Dolan: Even in recession, infrastructure spending a secure investment for the nation

In a March 29 speech, President Barack Obama emphasized the importance of building up our nation’s infrastructure. While the benefit of infrastructure spending is almost undeniable, the president still faces opposition from Republicans. This opposition has little ground to stand on; Increased infrastructure spending would benefit both Democrats and Republicans alike. The president put it best when he said, “We can’t afford Washington politics to stand in the way of America’s progress.” 

Despite our country’s current economic state, I believe infrastructure spending is a vital and important way to help get our economy back on track. Republicans will tell you that Obama’s infrastructure plan is not viable because the spending is not offset. Offset or not, increased infrastructure spending could create jobs in a handful of fields and help American businesses. 

According to CNN, a White House aide reported that the proposals the president spoke about on Friday would cost around $21 billion. Chairman of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers Alan Krueger said, however, that “they will not increase the deficit by a dime because they are paid for in our budget.”  

While such a large number might seem staggering to many, there are those that believe it is a more than necessary expense to repair our aging infrastructure. According to an assessment by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the United States has a “significant backlog of overdue maintenance” and a “pressing need for modernization.” In the same assessment, the engineering group stated that one in nine U.S. bridges are structurally deficient and more than 40 percent of major highways are congested.

Of course, no matter how hard Obama pushes his new infrastructure plan, he alone does not have the power to make it happen. The president will need the support of Congress if he is to bolster infrastructure spending the way he would like to. House Republicans are always reluctant to authorize increased government spending and this case is no exception.

While I understand the logic behind cutting spending and raising taxes during times of economic strife, I feel that this is one issue that should be bipartisan. If it is covered in the budget, then it will not add to the deficit, which makes the offsetting expenditures argument Republicans love so much a moot point. Also, creating employment and relief opportunities for Americans in need should not be a matter of political affiliation but a goal that the whole of government works for.

If history is any indication, then infrastructure spending may be the key to revamping our limping economy. During the Great Depression, former President Franklin D. Roosevelt came up with a long list of programs and initiatives designed to provide employment and stimulate the economy. 

Today, we know of these programs as the New Deal, and the three main goals of these programs were the three R’s: relief, recovery and reform. While some of the New Deal programs were economic, many of them were related to infrastructure.

The three R’s of the New Deal are just as relevant today as they were during the depression. While this recession has hurt our economy, sticking to basic principles that were effective more than half a century ago can still turn it around.