do that sort of work, perhaps lend them some money if they need it, and then watch rebuilding happen.