A Little Planning Goes A Long Way
Posted on October 31, 2008
Taking a break from the feverish last days of the Presidential campaign, David Brooks writes some interesting thoughts about one of the least reported and most important keys to economic growth, transportation infrastructure. Brooks calls for a new emphasis on transportation funding: “ I’m hoping the next president takes the general resolve to spend gobs of money, and channels it into a National Mobility Project, a long-term investment in the country’s infrastructure. Major highway projects take about 13 years from initiation to completion — too long to counteract any recession. But at least they create a legacy that can improve the economic environment for decades to come. A major infrastructure initiative would create jobs for the less-educated workers who have been hit hardest by the transition to an information economy. It would allow the U.S. to return to the fundamentals…Focusing on infrastructure would at least get us thinking about the real economy, asking hard questions about what will increase real productivity, helping people who are expanding companies rather than hedge funds.”
As Republicans try to rebrand themselves, they should take on the whole idea of community infrastructure as a project. But it shouldn’t be solely about the physical infrastructure. What kind of communities do Americans want to live in? How we commute to work? How we interact with our families and our neighbors?? How do we take advantage of the high-tech revolution? How do we make communities safer and give mothers and fathers more time with their kids? How can we get more people to walk or bike to work so they can get healthier as they make the environment cleaner?
How many hours do people waste when they commute to work? How much do we as a society unnecessarily pollute the environment just by jumping in the car and driving forty-five minutes (or more) just to get to work? How many mothers feel guilty and stressed out as they hurry to leave to go to work and then hurry to leave to get home from work so they can spend some quality time with their kids?
While manufacturing will always be an important part of the our economy, fewer and fewer Americans work in factories. Most either work in service industries or in white collar jobs where the bulk of the work is done on a computer. Can’t we find a way to get more of those Americans working from home most of the time?
It is amazing how many business travelers get on a plane every day to go to destinations unknown for reasons unknown? Can’t we encourage more telecommuting and teleconferencing so these folks can stay at home more often?
And as long as we are talking about infrastructure, shouldn’t we invest heavily in the next generation of broadband, wireless, 3G or whatever the fastest way to get information to people turns out to be?
In other words, we need to think how we want the future to look so that people can spend as much time living happy, productive lives as possible. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had leaders who started do some planning?