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Infrastructure Policy Reform, From the Ground Up

Brookings provides a manifesto, of sorts, to suggest an entirely new path forward on infrastructure policy.
December 9, 2019, 7am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Adie Tomer, Joseph W. Kane, and Lara Fishbane write on the continued sluggishness of change on infrastructure policy at the federal level, three years after a presidential election in which both parties made the issue a central point in campaign platforms.

Now, just one year away from another presidential election, the federal government is no closer to wholesale infrastructure reform than it was in 2016. What went so wrong?

The trio of writers suggests that politics was not the problem. The reason was a failure to commit to a process of legal reform.

To enact genuine reform—legislation that completely reshapes the government’s approach to infrastructure programming, funding, and regulation—federal leaders must be willing to revisit the fundamental goals the country’s infrastructure systems intend to achieve and honestly assess whether current policies share those objectives.

The current system is built on obsolete foundations—connecting across straight lines, telephone cable service, and sewage dumping—according to the article. The challenges of today and the future include "the most extreme income and wealth inequality since the Gilded Age, economic divergence caused by digitalization and global trade, the existential pressures of climate change," and will require different policies.

Here is how the article summarizes the key recommendation about how Washington can accomplish progress on infrastructure policy:

To maximize value from existing infrastructure systems and strategically prioritize future improvements, the federal government must adopt a new set of economic, social, and environmental goals. Our federal leaders and their state, local, and civic collaborators must be willing to rebuild our policies from the ground up, designing new approaches where it makes sense and keeping those legacy programs that still respond to today’s challenges.

Published on Sunday, December 8, 2019 in Brookings
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