NYT's Herbert: Fix the bridges, help fix the country

The economy's in the tank and the 35W bridge is just a memory. The solutions to these problems, says the New York Times' Bob Herbert, go hand in hand.

When you invest in infrastructure, you invest in the country, the people who use bridges and ferries and roads to go to work. You invest in the businesses that employ them, the workers that have jobs (and the folks who'll get the jobs an infusion of spending will create). Not to mention making sure that the aforementioned bridges don't sink, that the roads are safe, and that the bridges are load-bearing.

The time hook for this comes from efforts by Senator Chris Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, and Senator Chuck Hagel, a Republican from Nebraska. The bipartisan tandem wants to build a national infrastructure bank that will push and fund large-scale infrastructure initiatives nationwide. With manufacturing and construction jobs being lost the last several years, such public spending wouldn't just get us safer cities -- it would give the economy a much-needed shot in the arm.

This isn't just a compelling argument, it's common sense. As Herbert notes, economic boosts from investing America are historical facts:

We appear to have forgotten the lessons of history. Time and again an economic boom has followed periods of sustained infrastructure improvement. It’s impossible to calculate all of the benefits from (to mention just a few) the Erie Canal, which connected the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean and helped make New York America’s premier city; the rural electrification program and other capital improvements of the New Deal; the interstate highway program of the Eisenhower administration.

The tremendous costs and vast reach of today’s infrastructure requirements means that the federal government has to take a leadership role. It’s inevitable. The only question is when.

To quote the musical query once asked by The Smiths: How soon is now?

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