Thursday, August 2, 2007

Bridging the infrastructure investment gap

For the better part of a century, the US has had the world's largest economy. Today its Gross Domestic Product or GDP is $13.2 trillion. The reasons? Low taxation and government regulation, a court system that protects property rights, a large population and land area, lots of natural resources, a stable government, a strong post-secondary educational system, and a modern infrastructure of bridges, dams, highways, mass transit, and utilities.

Oops, did I say modern infrastructure? Maybe in the 19th century our rails and telegraph lines were the envy of the world. But over the past few years we’ve seen several examples of our deteriorating infrastructure, from steam pipe explosions in New York, to failures in regional electrical grid systems, to breached levies in New Orleans, to water treatment breakdowns in Cleveland.

The painful math is this estimate from The American Society of Civil Engineers: over the next 5 years we need to spend – beyond what’s already planned – another $600 billion to fix our crumbling infrastructure.

On the other hand, doing nothing might be a solution to the immigration problem: Don’t fix anything and make the country unsafe for visitors. They’ll stop coming eventually. And it could be a solution to terrorism, too. When the terrorists see that the country will self-destruct on its own, they’ll leave us alone to do their work for them.

Or maybe we’ll confuse one issue at a time and discover what it takes to keep a tragedy like this from happening again.

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