President Obama’s budget request Monday called for a six-year, 478 billion dollar public works program, designed to rebuild the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. The plan would allocate funds for rebuilding and modernizing bridges, railroads, highways, and airports. The program would be funded by a one-time, 14 percent tax on corporate profits accumulated overseas.
By investing in American jobs, while taxing offshore profits, the Obama plan is sort of the antithesis of the Keystone XL pipeline proposal. The Keystone XL plan essentially calls for using foreign steel to construct a pipeline to transport Canadian oil to foreign markets, while providing a very small number of long-term American jobs. By contrast, Obama’s new budget proposal will repatriate some profits obtained through outsourcing, and use those profits to reinvest in American workers and American infrastructure.
Republicans are already arguing that Obama’s plan is too costly, but they have not offered a compelling alternative to address the nation’s infrastructure needs. In 2013, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave the nation’s infrastructure a D+ grade on their report card. They estimated that 3.6 trillion dollars would need to be invested by 2020, to upgrade the nation’s roads, bridges, and ports. Obama’s proposal calls for only a portion of that total.
In addition to the federal government, state and local governments also would need to step up their efforts to invest in rebuilding America. The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report ranked the United States behind 18 other nations for overall infrastructure quality. That ranking placed the United States behind Portugal, Spain and Oman.
A “catastrophic pancake” collapse of an Interstate 75 bridge on January 20th, emphasized the need for American infrastructure improvements to begin immediately. The Ohio bridge collapse killed one man and injured others. With so many bridges and roads in need of repair, investing in restoring the nation’s infrastructure is a common sense choice that should be applauded by Americans of all political persuasions. Unfortunately, the Republican Party has already attacked Obama’s plan because it raises taxes. In the Republican mind, offshore profits for multinational corporations are apparently a higher priority than keeping America’s bridges from crashing down.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.