Long term investments neededJan. 31, 2011
By G. Michael Dobbs
As someone who received his first paycheck for writing something back in 1975, I try to use the right word to convey the appropriate meaning in what I present to readers. I do take issue with people who cannot accept the meaning of a word in an established context and spin it to fit their own preconceived notion.
The latest attempt to divide Americans is for some people on the right to say that when the president says "investment," he really means "spend."
And "spending" is bad.
I agree wholeheartedly that there is plenty of waste in government. From the local municipality to the state to the federal, all governments make poor spending decisions. Whether it's a friend of a select board member who gets a job without going through the same hiring process as other candidates, or a city signing a contract for a purchase without competitive bidding, or a state legislator giving a wink and a nod to a lobbyist, these are abuses that should be stopped.
The abuses, by the way, exist in both parties.
There is a real need for investment, as the president noted last week. Here is an excerpt from the State of the Union speech;
"The third step in winning the future is rebuilding America. To attract new businesses to our shores, we need the fastest, most reliable ways to move people, goods, and information from high-speed rail to high-speed Internet.
"Our infrastructure used to be the best but our lead has slipped. South Korean homes now have greater Internet access than we do. Countries in Europe and Russia invest more in their roads and railways than we do. China is building faster trains and newer airports. Meanwhile, when our own engineers graded our nation's infrastructure, they gave us a 'D.'
"We have to do better. America is the nation that built the transcontinental railroad, brought electricity to rural communities and constructed the interstate highway system. The jobs created by these projects didn't just come from laying down tracks or pavement. They came from businesses that opened near a town's new train station or the new off-ramp.
"Over the last two years, we have begun rebuilding for the 21st century, a project that has meant thousands of good jobs for the hard-hit construction industry. Tonight, I'm proposing that we redouble these efforts.
"We will put more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges. We will make sure this is fully paid for, attract private investment, and pick projects based on what's best for the economy, not politicians.
"Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail, which could allow you [to] go places in half the time it takes to travel by car. For some trips, it will be faster than flying without the pat-down. As we speak, routes in California and the Midwest are already underway.
"Within the next five years, we will make it possible for business to deploy the next generation of high-speed wireless coverage to 98 percent of all Americans. This isn't just about a faster Internet and fewer dropped calls. It's about connecting every part of America to the digital age. It's about a rural community in Iowa or Alabama where farmers and small business owners will be able to sell their products all over the world. It's about a firefighter who can download the design of a burning building onto a handheld device; a student who can take classes with a digital textbook; or a patient who can have face-to-face video chats with her doctor.
"All these investments in innovation, education, and infrastructure will make America a better place to do business and create jobs."
So, these investments to bring our physical and virtual infrastructure up to the standards set by nations that compete with us in the global market is wrong, right? We should put this off even longer than we have already?
No, the time to act is now.
Cut the waste in government? Please, let's do it. Slow down our deficit spending by getting out of Afghanistan, a war we can't possibly win? It needs to be done.
But will people have the will to put aside their fears and their ideology to consider solutions that will move this country forward? I'm not sure. The short term always seems to trump the long term here.
Hey, agree with me? Disagree? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. And as always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.