Which country are the Republican candidates speaking about? The one I live in has had 67 consecutive months of private sector job growth, with an unemployment rate of 5.1% and a stock market that has more than doubled since January, 2009. Coupling this with expanded health care opportunities for many who did not have affordable access, increased consumer rights under the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and fewer Americans fighting abroad, things are better than portrayed by these candidates. And, this is in a world where some countries are struggling.
However, this economy has not benefitted everyone equally, but the demise of the middle class and increase in poverty has been created over the last 35 years with technology improvements, offshoring, outsourcing and lack of infrastructure investment. Data also shows with the tax simplification plan under President Reagan which significantly reduced the upper tax bracket, the disparity between the haves and have-nots got much larger over these 35 years. But, it should be noted both Democrats and Republicans failed to halt this widening chasm.
We need to work together to address these systematic problems, which should be owned by all leaders as it has been a building problem that became more apparent with job losses created during the recession. What troubles me greatly is our desire to look past data focusing on overly simplified and often-wrong campaign slogans. There are things that we could be doing that we are not, due to these kinds of politics.
The easiest measure would be to invest in our infrastructure. Our roads, bridges, ports, railways and railway bridges are in need of repair and maintenance. There is a bipartisan plea by the former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell to invest in these needs before a ticking time bomb explodes like another huge train derailment or bridge collapse. This plea is supported by both the US Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO labor union. The additional reason beside the need to repair and renovate crumbling infrastructure is these initiatives are known job creators. That was supposed to mission one of this Congress.
Congress has kicked the can down the road with short-term funding for 33 consecutive quarters under both Republican and Democrat leadership. I fault Congress and the President for not making this a huge priority. Both parties are to blame for not acting on this issue as we need to be banging on a gong as this so important. Yet, we hear so little about it. The next chance to do something is at month’s end, but with the state of disarray in Congress without a speaker and the existing divisiveness in the majority party, I am not hopeful anything tangible will be done except another short-term funding.
I have written before (and will again) about other issues that will help, but this one truly is a ticking time bomb. We will have another disaster, but we should not let Congress or the President ask why did someone let this happen? Quoting Michael Jackson, they need to start with the “man (and woman) in the mirror.” Our country is not as bad off as it is portrayed, but we have real problems that need to be dealt with. Not investing in our infrastructure is one of them. Please reach out to your Congressional representative, Senators and the President and tell them to make a move before more Americans die or get hurt and let people get to work to fix these problems.