So we’ve known about the acute vulnerability of our energy infrastructure for years. Surely, governments have taken action on that information, right? Wrong. The Atlantic reports that public construction spending, including state, federal and local projects, has been on a staggered decline since early 2009. Congress defends this action by saying that the American people are tired of runaway spending, but is leaving our energy, transportation, and communication infrastructure open to risk really the way to save a little money? No – and the taxpayers are smart enough to know the difference between an inflated military budget and fixing potholes. As noted in the Tampa Bay Times, carefully chosen infrastructure spending is an investment that pays for itself in greater economic growth; in fact, failure to make these investments can retard growth.
The U.S. isn’t the only government struggling financially – but it does seem to be the only one taking it out on infrastructure. Reuters recently reported that China gave the green light to 60 infrastructure projects worth more than $150 billion, as it looks to energize an economy mired in its worst slowdown in three years. Obama, who sought to revitalize the construction industry and our infrastructure through the Recovery Reinvestment Act, acknowledged earlier this year that falling further behind the rest of the world isn’t a wise strategy. “Building a world-class transportation system is part of what made us an economic superpower,” said Obama in a speech last year on job creation. He added that the US cannot “sit back and watch China build newer airports and faster railroads.” And China isn’t the only country leaving us in the dust. “Japan’s public investment in infrastructure for most of the last two decades was two to three times higher than that in the United States,” reports American Progress. The piece went on to say that Japan’s heavy investment in high quality infrastructure saved thousands of lives during the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, not to mention accelerated recovery efforts.