Federal Role Needed in Rebuilding America's Infrastructure

Felix G. Rohatyn and Warren Rudman say opponents of "big government" must realize that private enterprise has always been made possible by federal investments in physical infrastructure, and that this federal role needs to be reconceived and refined.

"In many parts of the country, the population has outgrown its infrastructure. The resulting decline in quality of life is having a direct effect on the region's corporations as well as on its residents.

"Private investment has led U.S. economic growth for two centuries, but it could not have done so without a series of complementary public investments in canals, railroads, roads, the airspace system, water projects, public transportation, public schools and the like, which improve business productivity and our standard of living while generating significant increases in private-sector employment. But these investments have been badly neglected in recent years. A biannual survey by the American Society of Civil Engineers, grading all categories of infrastructure from schools to sewers, indicates a gap of $1.6 trillion over five years between what is needed to bring national infrastructure up to reasonable standards and what is now in prospect. School buildings alone would require $125 billion to reach a minimal standard of safety and soundness.

"The coming year represents the last practical chance President Bush has to make a difference here. The nation's infrastructure crisis is no less serious for being silent. A federal role is needed to fix it, but that role must be reconceived, redrawn and refinanced. Success will improve our quality of life, our standard of living and our competitiveness. That will require government big enough and smart enough to be effective."

Full Story: It's Time to Rebuild America

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